Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear

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Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear Reviews

Updated March 13, 2014
Updated March 13, 2014
33 Reviews

2.9
33 Reviews
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Steven Nataupsky
27 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1. 1 person found this helpful  

    Great place to work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Knobbe is a really great law firm to work, especially to start out. The training is really good. The attorneys are really nice. The dress code is a casual business casual.

    Cons

    I can't think of any specific cons. It's a really good workplace for work-life balance. The benefits are really good.

    Approves of CEO
  2. 4 people found this helpful  

    Turning the Ship Around

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate  in  Irvine, CA
    Current Employee - Associate in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    If you read some of the earlier reviews on this website, they paint a pretty horrific picture for associates at the firm. Those opinions were not exclusive to just a few disgruntled associates, they were real problems faced by a significant percentage of the associates at the firm. Consequently, a large number of associates got very upset, left the firm, and justifiably wanted to tell the world about their situation.

    Between word of mouth and many postings on websites like these, law students and other attorneys slowly became aware of the situation and it began to hurt recruiting. Now, every summer associate and interviewee asks directly or indirectly about the associate experience and the reviews on this very website. Associates that you meet from other law firms will say things like, “Oh, you work at Knobbe? That must be rough.”

    So yes, the reviews on this site and word of mouth have been very effective. People from outside the firm, particularly law students, no longer think this is a good place to work.

    However, the partners aren’t stupid. They know how to Google too, and the entire partnership is aware of this website. Many partners have even faced uncomfortable questions from interviewees about associate life based almost entirely on what they’ve read here.

    In response to all these problems, the partnership started instituting some major improvements to fix things:

    1. Patent Counsels - Earlier this year, the firm created non-partnership track Patent Counsel positions. Since the arrival of the Patent Counsels, associates have more flexibility to pursue a much wider variety of work.

    2. Billing out time - Knobbe still uses a sometimes problematic “billed” quota system that you can read about in more detail in the other reviews. Under this system, an associate’s “efficiency” is primarily reflective of the budgets and partners that they work under, rather than their own personal effectiveness. Consequently, there is disparity in the associate experience. Lately, there has been quite a bit of progress here and more associate hours are being billed out than before. Partners seemingly face more scrutiny now for time-cutting and this development seems to have helped a great deal. Nevertheless, the partnership needs to continue taking steps to minimize the unfairness between associates because this problem is a major source of morale issues.

    3. Bringing in more work - Likely due to the improved economy and reduced headcount, all the associates are very busy right now and there seems to be more than enough prosecution and litigation work to go around.

    4. Diversity of Work - Both litigation and prosecution have picked up fairly dramatically. Associates are encouraged and allowed to work in both practice areas, but partners do seem to expect associates to focus in one area fairly early on.

    5. Improved Work Environment - Contrary to what the other reviews might suggest, it is a very collegial work environment. Most of the people who work here are kind and helpful, and you’ll make good friends. Partners and senior associates genuinely seem to care about teaching and mentoring. There are still a few abrasive personalities, but they are the exception and not the rule.

    So basically, Knobbe is on the right track again. It’s a lifestyle firm with much more reasonable hours relative to other big law firms. However, it is still a law firm, so don’t expect a typical 9-5. As with any other job, there will always be some upsides/downsides and the partnership should continue making efforts to resolve some of the pending issues. In the mean time, Knobbe is still one of the premier patent law firms in the country and a great place to start a career.

    Cons

    Please see the details above

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Please see the details above

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3. 3 people found this helpful  

    High School Environment!!!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Irvine, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    The only good thing is the benefits. This law firm does have good medical/dental and PTO. Wages are a little lower then other law firms. Just know what your getting into before working here.

    Cons

    This is very much a high school environment. The partners are the cool kids that you have to suck up to in order to survive the working environment. I've seen it many times, when the partners don't like you, you are out. This includes staff and associates. I've seen good staff people and associates belittle by partners. Some have even been asked to leave because the partners don't "like" them.

    Also keep in mind that management works only for the partners. They are not supportive at all of staff or associates.

    This is a good start to a career, but don't plan on staying long.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Advice to Management and Partners - get over yourselves and realize you can't operate this law firm by yourselves. But again you can let people go and just hire another victim desparate for a job.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 2 people found this helpful  

    Happy work-life balance

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate
    Current Employee - Associate

    Pros

    - I genuinely like all of the people I work with. The partners I work for are not just concerned with getting the work done; they also give me feedback and tips to help me become a better patent attorney.

    - I do only prosecution work and am quite happy. A large percentage of my work comes from high-volume, capped fee clients, but on average I feel that the budgets are reasonable, and the consistency of the work is great. The partners for whom I work are efficient with their review, leaving a majority of the budget for my work. A bit of my time gets cut here and there but I view this as an acceptable trade-off for a more regular, predictable schedule than I would have were I to do litigation. Additionally, the efficiency I've learned by working under flat fee budgets is valuable for clients without capped fees as well.

    - I have a great work-life balance. I am in the office for reasonable hours and get a good amount of family time in the early mornings and in the evenings. Sometimes I work from home on weekends or weekday evenings to make deadlines when my docket is heavy, but that is to be expected as a lawyer, and this allows other days in the office to be shorter.

    - I can work from home on occasion.

    - As you may see from other reviews here, there was/is a percentage of unhappy associates. The partners on the mentor committee called many associates to see what they could do to fix this situation and implemented several changes.

    Cons

    My first year at the firm, work was very slow, which at the time was a source of great anxiety to me and others. However, like many stressful things, this was seasonal, and I would like to encourage any new associates who are currently experiencing something similar that if you actively seek work it will get better.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6. 2 people found this helpful  

    Great law firm

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Clerk  in  Irvine, CA
    Former Employee - Clerk in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    Positive environment, good management, great people

    Cons

    Low salary compared to firms of equal caliber and size

    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO
  7. 4 people found this helpful  

    Caveat Emptor!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Associate
    Former Employee - Associate

    Pros

    One of the best firms to work for, if you could invent a time machine and go back in time.

    Cons

    Responding to the Sep 4 2012 review:

    "The partnership made a calculated risk in 2008...."

    Everything may be working out as planned for the partnership, but somebody's paying the price. Namely, the associates. Of course, at some point an associate exodus will lead to some sort of balance between remaining associates and available work. But the associated cost is low morale and declining reputation. Knobbe is very good at selling itself as a "lifestyle" firm with a friendly, family like atmosphere, lots of growth potential, very short partnership track, but it is becoming more widely known that the firm is anything but. The reason it continues to be able to hire large incoming classes has nothing to do with the firm itself--rather, the anemic "recovery"--both in the general economy as well as the world of large law firms--has made it very easy for a firm to hire as many associates as it pleases, and to hire associates of a quality substantially higher than it has any right to.

    "The partnership also realized that ...."

    Realization came too late. Or maybe it came earlier, but nobody decided to do anything about it. Viewing the first 2 years as "throwaway" quota-wise is certainly different from when I was there. However, note that you will be spending two years as an associate gaining less experience than your peers at other firms (where associates can actually find enough work).

    "However, once you reach your 3rd year and most of your incoming classmates have fled..."

    Sounds pretty miserable, honestly. It's certainly possible that as long as you can wait out the first two year, by your third year you will have enough work to make quota. But, again, you will have spent your first two years doing less work than your peers at other firms and will be behind in terms of experience. You will be entering your third year with a higher billing rate but only possessing the experience of a first or second year associate at another firm.

    "...your first two years will be stressful, but take that time to learn your trade and get as much training as Knobbe offers...."

    There is very little that can substitute as training than doing real work. How do you learn your trade and get as much training as possible when there is very little work? Through CLE? Training luncheons and workshops? Doc review (which is what most junior associates will do to pad their hours--if they can even get it)?

    "If it doesn't work out, there are plenty of firms around that will pay you more to work less than Knobbe requires."

    There are plenty of firms that will pay you more to work MORE than Knobbe requires, not less. Good luck getting one of those jobs after having spent your first two years at Knobbe twiddling your thumbs. Actual "biglaw" firms will require pedigree that associates at Knobbe often lack because Knobbe places a higher emphasis on technical knowledge than law school pedigree, grades, journal/moot court activity, clerkship experience, etc.

    "....To cope, associates adopt self-destructive habits like self-cutting time, staying late, working on weekends, etc., only to see most of their time cut."

    "Self-destructive?" The reality is that by making brilliant, "calculated risks," the partnership created an environment where associates must adopt "self-destructive" habits just to survive. You are constantly told to "record all of your time." But then most of that time gets cut. And your efficiency will suffer. Guess what? Nobody wants to work with someone who isn't efficient. Also, most partners prefer not to have to go to committee to write off large amounts of hours, so much of the pressure to "self-cut" is coming from the partners, not the associates.

    "Unfortunately, the partnership is very unlikely to change to a billable system because they view it as an invitation for associates to pad their time."

    Padding time happens at every law firm--including Knobbe (I can guarantee it). Yet, most firms use billable hours, not billed hours, as a measure of a lawyer's productivity. If you work at a firm that has enough work for its associates--and many firms actually have enough, or even too much, work--padding time is not such a big issue. Billable hours become a more accurate measure of an associate's productivity, rather than billed--which reflect partners' inability to secure good clients, get their clients to pay their bills, or manage a law firm.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Y'all need to make some very big changes. I highly doubt the firm can survive for much longer with its current business model. Whatever calculations you made back in 2008--well, you're going to have to scrap them. Entirely. The state of the economy has changed fundamentally. There's really no use in denying this. And stop with the charade that Knobbe is still the same old firm from 10, 20, 30 years ago. Word of mouth travels quickly.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    The Knobbe Family

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - IP Assistant  in  Irvine, CA
    Current Employee - IP Assistant in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    I am a current staff member and I love my job. This has to be the best firm in the world and I feel fortunate to be part of the Knobbe family.

    Cons

    There are a couple of staff members that have been empowered and should be put back in their place. One acts though she has a law degree.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Love the firm but I wish empowered saff would know their place in the firm.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 2 people found this helpful  

    Staff - Be Careful if you work in the OC Office

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - IP Assistant  in  Irvine, CA
    Current Employee - IP Assistant in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    Great benefits, salary, nice staff.

    Cons

    This is a big brother law firm. They have software that monitors typing. They monitor staff internet usage, emails, and oveall computer useage. They watch everything. Some staff are so afraid of being watched, they are in constant fear. Management does not like staff that speak up. If you speak up you are considered a trouble maker and then you're written up. Also managment have their staff that they favor. If you cross one the favored ones, you might as well pack your bags. This firm is ready to fire people at anytime. I've seen a lot of people fired in 2012.

    Management always favors the partners over staff. The attorney is always right. If you havea problem with your attorney, or your attorney is not happy with you, start looking for another job. It's only time before you are going to be let go.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    This firm needs new management. People that care about people. The only thing that matters to this firm is how much the partners are making.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 7 people found this helpful  

    The Haves and the Have Nots

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate  in  Irvine, CA
    Current Employee - Associate in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    Great place to work if you have great clients

    Cons

    Terrible place to work if you don't

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The Haves: If you are fortunate enough to work on clients with large budgets for prosecution
    or work on active litigation matters, most or all of your time is billed and the 1750 billed quota can make this a lifestyle firm. You may have to work hard at times (what attorneys don't?) but overall your life is pretty good. When the firm was smaller, most of the clients were in this category (start-up med device firms with large IP budgets in the hopes of being acquired) and Knobbe was the place to be. Unfortunately, as the firm has grown larger, an ever smaller percentage of the firm's clients are in this category.

    The Have Nots: More of the firm's clients are flat or capped fee clients (prosecution and litigation). The firm also takes on small clients with little funding and very low budgets. If you work on these clients, overall your life is terrible. Lots of cut time (read the other reviews on this site for more about that), juggling many small clients, which leads to a lot of inefficiency, dealing with the ever more onerous requiremnts of the flat/capped fee clients, which have commoditized patent prep/pros. Many of these practice areas have dried up, so you'll come here and there's no work for you. This leads to slow/stalled career development compared to your peers and much lower probablity of making partner. The flat/capped fee clients have burned out nearly all the associates working for them and these associates have left or are looking to (the firm cannot retain those with electrical/computer/high tech backgrounds due to the horrible working conditions for them; they soon learn that other firms treat them much better and pay far more). Most of the first/second year associates are staffed on Have Not clients, and associate morale is very low.

    Work Distribution: It's simply a gamble as to what kind of clients you'll get. Work is not distributed fairly. If you have an electrical/computer background, it's almost a given that you'll get the firm's worst clients (no need to name names, everyone here knows who these clients are). It's apparent to everyone here that for some of the firm's best, highest paying clients that most of the entire team working on the client have the same religious background. If you don't go to the right church, you likely won't be asked to work on these clients.

    There is increasing resentment between associates in the Have Not category and the Have category over the disparity in working conditions, career development, interesting/rewarding work, likelihood of making partner, likelihood of making a bonus. If you're a Have Not, you'll probably work hundreds of hours more a year to make quota than if you were a Have due to the amount of cut time. For example, litigators are near 100% efficient. Prosecutors are closer to 90% (or less if you're a first year). That 10% "inefficiency" amounts to 175 hours (5 weeks!) of extra full time work for prosecutors to make quota as compared to litigators. Plus you'll likely be blamed for being inefficient (read the other reviews on this site talking about "efficiency", a word associates soon learn to hate at Knobbe).

    When I started here I was in the Have category. My life was pretty good. But through acquisitions, my better clients have left the firm due to conflicts. I'm probably 60% Have Not now. The difference is striking. It really can be a joy working for the Have clients. Your time is billed out, the budgets are large enough to do quality work, you feel part of a team building the IP portfolio. But for the Have Nots, you'll simply churn out work with low or unreasonable budgets, get little input from the partners (there's no budget for it), and hear over and over again that you simply have to learn to be more efficient. Work for the Have Nots is unrewarding and I spend more hours in the office than ever, just to try to meet my quota. I see the partners who work on the Have Not clients at the office all the time too. So what's the lure of making partner if you're in the Have Not category? More of the same boring, unrewarding work, but with a higher billing rate so you have even less time on any project.

    Firm culture: The senior partners talk glowingly about our great firm culture as the secret of Knobbe's success. This may be true for the Haves, who will probably stay here and make partner. The Have Nots will leave. Unfortunately, one day you're a Have, and the next day you're a Have Not. So if you're thinking about coming to Knobbe, you've go to ask yourself one question, "Do you feel lucky?"

    Advice to the senior management: until you address this growing disparity between the Haves and the Have Nots, the low morale will not improve and associates will continue to leave. It's a simple fairness issue now that the firm clearly has two tiers of clients. Reward attorneys for the amount of quality work they perform, not the amount that can be billed out to clients who have kept budgets flat while our billing rates have soared. As others have said on this site, why not go to a billable system - or at least a billable system for flat/capped/low budget clients to even out the disparity between working conditions between the Haves and Have Nots? The Haves may not like this, but it's only fair to give the Have Nots the same working conditions.

    conditions. 's only fair to give the Have Nots the same working

    conditions.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  11. 8 people found this helpful  

    It's not rocket science

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Associate  in  Irvine, CA
    Former Employee - Associate in Irvine, CA

    Pros

    The firm has all the tools necessary to allow for quality preparation and prosecution of patents. Knowledgable partners, great docketing, great International Patent Services, expansive library resources, and easy to use macros.

    Cons

    High hourly billable rates and the billed quota system. There is just no feasible way to make quota, even the firms reduced "lifestyle" quota of 1750 hours doing patent prosecution. The billed quota system and hourly billing rates are especially puzzling considering that the firm is primarly a patent prosecution firm--so the billed system and current billing rates don't cater to most of the firm's employees or clients. Everything boils down to a client's budget. Most clients have relatively low budgets for patent prosecution, so increasing the billing rates of associates and partners just cuts down on the number of hours that go towards your quota. To make a long story short, not enough work exists to feed all the incoming associates. Competition between associates for work is intense, and doesn't foster a collegial environment. Associates spend far too much time searching for work rather than billing, but then again, you can't bill time unless you have something to do, and finding billable work is an associates biggest hurdle. Many associates will ask every partner in an office for work and get blanked out with nothing to do.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The last thing associates want to hear is the same lip-service over an over again. Repeating the mantra that the firm is a lifestyle firm doesn't make it true. Think about how angry you would be if you worked until 10:00 p.m. each night and every weekend, and a partner tells you that Knobbe is great because it's a lifestyle firm. The firm needs to get much more work coming through the door or it needs to cut down on its number of attorneys. It would be understandable if the firm hired too many associates one or two years in a row. But to consistently make the same mistake year after year doesn't add up and sends the message that the partnership doesn't have a full grasp of the state of the firm. And the firm can't continue to candy-coat things for summers and pretend like everything is okay. Choosing a law firm to start your career is a big decision.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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