Robins Kaplan LLP is a leader in legal innovation. While technology is accelerating the pace of business in every sector, this premier trial firm is focused on creating winning results for clients using cutting-edge applications designed to keep them moving forward at the speed of business.
Christopher K. Larus is a firm partner and chair of the national IP and technology litigation group. Throughout his 25- year legal career, Larus has helped businesses resolve complex problems both in and out of the courtroom. Along the way, he has developed an affinity for tech-related companies.
“I really enjoy working with innovators,” he says. “I find my clients inherently interesting. You need to have something special if you’re going to be an innovator – whether you are the inventor of patented inventions, an author of copyrighted software, or the creator of a new brand image. They all have a creative spark that I greatly respect. I’ve always enjoyed working with topics that are critical to the success of these clients, and it’s very important to me to make sure their intellectual property is protected.”
Larus long admired Robins Kaplan’s winning trial record and deep bench of talented lawyers. Today, he is part of a team of legal thought leaders who are helping clients solve an array of unique business and technology challenges while forging new frontiers in the delivery of legal services.
“A big part of our practice has always focused on enforcing patent rights and defending innovative companies against claims of patent infringement. But our team is increasingly involved in other types of technology disputes involving trade secrets, copyrights, and licensing. Wherever there is a need for trial experience combined with a deep understanding of technology, those are the issues I’m drawn to and issues our firm is well-prepared to win.”
The IP and technology team at Robins Kaplan is made up of attorneys from varying backgrounds and educational disciplines, and each brings a unique perspective to masterminding fresh solutions to tech-oriented issues. Larus earned his undergraduate degree in psychology, with an emphasis on decision-making.
“I spent a lot of time studying how groups – including juries – make decisions. It was wonderful training for me as a lawyer, since ultimately what I am called upon to do daily is to help judges and juries make their decisions. While our lawyers have a wide variety of educational backgrounds, we all have a strong commitment to constantly learning. We have the role of taking very complex factual and legal issues, distilling them, and educating judges and juries on how to make a decision. That process is one I’m very passionate about. In any practice area where you deal with significant disputes, you have to be both a learner and a teacher. I think the folks at Robins are immensely skilled at that across all our practice groups.”
Larus says that as technology moves ever faster, the premium on resolving disputes quickly and cost-effectively has also increased. “As our clients’ production cycle is getting shorter, it’s increasingly critical to get to market quickly, before the technology becomes obsolete. We must ensure that our strategic approach to cases is adapted to this business reality.”
Law firms that want to compete in the technology sector’s unique business climate must rise to the demand for creative solutions to legal problems. Innovative companies want legal counterparts who mirror their ingenuity and swift action.
“Our clients have a high expectation of innovation. They apply that in their own businesses, and they expect it from their law firms. Working with innovative companies requires a high level of technical literacy and the ability to offer legal solutions tailored the unique needs of each case.”
Robins Kaplan has long been an innovator when it comes to structuring alternative fee arrangements. “Clients increasingly want their lawyers to offer a variety of fee arrangements that meet the specific needs of each case. This is increasingly an area of differentiation for our practice.”
Robins Kaplan has also answered the call for innovation by developing its own intellectual property – proprietary software solutions that provide clients with unique tools for evaluating and protecting their IP assets. Robins Kaplan’s progressive approach toward legal practice positioned the firm well to develop these resources. Recognizing areas of unmet client needs, Larus led a team of technology- focused lawyers and non-lawyer professionals with backgrounds in science, economics and software development to design this cutting-edge technology.
The first of the firm’s two innovative software offerings is Pinpoint IP, a patent analytics tool designed to help patent owners and investors evaluate the strength of patent portfolios.
“Patent holders and investors in technology- focused companies often struggle to obtain objective insights into the strength of patent portfolios. We have a long history of representing clients who are involved in patent licensing and enforcement, and we’ve increasingly seen that clients in the technology sector want more quantitative inputs, including statistical analyses of the attributes of patents that win in disputes versus those that don’t. We work with a lot of clients who own patents and are trying to identify opportunities to monetize them – and investors who are thinking about acquiring or investing in companies – and want to understand the strength of their IP position. Our Pinpoint IP software allows us to provide clients with objective, data-driven inputs to identify patents that are strong candidates for potential monetization or assess the competitive strength of a company’s patent portfolio. In today’s economy, IP is what divides winning companies from losing companies. The Fortune 500 is driven by IP. Even those traditionally focused on commodities are increasingly looking to gain an edge by protecting their intellectual property.”
The firm’s second technology offering is called Sentinel IP. This software helps clients monitor and protect their trade secrets and other proprietary information.
“Innovative companies often invest substantial resources negotiating detailed contracts with employees, vendors, joint development partners and other corporate insiders to protect confidential information. But even the most sophisticated companies often don’t have the resources or mechanisms by which to police and enforce those contracts. Our Sentinel IP software is designed to provide a simple, turnkey way of monitoring those contracts to ensure that a company’s rights in trade secret and other confidential information are being respected.
“Clients look to law firms to solve problems. In the tech environment, that means offering more than just standard legal services,” he adds. “As a firm, we’re focused on trial work and litigation, but we’re constantly looking for ways to bring better service and greater efficiency to the legal work we do. This requires us to be nimble and responsive, and by developing this suite of tools, we are giving our clients some very powerful means for cutting through the complexities of assessing and protecting their intellectual property assets.”
Larus is a trusted business and legal adviser who is also called upon to develop solutions to challenges outside the scope of technology. He is currently representing a group of companies, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, in two high-profile cases challenging a patchwork of municipal laws that impose inconsistent minimum wage and mandatory sick leave requirements on employers.
“These ordinances address matters historically governed by state law and place an undue burden on businesses. They are unreasonable extensions of the cities’ power. I think this shows how my practice has come full circle. Although I’ve ended up with a focus on tech law, all along my passion has been helping clients solve problems.”
Larus also shares his firm’s deep commitment to causes of social justice. “It is part of our responsibility as professionals to do more than simply be a profitable business. We have a deep commitment to service, both in our local communities and throughout the country. The business of law is changing rapidly, but the law remains a calling.”
The entrepreneurially minded lawyers at Robins Kaplan are moving at the speed of business, and they are simultaneously creating solutions for clients while redefining legal services for the next generation.
“Going forward, the degree to which firms are innovative will be a key point of differentiation. All clients are looking for value; not simply who has the lowest hourly rate, but who can marshal forces to meet a business’s particular needs and resolve their problems as efficiently and predictably as possible. At Robins Kaplan, we’re focused on winning cases and delivering results – on time and on budget.”