Texas firm jets its way to Silicon Valley success

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A Houston-headquartered intellectual property boutique firm has found a novel way to maintain a major presence in Silicon Valley without establishing a big office.

On the second Tuesday of each month at Sugar Land Regional Airport in Texas, a Gulfstream G200 jet fills with Patterson + Sheridan lawyers, ready for its regular trip to Silicon Valley. For the next few days, the boutique firm’s “bus” shuttles lawyers to meet with clients in California.

The firm is finding success with the high-flying mobile office strategy, The Houston Chronicle said. Apart from enabling them to keep existing clients happy with monthly face-to-face meetings even though they only maintain a small office in Palo Alto, it also improves business development.

This means that the firm is finding it easier to grow its client list in Silicon Valley, which already includes Applied Materials, FOX Factory, Intuit, Qualcomm, Taylor Guitars, and Western Digital.

Patterson + Sheridan doesn’t view its plane as a luxury item, said Todd Patterson, the firm’s founder. It always flies full and lawyers work during flights and thus are able to bill time at about US$250 per hour while they are in the air. It also enables the lawyers to avoid about 36 hours wasted time in airport processing on commercial flights per month.

The firm also does not have to spend on a large office in Silicon Valley where two-bedroom apartments are rented at an average of US$3,800 per month.

It helps Patterson + Sheridan maintain other offices, or meet with clients around the country, too. Sometimes the jet flies to Seattle, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Rochester, Minnesota. All in all, it logs 150,000 miles a year for the firm.

The jet also enables the firm to attract top talent, who may be lured by the prospect of working for top clients in Silicon Valley all while being able to live in Houston where the cost of living is lower.

Patterson + Sheridan is also able to offer competitive rates, since it does not have a large overhead in Silicon Valley. In Houston, where most of the firm’s IP work is done, salaries are 52% lower and real estate is about 43% cheaper than in Silicon Valley, the report said.

All of these combine to make the US$1,900-per-passenger average cost and the US$2,500-an-hour operating cost of the US$3m jet worth the firm’s expense.

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