I had a very lucky and interesting life as a lawyer. I was hired out of law school by a law firm now known as Munger Tolles & Olson. I did well in law school, but the folks at Munger were smarter and more accomplished than me, and I remain convinced to this day that the only reason they offered me a job is that Moby Dick was then one of my favorite books, and it so happened that my recruiter from the firm also loved the book, and had the impression I was smarter than I really was! I took the job because I wanted to be associated with such accomplished people, but it didn’t take me long to feel like I was suffocating under the strain of expectations I wasn’t sure I could meet.
Enter John Quinn. I met John and Eric Emanuel in early 1984. They were running a small branch of a New York law firm, and wanted to open their own firm. It sounded exciting to a young kid. It didn’t hurt that they were paying “New York-based” salaries, which were much higher than LA-based salaries, so my income practically doubled overnight (if memory serves, it went from about $36k to about $72k per year – a lot of money back then!).
I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot, working with John and Eric. For the most part, we represented trademark owners, including the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the Summer 1984 Olympics, and we litigated cases against counterfeiters. It was terrific experience for a young lawyer.
John and Eric formed Quinn Emanuel about 18 months later, but instead of joining them, I helped the existing firm through its transition and then left to join a law firm called Irell & Manella, where I learned to specialize in lawsuits involving inventions protected by patents, representing either the patent holder or the party accused of infringing on the rights of the patent holder.
One of my most memorable experiences from that time frame was taking the deposition of Bill Gates, in a lawsuit in which we represented a company called STAC against Microsoft. STAC ultimately won the case (due in part, of course, to the wonderful job I did at that deposition!!), but I came away from that deposition knowing that I’d just been in the presence of a man who thought differently, and was clearly on another, higher level than the rest of us (or at least on a higher level than I was).
I became a partner at Irell in 1990, and stayed there for another six years. Then, on February 1, 1996, I was enticed to join Latham & Watkins LLP, to help put their Intellectual Property litigation group – the group that represents companies fighting over rights to inventions, names, secrets and other intellectual assets – on the map. I spent the next 18 years at Latham helping to do just that. I retired from the partnership on March 31, 2014, to take a shot at becoming the writer I had long since fantasized about becoming.
In what one very close friend described as “quite the eulogy for a guy who’s still alive,” my partners at Latham paid me the following tribute upon my retirement:
Congratulations to Mark Flagel, our colleague and friend in the Los Angeles office who is retiring after 18 years with the firm and a 31-year legal career. Mark came to Latham & Watkins in 1996, and was instrumental in the creation and establishment of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Group.
Over the course of his career, Mark has worked on several high-profile intellectual property cases on behalf of a number of firm clients, including Symantec, Monolithic Power Systems, Guthy-Renker, and A10. Most recently, Mark, Orange County partner Dean Dunlavey, and their team secured and preserved a US$8-plus-million attorneys’ fee award on behalf of MPS, based on litigation misconduct committed by the adversary over the course of many years. The US Supreme Court denied certiorari just this past week, sealing the client’s victory and timed perfectly to coincide with Mark’s retirement.
When asked to enumerate some of Mark’s contributions to the firm, Washington, D.C. partner Max Grant summarizes the sentiments of many when he explains that “Mark was a pioneer at Latham, cutting the path behind which all of our patent litigators followed. He is the chair emeritus of our IP practice group and will retain that role in retirement. His talents as an exceptional trial lawyer may depart, but his status as beloved partner will remain.” Truly, Mark has made a deep and lasting impact on Latham.
Los Angeles Deputy Office Managing Partner Wayne Flick concurs, calling Mark both “an exceptionally talented lawyer” and “an absolutely invaluable part of the Los Angeles office fabric—as local department chair, in his role on the Associates Committee, and as a partner, mentor, and friend.” Wayne continues: “Mark has brought great enthusiasm to everything he’s touched, and has consistently set a positive tone around his management and his lawyering roles. We’ve counted on Mark to counsel us on a wide range of office initiatives, and he’s been generous with his time and thoughtful in his input. We are all enormously fond of him.”
In addition to his role as practice group chair and as local department chair for the Litigation Department, Mark has served on the Associates and Recruiting Committees. He currently serves as global co-chair of the Information Technology—Hardware, Software & Services Industry Group.
“Mark happily concedes that he has no technical training,” notes Dean Dunlavey, “but in case after case his keen intelligence, judgment, and insightful questions have identified the key issues and winning arguments and paved the way to victory. These insights are most frequently conveyed in emails punctuated by numerous smiley face emoticons and exclamation marks. Mark is blessed with boundless, contagious optimism; it is no wonder that he repeatedly has been recognized as one of the firm’s best and favorite mentors.
Mark brings good cheer and enthusiasm to all his interactions, an attitude that’s earned him widespread respect and admiration throughout Latham and beyond. Along with his leadership roles at the firm, Mark has been involved with the Intellectual Property Institute at USC Gould School of Law for many years, including serving as its chair; has taught at Loyola Law School; and has been involved with the Exceptional Children’s Foundation, which provides an array of services to challenged individuals of all ages.
Despite his tremendous accomplishments and enviably strong relationships with colleagues and clients, Mark remains humble, a trait that impresses his friends, including Dean Dunlavey. “Mark has not let his success go to his head,” says Dean. “Although he has been repeatedly recognized as one of the top IP lawyers in California, he remains as polite, approachable, and low-key as he was when I met him in our first semester of law school at Boalt Hall in 1980. He seems to get along with everyone. He has been a great friend to me and a great colleague to all who have had the pleasure of working with him.”
“Mark is an extraordinary lawyer and colleague, he was one of the early pioneers of our IP litigation practice, and he has contributed greatly to our success," notes Los Angeles Office Managing Partner Jim Beaubien. “We will miss Mark’s enthusiasm, drive, wisdom, and good nature, and we wish him well in his new endeavors.”
Looking ahead, Mark plans to pursue his childhood dream of being a writer, and to make himself available to conduct mediations in high-stakes IP litigation. He also plans to sleep later, spend more time at his home in Big Bear, and explore the world with his wife, Sandra.