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February 11, 2009 6:48 PM

Perkins Coie Sues Ex-IP Associate Who Left Firm for Rival

Posted by Brian Baxter

David Xue While law firm layoffs have certainly been known to lead to lawsuits, it's not every day when a firm turns around and goes after a former employee--especially when that individual is a former associate.

That's the case with Perkins Coie. The firm filed a breach of contract suit against former IP associate David Xue (right) in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on January 29.

According to court documents, Xue left the firm for Goodwin Procter in September 2008. Now Perkins Coie wants to recoup $36,334.25 it claims Xue owes the firm for advanced payments towards his law school tuition and related expenses.

Perkins Coie is being represented by Charles Bendes of Kornfield, Nyberg, Bendes & Kuhner in Oakland. Bendes did not respond to a request for comment but a Perkins Coie spokeswoman issued the following statement to The Am Law Daily:

"This is a contractual dispute with one of our former associates. We advanced certain monies on behalf of the associate, which he had agreed in a written employment agreement to repay. Despite numerous requests, he has refused to make the repayment so we had no choice but to commence litigation."

From the filing, it appears Perkins Coie has a legitimate argument.

An attached letter of employment dated January 23, 2007, states that Xue was offered a position as a patent agent at Perkins Coie prior to his graduation from the University of San Francisco School of Law the following December.

In the interim, Xue, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, would be paid an annual salary of $155,000 plus a $15,000 bonus if he billed 1,950 prorated hours that year.

Perkins Coie would advance Xue up to $30,000 as a loan for his law school tuition and expenses. The firm also agreed to reimburse Xue for a bar review course and fees for the California bar exam.

Upon Xue's graduation from law school in December 2007, he would be offered a position as a fourth-year associate at the firm in light of his Ph.D. and previous experience as a patent agent.

Xue's salary would be $170,000 if he billed 1,950 hours per year, with escalating performance bonuses beyond 2,000 hours. The employment letter states that the earliest date Xue would be considered for partner would be the fall of 2012 for possible admission on January 1, 2013.

The letter also states that Perkins Coie would forgive Xue's law school loans at a rate of 33 percent a year, provided he remain a full-time employee of the firm and billed at least 1,850 hours a year. If Xue worked at the firm full-time for three years, his entire repayment obligation would be forgiven.

But like any contract, the devil's in the details. Should Xue terminate his employment with the firm before the three-year period expired, he would be on the hook to repay Perkins Coie for any amount that hadn't been repaid or otherwise forgiven by the firm.

Xue did not respond to a request for comment and Goodwin Procter declined to comment.

Xue, a member of the California bar, won the outstanding Chinese Patent Award by China's State Intellectual Property Office in 2006.

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don't understand why this trivia is worth a news story. i'm offended.

Disbar him

Dear David -

Just a review of the law.

This is simply a contractual dispute also known as a breach of contract. As you might remember from law school, there is a difference between contracts and torts. Damages for a breach of contract are an attempt by the court to compensate the innocent party to the contract, the party that suffers the breach. The purpose is compensation not PUNISHMENT so only real, actual damages can be ordered by the court.

Wow, they expected him to bill 1900+ hours while still in law school? That's pretty harsh.

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