Entrepreneurs are those daring individuals who pour blood, sweat and tears into projects that might be the next big breakthrough, or maybe never turn a dime.

In Cincinnati, the region's historical entrepreneurial pioneers continue to grow in higher stacked skyscrapers and expanding customer bases. The commitment they share? Never losing the entrepreneurial spirit.

That holds true for Wood, Herron & Evans LLP, the 142-year-old boutique intellectual property law practice. Its recent expansion marks a significant local leap in intellectual property law.

With new media and technology outlets springing up, the move allows the practice to keep pace with client needs.

A Substantial Shift

After a century and a half, it would be easy for a company to get stuck in its ways.

Instead, the firm chose to move ahead, hiring eight attorneys from competing firm Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC, in the biggest change in intellectual property law in the region in 30 years.

The new attorneys include Steve Gillen, Lori Krafte, Karen Gaunt, Glenn Bellamy, Jim Kipling, Ken Germain, Michael Frey and Sean Owens. The hires expanded the firm and its capabilities. They have substantial experience in advertising, publishing, media, entertainment and licensing. The move was part of the Wood, Herron & Evans' goal to be a business- and client-driven, full-service intellectual property firm.

"Our expansion really allowed us to say that more capably and more aptly, because we really are now well footed in areas that we weren't so well footed in before the expansion," says Partner Kate Smith.

The firm is currently the second largest group of intellectual property lawyers in the region, behind only Procter & Gamble's in-house legal team. This area of the law practice is divided into two areas: The "hard side," which includes patents and trade secrets, and the "soft side," which deals with trademarks and copyrights.

Wood, Herron & Evans needed to grow the soft side of its business, and the new attorneys address that. The newly added attorneys also got just what they were looking for in the move as well.

"For the eight of us who moved over, we had been working for a number of years to grow our [former] group, in particular to add patent, hard-side capability, and that was a struggle for us," says Gillen, a new partner. "We just hadn't been very successful in adding additional patent lawyers to our practice. So, instead of doing that, we just came over here and added 40-some patent lawyers. Our clients are pretty happy about that."

For the company, the move affirms the entrepreneurial spirit of its founders, which includes being open to ideas that may have once seemed implausible.

The similarities between the firm and its inventive customers run strong.

"Inventors always are people who are enthusiastic and have a certain entrepreneurial spirit, [who say] "¢I can make something better,' and there's an enthusiasm that comes with that, no matter what the technology is," says Partner Thomas Burger. "That's not changed, it's just a matter of what they're involved with and how you meet their needs."

Old Company, New Ideas

Agricultural patents adorn the walls of the Wood, Herron & Evans offices.

They're antiquated images from the founder, Colonel Edmund Wood, who established the practice during Cincinnati's booming post-Civil War era.

The images of the company's past are in stark contrast to the computer, software and media issues that the firm deals with today. As new gadgets appear nearly daily, the law must scramble to keep up with their capabilities.

"The contours of intellectual property law have changed, and have been changing," says Partner Gregory Ahrens. "Because of that, a firm of our kind, which has been around a long time, is a little slower to react to those kinds of changes, because it's not always prudent to ebb and flow with every single trend. The internet, the media, and the law that relates to those things, have developed at such a dramatic pace."

For many lawyers at Wood, Herron & Evans, the fields in which they practice may not have even existed when they were studying law. For new Partner Krafte, her specialties of privacy and data security weren't study options in law school.

"It's a matter of educating yourself in a new, burgeoning field where clients suddenly have problems and issues that they didn't have before, and you have to develop that expertise to be able to deal with that and offer it to your clients," she says.

Being Cincinnati-based, Wood, Herron & Evans enjoys a cost advantage, Midwest work ethic and central location. But as the intellectual property and technology markets increasingly span the globe, so do their services. For these attorneys, it's crucial to understand the industry on a global scale.

In the last few years, firms that have not done this have been damaged, or even closed.

"There have been regular reports over the last about two years of intellectual property boutique firms like [us] that have closed, simply because they cannot continue providing services in the way that they had been," Smith explains. "So [our] move was not only different and big, but it was also bucking the trend, which is significant."

Significant? Of course. In Cincinnati, it's another example of how historic companies evolve with consumer needs.