Big firm to boutique

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition can take advantage of movement in the marketplace by organizing and launching boutique firms.  Transitions can be communicated proactively and if you make the announcement appropriately, your friends, family and colleagues will consider you a leader.  The recent recession has caused many to move around, and in a period of recovery, this could be the best time to leave the big firm and set up a boutique practice.

If you are leaving a large law firm, and have been there for some time, you have the namesake and credentials upon which future clients might rely when hiring your new firm.  If you worked in the intellectual property group, for example, you likely know other strong IP attorneys who might jump at the opportunity to launch a boutique firm.  Launching a boutique requires the right set of skills, planning and some entrepreneurial spirit among attorneys you know, like and trust.

A proper announcement on good stationery offers the opportunity to signal that your decision to steer your career in a new direction is not a reaction to uncertainty or job loss.  You need not mention anything about the economy.  The style in which you communicate your launch should lead people to infer that you seized a great opportunity.

Members of the new firm should start planning at least six months ahead of their transition date.  During this time, you should first communicate your intention to your current firm, so long as you feel this is safe, so necessary parties can work on succession plans.  Securing the management, marketing, technology and financial components of a new firm also takes much more time and expense than most people realize.  Consider the transition to be an investment and be ready to finance a realistic amount of startup capital.

Once founding partners have a transition plan, a prospectus should be drafted for the purpose of approaching other potential partners.  Your profit per partner numbers increase when you line up the right set of partners; some who make it rain, some who win cases, and others who bring in a strong book of business.  If you have never drafted a prospectus before, look for an equity firm who can suggest some common points you should raise so that potential partners best appreciate the opportunity.

Planning for a transition to a boutique firm often requires outsourcing.  From the professionals who help you launch the new firm, to the outsourced practice management services you might want, consider running a lean firm focused on profit.  Nowadays, many law firms follow traditional business models, and those who practice in business-thinking firms often realize greater profits.  The right combination of talent, planning and execution can make the transition from big firm to boutique a less daunting experience.

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2 responses to “Big firm to boutique

  1. having assisted several groups leave large firms to start their own, I can say from experience that this blog’s observations are sound. With less business than might have been “appreciated” at a large firm, you can make more income for yourself. But be sure to start your new firm with a valid financial and business plan, and be sure to be coached in successful entrepreneurial behaviors. You are now a small business owner! It is not the same as working for a large organization.

    • Hello Audrey,

      Thank you for your comment. You offer some great additional comments. The big firm world is so different from boutique practice. The challenge is ramping up on business skills we didn’t learn in law school!

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