Boutique Law Firms

Ed. note: Matt Kaiser founded The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC, a white-collar boutique in Washington, D.C., and will now be writing a weekly column for us about white-collar practice and his adventures in building a law firm. Matt previously covered the Supreme Court for us. This is the first installment of his new column.

When I meet non-lawyers — a rare and jolting occurrence -– or talk to lawyers who don’t practice in the white-collar criminal space, I’m frequently surprised at how few of them know what “white-collar criminal defense” means.

Yet, whatever it is, white-collar work is seen as sexy. Just about any fifth-year associate who has reviewed documents as a part of an FCPA investigation has “white-collar criminal defense” listed as a practice area on his firm bio. Fewer, I suspect, have a clear understanding of what white-collar work is.

There are clear cases. The prosecution of John Edwards is classically a white-collar case: it involved campaign finance, was in federal court, was litigated like a civil case, and Abbe Lowell represented the defendant (any case involving Abbe Lowell is per se white-collar).

Then there are the less-clear cases….

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against her former employer, Faruqi & Faruqi, and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, marches on. And this time the Faruqis are playing offense.

We previously noted the firm’s attempt to make Marchuk look like a bunny boiler — a mentally unstable young woman who was obsessed with Monteverde, the man whom she claims harassed her. And it looks like the firm is sticking to this strategy, trying to call into question Marchuk’s mental health.

Let’s take a look at their latest motion….

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Ed. note: This post is sponsored by NexFirm.

So you’ve decided to make the jump. Persuaded by the 10 reasons to leave Biglaw, and aware of the 10 common mistakes made by lawyers who launch their own firms, you have decided to hang your shingle.

What can you expect in your first few years running your own law firm? Here are 10 things that might surprise you….

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Ed. note: Please join us in welcoming our newest columnist covering the world of small law firms, Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle.

Although clients are a law firm’s raison d’être, believe it or not, having a roster of clients on opening day isn’t indispensable to, or even a predictor of a firm’s future success.   Many lawyers — whether they are new graduates, or seasoned government attorneys, or moms re-entering the work force, or low level associates and non-equity partners unceremoniously and unexpectedly given the boot — launch law firms without a single client to their name and do quite well, thank you very much.

Still, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to start a law firm with one or two clients already locked in?  Not necessarily….

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The future of elite Biglaw firms?

Historically, the elite Biglaw firms derived safety and security from the knowledge that they could depend on big fees from large institutional clients. After all, where would the big dogs feel confident sending their legal work if not to a giant, white-shoe firm, with a complete support staff and the cream of the law school graduating crop? It encouraged behemoth firms and no small amount of complacency.

No one doubts that we’ve entered a new normal and that Growth Is Dead (affiliate link), but a new study confirms that there’s even more bad news for the top Biglaw firms: GCs simply don’t want them any more…

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Jay EdelsonEd. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Jay Edelson is the founder and managing partner of Edelson LLC, a national consumer class action firm. Edelson LLC focuses on consumer technology, privacy, and banking litigation, and has secured settlements valued at over $1 billion in the last five years. Jay also serves as an adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he teaches class actions and negotiations. The American Bar Association has called him one of the “most creative minds in the legal profession” for his views on associate training and firm management.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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There is not nor probably will there ever be a definitive novel or film depicting the law firm experience. Law firm lawyers viewing The Firm or Michael Clayton or Ally McBeal are not going to identify with what they see on the screen. Novels like The Partner Track by Helen Wan or Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman might be the closest thing (affiliate links).

A truly realistic portrayal of that particular white-collar salt mine would surely be too boring for the public. On the other hand, the comments from the ATL Insider Survey (14,000 responses and counting; thanks everyone) constitute a sort of undistilled document of the Biglaw hive mind. So what do we hear from this depressing, inspiring, contradictory chorus of lawyerly voices?

The ATL Insider Survey asks practicing lawyers to evaluate their employer in terms of compensation, training, culture and colleagues, firm morale, and hours. The survey also asks, “What would be useful or interesting for a law student or potential lateral to know about your firm?”

Reading through all the responses to this question, a handful of recurrent themes emerge….

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

In our last story about Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, we noted the acrimonious nature of the dispute: “The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.”

When we last checked in on the case, Marchuk’s lawyers announced their intent to seek sanctions against the defendants. The basis for that move: the defendants’ counterclaims against Marchuk, alleging that she defamed the defendants by creating or helping to create an anonymous Gmail account that was used to disseminate her lawsuit over email. Marchuk’s lawyers denied that their client emailed her complaint around and said that they would seek sanctions from the defendants for the “frivolous and abusive” counterclaims — which sought a whopping $15 million from Marchuk.

Until now, the stakes have only gotten higher and higher. But today brings word of a possible de-escalation in this hard-fought battle….

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

Many discrimination cases brought against law firms end in quiet settlements. But I suspect that Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, could go the distance and make it to trial.

Why? The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.

Consider the latest move in the case, a declaration of intent to seek sanctions….

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Andrew L. SandlerEd. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Andrew L. Sandler, Chairman and Executive Partner of BuckleySandler LLP and Chief Executive Officer of Treliant Risk Advisors LLP, is a recognized leader in financial services litigation, enforcement, regulation, and compliance. A wide range of financial services companies look to Mr. Sandler for strategic advice and to help them navigate complex litigation and civil and criminal investigations and examinations by federal and state enforcement and bank regulatory agencies. You can read his full bio here.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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