News & Politics

DC Law Firm’s Partners Really Love Their BlackBerries

When Wiley Rein negotiated a $612-million patent-infringement settlement with Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, most trade papers put the take for the 270-lawyer firm at about $200 million.

Sources say that Wiley’s percentage take was above the usual one-third, and its recovery was well over $250 million. Either way, Wiley Rein has now dispensed the riches, which firm leader Dick Wiley has called a one-time, life-changing event for the firm he started in 1983.

The firm’s equity partners, who put up more than $20 million to fund the six-year litigation battle, will clear about $3 million each, depending on their status and time at the firm. In a display of law-firm generosity, Wiley Rein’s executive committee voted to share their money with every employee—all associates and nonlawyers. Secretaries and mailroom employees, according to sources, have been handed checks from $7,500 to $10,000 per person.

Biggest winner: Wiley patent guru James Wallace, who nurtured the case through the federal court system. Sources say Wallace got at least a double share, as did several members of his patent team. Wiley recalls that early in the litigation RIM offered a $17-million settlement, and “I begged him to take it.” The firm does not typically take contingency cases. The RIM case was the riskiest venture Wiley had ever approved at the firm.

Wallace didn’t go with Wiley’s advice to take the $17 million. Good thing for the firm. The final settlement came in at $612 million.