How common it is to replace losing trial counsel with a different appellate firm

Abbott Laboratories was clobbered on a patent infringement case, a smack-down jury verdict in June 2009 for $1.67 billion. The article about the ensuring appeal, in Corp. Counsel, July 2011 at 21, vividly conveys the pressure Abbott’s general counsel was under as a result of the huge adverse award. The law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr had represented Abbott in the defense and trial. The Wilmer partner in charge offered to step aside for the appeal Abbott took, and was surprised when Abbott retained his firm for the appeals round.

The point made in the article is that trial counsel who lose expect to be terminated. Another firm, with a fresh viewpoint and objectivity about what was done during the case below, typically takes over. Admittedly, appeals are very rare, but those “terminations” shouldn’t be counted in the same category as “firing” a firm.

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