Kirkland & Ellis LLP expanded its intellectual property practice group in Austin, Texas, with the hiring of a former McKool Smith Hennigan PC attorney who has worked alongside U.S. District Judge Alan Albright.
Kat Li joined Kirkland as a partner, the firm said Tuesday. Li was previously a principal and patent litigator at McKool Smith's Austin office, which she joined after spending a year clerking with former Federal Circuit Judge Arthur Gajarsa.
"When I learned that Kirkland opened an Austin office and was looking for a local attorney to help build the IP litigation practice in Texas, it was a compelling opportunity that offered high-profile IP matters plus complementary corporate services to offer clients," Li said in a written statement to Law360 Wednesday.
Kirkland, the nation's highest grossing firm in 2020, according to American Lawyer, announced the opening of its Austin office in spring 2021. A few months later, the firm announced that it was starting an Austin-based IP practice led by Jeannie Heffernan, a Kirkland attorney who was previously based in New York.
Li is the eighth attorney and second partner to join Kirkland's IP practice in Austin, according to the firm's website.
"With major tech-focused companies entering or expanding into Austin, we need exceptional talent like Kat to help guide clients as they grapple with complex IP-related issues," Heffernan said in a statement Tuesday.
Aside from its growing tech scene, Austin has become an important hub of intellectual property because it sits within the Western District of Texas, where Judge Albright holds court. Albright, a former patent litigator, has seen a rash of IP cases filed in his courtroom since he took the bench in 2018.
Li told Law360 she has worked on many cases in the Western District. She also works professionally with Albright as his teaching assistant for a course he teaches on patent advocacy at the University of Texas School of Law, according to Kirkland.
The law school is her alma mater. She also holds a master's degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to her LinkedIn profile.
At McKool Smith, she represented Fortune 500 companies in front of U.S. district courts, the Federal Circuit, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board and the International Trade Commission, according to Kirkland.
"I grew up in Texas and have spent nearly my entire legal career in Austin, so I have a deep familiarity with how to navigate Texas courts and have built strong relationships throughout the legal community here," Li told Law360.