Boutique Law Firms

I recently met Ray Zolekhian at a wedding. He went to Harvard Law School, worked as an associate at Skadden in Los Angeles, and started his own law firm with a friend, Robin Hanasab.

As soon as I heard Zolekhian’s background, I immediately guessed that he started a personal injury firm. Isn’t that the most natural progression?

Apparently so. Founded in July 2009, Hanasab & Zolekhian, LLP began as a firm specializing in restructuring commercial real estate loans. The firm then transitioned to personal injury litigation, because the founding partners found the work interesting and lucrative. But Zolekhian had no background in personal injury; according to Zolekhian, the pair was “thrown into the fire.” They were not devoid of help, however, and benefited enormously from the resources and mentoring given by other attorneys in the close-knit plaintiffs’ bar.

What does Zolekhian like most about his practice?

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I think it’s important for lawyers on the other side of the political divide from Paul, who’s a very fine lawyer, to reaffirm what Paul wrote [in his resignation letter from King & Spalding]. Paul is entirely correct that our adversary system depends on vigorous advocates being willing to take on even very unpopular positions. Having undertaken to defend DOMA, he’s acting in the highest professional and ethical traditions in continuing to represent a client to whom he had committed in this very charged matter.

Seth Waxman, former U.S. Solicitor General (under President Clinton) and current WilmerHale partner, commenting to Washingtonian magazine on the decision of fellow former S.G. Paul Clement to resign from King & Spalding and join Bancroft PLLC. At Bancroft, the D.C. boutique law firm founded by former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, Clement will continue to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Paul Clement (left) and John Boehner (right)

The leading law firm of King & Spalding, which came under fire from LGBT rights groups after its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became public last week, has moved to withdraw from the litigation. The firm cited problems with the vetting process applied to the engagement.

And Paul Clement, the former U.S. Solicitor General and King & Spalding partner who was going to spearhead the DOMA defense, is now a former K&S partner. He resigned from K&S this morning, in response to the firm’s withdrawal decision. Clement will continue his representation of the House of Representatives in DOMA litigation from his new home, Bancroft PLLC, the high-powered D.C. boutique founded by a fellow alum of the Bush Department of Justice, Georgetown law professor Viet Dinh.

UPDATE (12:20 PM): We reached out for comment to Professor Dinh, who said: “Paul wins the biggest cases and Bancroft solves the most complex problems. This is a no brainer. We will continue to do what Paul and I love doing most, which is to serve the best interests of our clients.”

Let’s take a look at King & Spalding’s stated justification for dropping the DOMA representation, and at Paul Clement’s resignation letter….

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The Jones Street townhouses. Number 20 has the purple door.


As small-firm columnist Valerie Katz previously discussed, some partners at small law firms are worth big bucks. The only practicing lawyer in the Forbes 400 is a small-firm attorney, in fact.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some partners at small firms have big and beautiful wives homes. The New York Times recently featured one such lawyerly lair: a magnificent townhouse in Manhattan’s coveted West Village neighborhood, now on the market for almost $7.5 million.

The owner of this house once worked at a large law firm and is now a partner in a small law firm. Which firms?

Find out — and ogle photos of the palatial spread — after the jump.

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It’s been a while since I graduated from college, but isn’t there something special about this particular day on the calendar? I just can’t quite remember what’s so important about 4/20.

Well, according to this fun little headline, I’m not the only one with memory problems today: AFROMAN SUED ON 4/20: ‘Because I Got High’ Singer Sued For Forgetting About A Concert Date.

Ha ha. Let’s check out this “complaint” below. And if you don’t know who Afroman is, you’re in for a treat…

CORRECTION (1:30 PM): I initially thought this lawsuit was a joke. But according to Claudia Lyster, marketing manager for the two law firms bringing the action, “I want to assure you the lawsuit filed against Afroman this morning in Franklin County Municipal Court is very real. Here is a time-stamped copy of the Complaint.”

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

They say that to be competitive in today’s market, branding is key. To do that, one needs a snappy marketing campaign. I mean, think about the marketing genius behind the Shake Weight, or that truly awesome FreeCreditReport.com song!

According to an article in the Martindale.com Blog entitled Small Law Firms Take the Lead in Marketing, small firms have, well, taken the lead in marketing. Martindale-Hubbell commissioned a survey to look into the issue of small-firm marketing and concluded that the smallest firms are increasing their spending on marketing, with a focus on internet advertising.

Given this premise, I decided to search the worldwide web for some of the best (or most entertaining) small-firm websites. I found one website that stuck out to me: the home page of a boutique law firm, Edelson McGuire. (ATL previously covered the firm when it gave out free iPads to all employees, both attorneys and staff.)

How do I love the Edelson McGuire site? Let me count the ways….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Last month I received an email from Cameron McCord. McCord is a fifth-year associate at a boutique bankruptcy firm in Atlanta, where she’s been having “a great experience.”

“I am in court all the time and have started handling my own trials,” McCord wrote. “I have worked here since my second summer and am able to have a good work/life balance. I have an 11-month-old and a four-year-old, and my husband is a full-time student. I think it is important for people to realize that you can be successful without working at [Biglaw].”

Upon reading her email, I knew I had to feature her and her firm. I mean, she reads my column! And, I suppose, a firm that affords its attorneys the opportunity to maintain a life outside of work is, well, awesome.

Here is what goes down at Jones & Walden LLP….

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Justice Barbara Lenk

* On the same day that Lady Kaga wrote her first dissent, Governor Deval Patrick nominated Barbara Lenk, an openly gay woman, to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Big week for… uhh, female judges. [New York Times]

* The prosecution in the Barry Bonds case rested their case yesterday, and the judge is considering throwing out previous testimony about Bonds’s shrunken testicles. National League something something small ball. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* This mob lawyer was allegedly just a mob mobster. [New York Law Journal]

* Fordham Law School hosted a conference on Bob Dylan and the law, featuring “law professors, a Dylan historian, a disc jockey and a guitar player.” Then she opened a book of poems and handed it to me. Written by an Italian jurist from the 20th century. And every one of Scalia’s words rang true and glowed like burning coal. [City Room / New York Times]

* White O’Connor, the Hollywood entertainment-law firm, is merging with “NYC white-shoe powerhouse” Kelley Drye. [Deadline.com]

* A mother has sued the Chicago public school system and her daughter’s teacher after the teacher posted the daughter’s picture on Facebook and mocked her hairstyle. The hairstyle featured an assortment of Jolly Ranchers. Sweet. [ABA Journal]

* The people of Wisconsin have spoken! And as of this morning, it’s still not entirely clear what they’re saying. The race for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat is too close to call. [Politico]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I am getting tired of hearing about all these large law firms and their unnecessary spring bonuses. This weekend I went on a trip with friends who all work in Biglaw, and the topic came up (and, in turn, everyone shared how he or she was going to spend that extra money).

One of my friends is planning on going on vacation to South America (sometime in 2019, when he has the time). Another told us that she is going to get “the Bentley of couches,” for the guest room in her giant condo. I did not have a similar Biglaw big-money story to share, so I instead shared my ideas for the top ten free activities I had planned for the spring. (In case you’re wondering, they are: 1. Breathe Air. 2. Walk. 3. Eat Free Samples At Whole Foods.)

I had to admit that I was a little jealous of my friends and their surprise bonuses. But then I heard a story that touched me right where it counts — in the wallet. I have learned that some small firms give their employees big perks….

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We’ve previously discussed the trend of partners leaving Biglaw to launch their own firms. We’ve seen a lot of this action in New York and D.C., home to such well-regarded boutiques as MoloLamken, started by former Shearman & Sterling and Baker Botts partners, and BuckleySandler, started by former Skadden partners.

It’s happening out on the West Coast, too. In the fair city of Seattle — one of my favorite places in the entire United States, especially when it’s not raining — about half a dozen partners are leaving K&L Gates to start their own shop. One Queen Emerald City tipster described this news as “the most exciting thing that has happened here since Kurt Cobain died.”

UPDATE (4/5/11): The official press release about the new firm, Pacifica Law Group, appears after the jump.

Who are the lawyers that are leaving, and why? Let’s find out….

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