Boutique Law Firms

Tom Wallerstein

I’m not kidding myself that anyone will notice, but I still feel bad about missing my second consecutive post. My trial that was expected to last five days is entering its third week.

Some trials are more demanding than others, and at this point I’m thoroughly stuck in the trenches. Trial days can be awfully long days, and stressful. When you’re going from day to day, just letting it ride, it’s hard to justify taking the time to write a full-fledged blog post.

I’m hopeful that when the dust settles I will be able to extract some helpful takeaways that will provide fodder for future columns. Until then…


Tom Wallerstein lives in San Francisco and is a partner with Colt Wallerstein LLP, a Silicon Valley litigation boutique. The firm’s practice focuses on high tech trade secret, employment, and general complex-commercial litigation. He can be reached at [email protected].

Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

For connoisseurs of salacious suits, Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi is the gift that keeps on giving. First Alexandra Marchuk, a young lawyer and recent Vanderbilt Law graduate, sued the Faruqi firm, claiming that she was subjected to relentless sexual harassment during the short time that she worked there. Then the Faruqis and partner Juan Monteverde fired back, filing aggressive counterclaims against Marchuk.

Marchuk isn’t taking these claims lying down. She has amended her complaint to add new causes of action and to increase her multimillion-dollar demand….

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Tom Wallerstein

I try to approach new relationships without an express agenda. In my experience, business has always come from relationships indirectly, and unexpectedly. Looking back at my firm’s engagements with 20/20 hindsight, it is undeniable that positive relationships led to the work. But that was impossible to predict looking forward.

For example, lunch with a casual acquaintance became a friendship and led to a very lucrative engagement when he later developed a conflict. I could not have predicted at the time how the lunch would later lead to important business.

In fact, had I approached the lunch with a strict agenda, I never would have formed the friendship or subsequent business. Instead of meeting with the goal of developing business, I met with the goal of having a nice lunch. It is a well-known irony that sometimes it is easier to get something when you stop trying so hard…

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Lateral partner movement continues in the world of intellectual property law. As we noted in Morning Docket, four partners and one of counsel are departing from Finnegan Henderson, one of the leading IP-only firms in the country.

Where are they going? What else is going on over at Finnegan? And what does the future hold for large, IP-focused law firms like Finnegan?

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‘Do you seriously expect me to feed you?’

* An attorney from Orrick with two SCOTUS clerkships under his belt will now be arguing a case before the high court. Seems standard, but the exciting part is that this guy’s still an associate. Congratulations! [Am Law Daily]

* From Biglaw to Boutique, the Finnegan edition: five IP lawyers, including a member of the firm’s management committee, will be starting their own practice. We may have more on this later. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Calling all wannabe government lawyers! Screw the sequester; the Department of Justice is planning to add more than 100 positions in 2014. Let’s hope these budget requests are approved. [Legal Times]

* “I actually felt sick working him for him.” If you were a paralegal and your boss was allegedly trying to recruit you to be his “third wife,” you’d feel the same. Expect more on this on this later. [New York Post]

* Here are 25 Northeast law schools ranked by employment rate. At least my school wasn’t ranked dead last on this list, and that’s something to be excited about… right? [Boston Business Journal]

* Maybe more people will care about law schools when their credit ratings tank. Speaking of which, thanks to a 14% drop in enrollment, Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Albany Law. [Times Union]

* Joseph Feller, an environmentalist and beloved professor at ASU College of Law, RIP. [ASU Law]

‘This email is unbelievable….’

One argument you sometimes hear in favor of making the jump from Biglaw to boutique is that small firms are, for lack of a better word, nicer. Everyone knows everyone else, so people treat each other with respect and even kindness. The hours are less brutal than at large law firms, and the overall environment is less impersonal and more friendly. The lawyers and staff at small firms are less focused on billable hours and the bottom line than their Biglaw counterparts.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But is it universally true? According to one current employee of Faruqi & Faruqi, the litigation boutique on the receiving end of an epic sexual harassment lawsuit, F&F is not exactly a “Fun & Fabulous” place to work.

And this person provided email messages from the two name partners to support their claims….

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* Oh mon dieu, Justice Breyer was inducted as one of just 12 foreign members of France’s Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. C’est très chouette pour un Américain, non? [New York Times]

* Man, for a four-seeded firm that got knocked out of our March Madness competition after the Sweet Sixteen, Davis Polk is looking great in 2013′s first quarter as far as legal advising in M&A deals goes. [Am Law Daily]

* Brown Rudnick picked up a California boutique, and it’ll be doubled in size through lateral hiring. No layoffs are currently expected, but no one really advertises that as a merger selling point. [National Law Journal]

* The New York Times: bringing you last month’s news, today! South Dakota is offering a subsidy for law school tuition to keep lawyers in the state. Here’s our post from two weeks ago. [New York Times]

* Pace Law School’s “low bono” residency program was praised by New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, but if you’ve got other job offers, Dear Lord, take one of them. [New York Law Journal]

* AIG wants to prevent Hank Greenberg from suing in its name, probably because it’d prefer not to be known as “the poster company for corporate ingratitude and chutzpah.” [DealBook / New York Times]

* “[D]o I cover this really important story and maybe go to jail?” That’s the choice Jana Winter is facing after reporting on James Holmes’s massacre notebook and refusing to reveal her sources. [CNN]

Tom Wallerstein

Whether you are a partner or associate, working in Biglaw or in a boutique, the key to success is developing a book of business. And the key to developing business is to focus instead on developing a book of relationships. As I wrote before, “business is an engagement, a lawsuit, a transaction; it is measured in money. A relationship is a connection with a human being. A book of business is virtually impossible for an associate to build. A book of relationships is available to first year associates and partners alike.” No matter how good a lawyer you may be, people still want to do business with people they know and like on a personal level…

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* Some Supreme Court analysts are speculating that Justice Clarence Thomas could cast a vote to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, but at this point, that’s just about as likely as him speaking during oral arguments. [Talking Points Memo]

* When a practice group laterals out of a firm en masse, you know things were probably going on behind the scenes for a while. Apparently Bingham’s securities enforcement crew was in very high demand by other Biglaw firms. [Am Law Daily]

* Hot on the heels of a merger ménage à trois, Dentons (fka SNR Denton) is already eyeing new growth possibilities across the globe. Guess they’re down with orgies now… [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “Clients don’t hire us because of our sex. They hire us because we win.” This, from Hillary Richard, one of the female name partners of a largely all-female firm. You go girl! [DealBook / New York Times]

* Silly Cooley, a “second-tier” law school by any other name would smell as stank. Our nation’s second-best law school is considering a union with Western Michigan University. [National Law Journal]

Star-crossed lawyers: Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk.

If you want to sue a defense-side Biglaw firm for employment-related claims, go for it. Unless your lawsuit is bats**t insane, chances are the firm will settle with you. See, e.g., Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell; Schoenfeld v. Allen & Overy. Heck, you don’t even need to file an actual case; even threatened litigation can yield a six-figure payday.

Biglaw firms are busy — busy making money, of course — and very reputation-conscious. They don’t want to be distracted by litigation, and they don’t want their white shoes sullied by grime. They will pay good money to make headaches go away.

But suing a scrappy plaintiff-side firm is an entirely different story. They will hit back — and hard.

Last month, Alexandra Marchuk sued her former firm, Faruqi & Faruqi, making a host of salacious allegations. The most incendiary: that a partner of the firm, Juan Monteverde, forcibly had sex with her in his office after the firm holiday party.

Now the Faruqis and Monteverde are turning it around on Alexandra Marchuk. They’re suing her back, filing counterclaims and seeking an eight-figure sum….

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