Boutique Law Firms

Tom Wallerstein

When I started my firm, several mentors gave me the same advice: Don’t work for free. It’s easy to see the problem with working for free. Giving away what you’re trying to sell isn’t exactly in the business plan. Unfortunately, this sage advice can only really be learned the hard way, through experience.

Working for free can arise in many different ways. The most obvious example is a client who wants you to represent him but can only promise to pay you later.

Even if your gut tells you that taking on that client is a bad idea, this can be surprisingly tempting to a new firm or solo practice. For starters, there is such a thrill with getting your first client, or your first “real” client, or your first big client, or your first whatever client, that the excitement can cloud your better judgment. You will be tempted to overlook the red flags that you will not be paid for your work….

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Many law firms send out rather lame holiday cards, cards that marketing guru Ross Fishman would describe as “boring pieces of crap.” Thankfully that wasn’t the case for the eleven finalists in our third annual law firm holiday card contest.

Some of these cards were clever, some were beautiful, and some were funny. All of them were excellent, deserving of recognition and praise for the thoughtfulness and creativity that went into them.

Okay, enough with the sentimental and sappy stuff — you’re lawyers, and you’re competitive. You want to know who won….

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The field of contenders for our third annual law firm holiday card contest was more impressive than ever. We received numerous nominations, and we thank everyone who participated. It took many hours to review the plethora of submissions.

We could complain about how some of you failed to follow contest rule #3, limiting the contest to “cards that are unusually clever, funny, or cool…. cards with some attitude, with that extra je ne sais quoi.” But we won’t; the holiday spirit has us in a good mood. You are all wonderful!

But some of you are more wonderful than others. Let’s look at this year’s finalists….

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To help me get in the holiday spirit, I’ve been catching up on my favorite movies. Some might prefer It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but I can’t get enough of It’s a Wonderful Lifetime and ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas. Give me a movie where a D-list celebrity overcomes the holiday blues to discover the meaning of Christmas, the joy of love, and the warmth of family, and I am a happy girl.

After 22 days of non-stop Christmas movie watching, I began to think that only in a movie staring Melissa Joan Hart would someone devote her professional career to tackling an issue she had to overcome. Not so.

Earlier this month, Casey Greenfield, known for her personal battle with child support issues, and Scott Labby, a fellow graduate of Yale Law School, formed the firm Greenfield Labby LLP. The firm’s mission is to serve individual clients “with a focus on family and matrimonial practice, strategic planning and crisis management”….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: From Tragedy to Triumph Isn’t Just a Theme in Lifetime Movies (Just Ask Casey Greenfield)”

[We were going to call this post something like "Associate Bonus Watch: Susman Godfrey Beats Cravath Too." But then we felt bad for singling out Cravath for paying unsatisfying bonuses, when so many other Biglaw firms have followed suit. So we went with a tamer title instead.]

Just as it did last year, the powerhouse litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey announced associate bonuses that put the bonus scales of most other firms to shame. Happy Holidays, Susman Godfrey associates!

(By the way, Susman is a firm that celebrates the season in high style. The holiday party of its New York office, catered by acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, is already legendary, even though it’s of fairly recent vintage.)

So, the Susman bonuses — what are we looking at here?

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Tom Wallerstein

Yeah, some people thought I might be nuts for leaving litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel. But the prospects of starting my own firm and building a practice from the ground up were too compelling to ignore. Nearly two and a half years have passed since Colt Wallerstein LLP opened its doors, and still not a day goes by when my partner and I aren’t humbled by our good fortune and our decision to “trade places”: that is, move from Biglaw to start a litigation boutique in Silicon Valley that focuses on high-tech trade secret, employment, and complex-commercial litigation.

I graduated from law school in 1999, and the legal market was very different then. Getting into a “top” law school pretty much guaranteed a job, and most of my law school friends and I had multiple offers and no real concern about landing a Biglaw job, if that’s what we wanted. Offer rates hovered around 100%, and of course the lucrative summers consisted mostly of long lunches at five-star restaurants, luxury box seats at baseball games, open bars, and very little work.

Those were the days….

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I've seen a million faces, and I've rocked them all.

* If the Americans with Disabilities Act must protect the obese, could we at least have different levels of protection depending on whether or not your “disability” is self-inflicted? Like, if you get your legs shot off in war, that’s one thing, but if your legs crumble underneath your girth on your way to eat more food, that’s a different thing. Hooha. [Ohio Employer's Law Blog]

* Here’s a great question, from Professor Kenneth Anderson: Was a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” poster ever legal? Like constitutionally? I’m not sure, but I’m probably going to go home and play Red Dead Redemption tonight, for old times’ sake. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* Winston Moseley, the killer of Kitty Genovese, is up for parole. I wasn’t going to say anything and let, you know, other people handle bringing you the news — but something about this story made me think I should speak up. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Getting an attorney job is as hard as it has ever been for law students. Here are some thoughts on how to focus your job-hunting energies. [Tips for Young Lawyers]

* In today’s edition of “Elie Derides Occupy Wall Street,” Elie meets a refrigerator that is quietly having more of an impact on one corporation than any of the protesters. Never underestimate the power of having a demand. [Twitter / @SHGrefrigerator]

* Musical Chairs: Elite boutique Zuckerman Spaeder expands in New York, by bringing in Paul Shechtman, counsel to celebs like Lil’ Kim. [Dealbook / New York Times]

* This is fun. I made the Root 100 again, which means I’m on a list with Jay-Z and John Legend, and I ranked higher than Will Smith. This is kind of like the Cooley Law rankings of black people. [The Root]

Lauren Serafin and Robert Leighton

Chicago sounds like a tough town for romance. Check out the first Courtship Connection date that went down in the Windy City. Let’s hope that future dates go better.

Chitown was also the venue for Serafin v. Leighton. In this lawsuit, a lovely young lawyer, Lauren Serafin, sued her handsome ex-fiancé, Sidley Austin associate Robert Leighton, for “breach of promise” to marry. Serafin alleged that Leighton cheated on her during his Las Vegas bachelor party, with a woman named “Danielle,” and then broke off the engagement — saddling Serafin with almost $63,000 in wedding- and honeymoon-related expenses.

We now bring you an update on this saga….

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Last night we wrote about a high-profile lawsuit: 3M v. Lanny Davis. Yes, that’s right: the maker of Post-its and Scotch tape is going after Lanny J. Davis, the noted D.C. lawyer and lobbyist, along with his client, Porton Capital (a group of private investors).

It’s a strange lawsuit, but the allegations in it aren’t new. Similar suits were filed by 3M in June and July, in New York state court. (And one of them is still pending, despite the filing of an action in D.C. federal court.)

The primary parties, 3M and the Porton Group, have crossed swords before. In fact, they’re litigating against each other right now in merry olde England, before the High Court in London. In the U.K. litigation, 3M is being sued by Porton Capital and by the British government (in the form of Ploughshare Innovations, an entity owned by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence).

According to the Wall Street Journal, Porton and Ploughshare allege that 3M failed to diligently develop the BacLite testing technology, “a product already proved and used in Europe as a cheap and quick way of detecting methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, a hospital infection.” The reason this is so upsetting to Porton and Ploughshare is that they were contractually entitled to receive royalties from 3M’s sales of BacLite. The plaintiffs in the U.K. case claim that 3M abandoned BacLite less than a year after buying it — after botching the BacLite trials, and declaring the testing technology non-viable — “in order to protect a 3M-developed detection product known as Fastman from the less expensive rival posed by BacLite.”

Got that? Okay. Now, some updates to our prior coverage….

UPDATE (9/2/11, 9:30 AM): An update to our updates: a statement from William A. Brewer III, counsel to 3M, has been added below.

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Lanny Davis

Physician, heal thyself? D.C. power broker Lanny Davis, a guru of crisis management, now has a crisis of his own to manage.

Davis has been hit with a federal lawsuit by, oddly enough, one of America’s largest corporations: 3M, the Fortune 100 company and Dow Jones Industrial Average component that’s famous for such products as Post-it Notes and Scotch tape. It’s surprising to see a mega-corporation like 3M going after a high-profile lawyer like Davis.

When you see a large corporation suing a prominent attorney like Davis — who, before launching his own firm last year, was a partner at such firms as McDermott Will & Emery, Orrick, and Patton Boggs — you might expect a malpractice claim. But that’s not the case here….

UPDATE (10:50 AM): Comments from Lanny Davis and his client, the Porton Group, have been added below. They point out that this is 3M’s third bite at the apple — the company previously filed two similar cases in New York state court. (The first suit was withdrawn, while the second still appears to be pending — rather strange, given the D.C. federal court filing.)

UPDATE (5:50 PM): Here is more information about 3M v. Lanny Davis.

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