Since I began writing this column, I have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. After speaking with so many small-firm attorneys who talk excitedly about the challenges and rewards of owning their own businesses, I have toyed with the idea of doing the same. Because of my love-hate relationship with the practice of law, however, I have been trying to come up with other small business ideas. My latest brilliant business venture is a summer camp for unemployed people. Unfortunately, my dreams were dashed when a friend pointed out that my business was destined to fail because my target market had no money to spend on, well, anything. Boo.
Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with two attorneys who have identified a way to take advantage of the bad economy in a way that, unlike my plan, made financial sense. The idea is simple: offer in-house counsel seeking to reduce their legal fees reduced legal fees for the same high quality work. Yet another idea I wished I had come up with (note: I firmly believe that I created Pinterest because I started clipping stuff out of magazines in 1992)….
Bryan Reyhani and Dimitri Nemirovsky opened the financial services boutique law firm Reyhani Nemirovsky LLP in April. Reyhani and Nemirovsky first met when they were in-house counsel for Merrill Lynch. After Merrill Lynch, Reyhani went to Loeb & Loeb and Nemirovsky went to Bingham McCutchen, but the two stayed in touch. The two shared an entrepreneurial spirit and a common philosophy on client service, so when the timing was right, opening a firm was the natural next step.
What distinguishes Reyhani Nemirovsky LLP from the Biglaw firms that served as the two lawyers’ training ground? “We offer the same high quality service to our clients as we did when we were at Loeb and Bingham, but we do so in an even more efficient manner by further streamlining our services, which is made possible by today’s cutting-edge technology. We also are able to offer far more competitive and creative rates and billing structures — all requested by our clients — given that we have extremely low overhead and the ability to make instant management decisions,” explained Nemirovsky.
Reyhani and Nemirovsky have another value add they offer their in-house clients: they were in-house counsel themselves, so they understand the needs and challenges of working with outside counsel. Said Nemirovsky, “We sometimes are accused of never having taken off our in-house counsel hats, but there is no arguing that our in-house background provides us with a unique understanding of and appreciation for our clients’ expectations. When that’s combined with our Biglaw experience, it aids our ability to provide early case evaluations and deliver effective results.”
The firm captures its core values of providing top quality service at affordable rates with its motto “attention to detail; big picture focus.” By embracing these two philosophies, Reyhani Nemirovsky is able to represent its financial services clients in enforcement proceedings, arbitration, and litigation, and to provide them with compliance counseling.
Reyhani and Nemirovsky are not yet charting a plan for the firm’s future, other than to continue to provide great client service. As Reyhani explained, “One of the advantages of having only two decision makers is that we can be nimble and grow in whatever direction is dictated by market conditions and client need.” And another advantage of having only two decision makers is that they only needed to convince each other to take the leap and start their own business in the current economic climate.
While law schools are cutting class size and I am trying to peddle my wares to homeless people in response to the economic climate, Reyhani and Nemirovsky are taking a different tactic. “We’ve always heard the adage that the best time to start a business is in a bad economy. As scary as that sounds, the reason it tends to work is because businesses built in difficult financial climates are built to withstand the perils of a shaky economy. The decision to venture out on our own and create a firm designed to efficiently service those clients most directly impacted by the financial crisis made perfect sense to both of us,” said Reyhani.
So, those of you looking to tap in to your entrepreneurial spirit and start a business, take a lesson from Reyhani and Nemirovsky: provide a valuable service to a viable market. If only I had thought of that….
When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.