Three-person All-WCL Alumni Trademark Law Firm Achieves Success—and National Recognition
Dec. 8, 2017
Gerben Law Firm, is an entrepreneurial success story—proof that a small, three-person law practice can carve out a successful niche and compete with much larger firms.
Josh Gerben '06 founded the firm in 2008 as a solo practitioner focusing on intellectual property and trademark law, and the firm has since grown to become highly regarded in the field.
“Being an entrepreneur runs in my family,” explains Gerben. “I’m a fourth generation entrepreneur. My great grandfather owned a scrap yard, my grandfather owned a construction equipment company, my dad owns a chain of automotive service centers, and now I own and operate a law firm. When I started my legal career, it was a forgone conclusion that I would start my own firm. It was just a question of when.”
At Gerben Law Firm, a team of six, including three attorneys and three support staff, serves a client roster of companies in all 50 states and more than 30 countries worldwide. Gerben has been named a top trademark filer by the World Trademark Review, having registered more than 4,000 trademarks, and he has been cited in numerous national publications and news media, including Bloomberg BNA, CNBC, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Although the firm is headquartered in Washington, the Gerben team primarily works virtually from home since federal trademark services require minimal face-to-face client contact. Gerben actually resides in Lancaster, Pa., which he feels is a better environment for his young family. He and his wife have two young children and another on the way in April. This flexibility not only creates a better work life balance but allows the team members to work more efficiently.
After working for a small local D.C. law firm for a few years, where he “learned to become a lawyer” he decided to pursue his dream and open up his own practice.
A clear point of difference and competitive advantage
Gerben created the firm to focus primarily on helping small and midsize companies—without huge budgets to devote to intellectual property matters—to have access to trademark attorneys that are affordable and responsive to their needs. “When I started the firm in 2008, at the height of the recession, people thought I was crazy. “But our lower fee structure has turned out to be a real differentiator—we are able to attract companies that can’t afford to do business with the larger firms.”
“We want to remain specialists in trademark law,” he adds. “When you know an area of law well, I believe you should stick to it and become the best you can be. We don’t want to venture in areas where we don’t have competence.”
A commitment to hiring the best people
Like Gerben, the two other lawyers in the firm are American University Washington College of Law alumni. Eric Perrott ’12 joined three years ago and Colleen Wellington-Caban ’17 was hired this fall. “I want to find the best candidate for the job,” explains Gerben. “I interviewed lots of different people for the positions—from several law schools and law firms. But I’ve found that the candidates I interview from WCL are better prepared and have deeper experience in trademark and intellectual property law.”
The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at AUWCL is one of the top programs of its kind in the nation. With 32 faculty (16 full time), the program features a curriculum of 42 courses and frequently hosts topical conferences and networking events aimed at connecting current students with the law school’s more than 600 alumni practicing IP law in the DC area.
“I interviewed lots of different people for the positions - from several law schools and law firms. But I’ve found that the candidates I interview from WCL are better prepared and have deeper experience in trademark and intellectual property law.”Josh Gerben '06, Gerben Law Firm
“I experienced a different quality to the WCL program firsthand,” Gerben says. “I came in as a transfer student during my 2L year and immediately saw the quality of education that WCL offered. Without question, WCL candidates tend to stand out as being real, down-to-earth people who are also polished professionals. The IP program in particular gives students access to opportunities to gain experience that makes them attractive to a firm that’s focused on trademark and copyright matters.”
“It’s rare to have a firm with just three lawyers, all graduates of the same law school, who didn’t know each other beforehand,” says Professor Christine Farley, who teaches Trademark and Intellectual Property Law. “I know the firm is committed to hiring the best candidates they can find, so it’s gratifying that our law school is producing such high quality lawyers in this highly competitive field of law. I am also impressed that these three AUWCL alumni are building a trademark firm that’s so highly regarded—and doing it on their own terms. It’s a true success story.”