Wood Herron & Evans maintains its status as a prominent local IP firm without betraying its independence
By Kevin Michell
Downtown’s Wood Herron & Evans has been practicing intellectual property (IP) law in Cincinnati for 151 years, with over 80 of those based on the 27th floor of Carew Tower. With many Cincinnati industries on the upswing and innovation being stoked by the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, Wood Herron & Evans is enjoying a period when its IP expertise is as needed and desired as ever.
“It’s exciting for us,” says Kate Smith, a partner at Wood Herron & Evans specializing in trademarks. She adds that it presents an opportunity to show how the long-tenured firm is capable of excelling in a field of law that requires being on the cutting edge. “Having entrepreneurs and startup businesses here is really an opportunity to partner with those that need some guidance and strong footing.”
The team of 45 patent, copyright and trademark lawyers is a bit of an anomaly—in an era when law firms acquiring or buying out other firms is increasingly common, Wood Herron & Evans has remained fiercely independent. It’s committed to being a boutique—that is, focused exclusively on one area of practice—IP firm that resists the overtures of others trying to absorb it.
“I think the model that was developed has sustained the firm and the partnership and we’re not backing down,” says Smith. “That’s really been a valuable lesson—just to identify what our strengths are and to continue doing that.”
The firm’s staying power hasn’t come without making adjustments. Five years ago, Wood Herron & Evans broke its firm down into practice groups centered on the technological expertise its attorneys have, such as electrical or chemical engineering.
“It’s helped us align our focuses in how we practice and how we help develop client portfolios,” Smith points out. Having those specializations in house allows Wood Herron & Evans to provide a lot of expertise to its clients.
The firm has also forged new partnerships in light of the entrepreneurial and small business upswing in Cincinnati. One such relationship is with HCDC, the city’s oldest business incubator, with which Wood Herron & Evans sponsored April’s Innovation & Technology Awards. The firm and HCDC will put on additional events through the year for networking with businesses that need guidance from an IP law firm.
Smith says the value goes both ways in that the firm can get in early with a potential long-term client while providing a level of support and expertise that early-stage businesses may have trouble finding.
Internal growth is also happening at Wood Herron & Evans. The firm has four summer clerks—each in law school with different engineering specialties—and will also welcome a new associate to the firm who had previously been a clerk there. Continued growth entails finding IP lawyers willing to roll up their sleeves and provide clarity amid the uncertainty common to acquiring and defending patents, trademarks and copyrights.
“It is hard-working attorneys that have maintained this firm and continued the success of the firm,” says Smith about how Wood Herron & Evans stays small but also focused on its client relationships. “That, I think, is what our hallmark is.”