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Welcome to Marshall

By Annie Gausn | Jul. 2, 2006

Law Office Management

Jul. 2, 2006

Welcome to Marshall

Why so many lawyers are heading to Marshall, Texas.

By Erik Cummins
      Marshall, Texas-a tiny, former oil and railroad town-is now drawing big-city attorneys from all over the country. In fact, on any given weekday, more out-of-town lawyers are milling around the town's old-fashioned square than locals. And because they have money to burn, the local economy has benefited.
      The credit goes to T. John Ward. He's the U.S. District Court judge who, over the past seven years, has almost single-handedly turned the Eastern District of Texas into the latest "rocket docket" for patent cases. That's because discovery is fast, trial dates are firm, and litigation costs a fraction of what it does in other districts. Moreover, because under current rules plaintiffs can file infringement cases in any U.S. district court so long as the allegedly infringing products are sold there, virtually any patent case in the country can come to Marshall.
      Henry C. Bunsow, of the San Francisco office of Howrey, is one of the lawyers who's been spending a lot of time in Marshall lately. At this writing, he has ten active patent cases going on there. "You gotta like beef," Bunsow says about the town. "There's an Outback and a lot of barbecue places." But, overall, he likes the small-town character of Marshall. Even better, he says, trying a case in Marshall usually takes only three to four days, as opposed to the three to four weeks it takes elsewhere. That can save millions of dollars.
      "Judge Ward has a very strong view on moving the docket and getting the cases decided," Bunsow notes. "He feels that justice delayed is justice denied."
      Meanwhile, local attorneys have also benefited from the patent boom. Michael Smith, a patent lawyer with The Roth Law Firm in Marshall, is one of about 50 lawyers in the area who often gets calls to help defend patent cases, even though there's no requirement for out-of-state lawyers to hire local counsel. Consequently, most of what Smith does now is patent work.
      California lawyers still marvel sometimes at life in rural Texas. Smith observes, "It's like Hee Haw meets Twin Peaks around here."

Annie Gausn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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