Boutique Law Firms

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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Representing patent trolls: harder than it looks?

Has the “mojo hand” lost its mojo?

In 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Matthew Powers, co-chair of litigation at Weil at the time, ruled over his domain with the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

In 2011, Powers, one of the nation’s leading intellectual-property litigators, left Weil to start his own firm, Tensegrity Law Group. In leaving Biglaw, he also left behind a stable of blue-chip clients, focusing instead on representing plaintiffs on a contingency basis.

Two years into his new venture, some observers are wondering whether Matt Powers has lost his powers….

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

I just finished reading Gone Girl (affiliate link), the riveting and disturbing novel by Gillian Flynn. It brilliantly demonstrates, in a way that lawyers can appreciate, how the exact same set of events can be explained in radically different ways.

Given its focus on fighting, in terms of the war between the sexes and the battle for the truth, Gone Girl was appropriate to read in between the latest filings in Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi. The salacious sexual harassment lawsuit has the entire legal world talking.

Yesterday we wrote about Alexandra Marchuk’s second amended complaint. Now let’s dive into the answer, filed with impressive swiftness after the complaint, which paints a very different picture of events and of the plaintiff….

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

Alexandra Marchuk’s high-profile discrimination lawsuit, Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi, continues to escalate. She filed her initial complaint against F&F and partner Juan Monteverde in March of this year, the firm fired back with counterclaims in April, and Marchuk amended her complaint later that month.

Last week, Marchuk filed a second amended complaint in the case. It contains some juicy new allegations, including some that refer to what discovery has supposedly unearthed so far….

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Regular readers of Above the Law know about the class action lawsuits brought against some law schools accused of fraudulently inducing students to enroll. For example, ATL covered the great legal work evident in the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against New York Law School, and the affirmation of that dismissal on appeal.

What you might not know, however, is that cooking schools, including the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, were defendants in similar litigation long before law schools were. I knew Ray Gallo, the attorney prosecuting some of those landmark cases, so I followed them closely. Those lawsuits established a kind of model for proceeding against law schools. Unfortunately for the cooking schools, their litigation results were significantly worse than those obtained to date by the law schools.

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Anyone who has considered opening a solo or small firm practice can’t help but worry whether their venture will be successful. Provided the worry does not overwhelm, this can help keep you motivated and focused.

But focused on what? When considering whether they can run a successful practice, law firm owners should look beyond the math and consider the more philosophical question of how exactly they define “success.”

Of course, a law practice is a business and to that extent its goal is to make a profit. A business that is not profitable is not successful even if it provides exceptional service. An unprofitable venture inevitably will fail, definitely answering any philosophical question as to its success….

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On the “Our Professionals” section of its website, Finnegan Henderson boasts that it has “375 lawyers focused on IP.” It may be time to revise that downward: “371 lawyers focused on IP.”

Last night, the high-powered, intellectual-property-focused firm announced four notable partner departures. The Finnegan partners in question practice in the generally hot area of IP litigation (although we’ve heard anecdotal reports of cooling, including stealth layoffs of IP litigators — see here and here).

Who are the departing Finnegan partners, and where are they going?

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I have in my office a framed print of the classic New Yorker cartoon: “You have a pretty good case, Mr. Pitkin. How much justice can you afford?” I often find myself referring to the cartoon when talking to prospective clients.

JUMP to find out why…

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Tom Wallerstein

Last week, I was having a business lunch at Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta overlooking the San Francisco Bay. (Those who know me won’t be surprised that I managed to combine a business meeting with some good eats. I’ll save my restaurant review for another time, or you can read it on OpenTable.)

Anyway, my lunch was with a partner at Leason Ellis, a thriving IP boutique in New York. The firm is a boutique in that the lawyers are specialists in intellectual property; as far as I know, that is their only practice area. But within that subject matter, they have both a litigation and transactional practice. Conversely, with limited exceptions, my own firm has remained a litigation-only boutique since it was founded four years ago. We handle a wide range of subject matters, but only do litigation within those subjects.

What are the pros and cons of running a litigation-only shop? Why haven’t we added a robust transactional practice as well?

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Tom Wallerstein

Next week my firm will celebrate its fourth anniversary. I can’t believe it has been that long. It seems like yesterday that I was sitting at my desk at Quinn Emanuel, thinking about cases worth millions of dollars but still too small to be economically handled by traditional Biglaw firms. I wondered if I might try to serve a growing market hungry for less expensive but still high-quality litigation. Not long thereafter I was conspiring with my partner over the details, drafting business plans, and conducting informal marketing surveys.

As my firm approaches its fourth anniversary, it’s interesting for me to think back to my early plans and consider what worked, and what did not. What happened as I predicted or hoped, and what was unexpected…

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