Boutique Law Firms

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Next in our series on a taxonomy of law firms are the capital-markets centric firms.

If you think this moniker roughly translates to the classic New York white shoe elite, move to the head of the class.

But, as much in our world at the start of the 21st Century, it’s not exactly that simple. Here’s what’s different about these firms.

First, recall that we’ve hypothesized seven primary species…

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Stanley M. Chesley

People have strong opinions about Stan Chesley, the high-profile, hugely successful plaintiffs’ lawyer — or former plaintiffs’ lawyer, since he recently got disbarred in Kentucky and gave up his law license in Ohio (in a retirement application that was notarized by his wife, federal judge Susan Dlott). Here are some choice comments about Chesley, nicknamed the “Prince of Torts” and “Master of Disaster”:

  • “[A]n opportunist and just a nasty son of a bitch.”
  • “[W]hat [Chesley] does is evil.”
  • “The ultimate grotesque, exaggerated perversion of what it means to be a lawyer.”
  • “He has balls as big as brass bells.”

And those bells are still ringing. Stan Chesley might not be back in the courtroom, but he’s back in the headlines in Ohio….

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Tom Wallerstein

A law school friend told me about a deposition he defended in Waco, Texas, where the temperature reached 105 degrees. At the time, my friend Geoff was an associate at a stuffy BigLaw firm, and there was never any doubt that he was required to wear a suit. And especially because the deposition was videotaped, the witness did, too.

Plaintiffs’ counsel was the owner of a smallish firm in Florida and he showed up wearing shorts, sandals and a short-sleeved polo shirt.

When they arrived at the deposition location, Geoff and his witness were dismayed to learn that the air conditioning wasn’t working. As the day progressed, the conference room grew increasingly warm. By late morning, the witness was restless and hot and kept firing glances across the room to the dormant air conditioner. The video was priceless; every answer was punctuated by the witness sweating and mopping his forehead. Geoff told me later that he thought his witness looked like he was lying even when he wasn’t.

Learn the truth about Geoff’s deposition…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

We humans like to put things in categories.

And while we can get it plain wrong, or mix up two categories benignly or malignly, there’s no question our propensity for categorization — from friend or foe and food to poison, to Linnaeus, to the periodic table, to the Dewey decimal system — has gotten us a long way on the planet so far.

So today we launch our own taxonomy of law firms….

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Juan Monteverde

When Alexandra Marchuk filed her epic lawsuit against her former firm, Faruqi & Faruqi LLP, and one of its partners, Juan E. Monteverde, she aired a lot of dirty laundry. Here’s one allegation that got a lot of attention in the corporate-law community: “[In advance of a Delaware Chancery Court hearing,] Mr. Monteverde explained that Judge [Travis] Laster was partial to good-looking female lawyers, but F&F’s female local counsel was ugly; so Mr. Monteverde wanted Ms. Marchuk to appear with him because her good looks would influence the judge in favor of F&F. Mr. Monteverde told Ms. Marchuk to wear her hair down, wear a low-cut shirt, and to try to look as alluring as possible during the hearing.”

Some wondered: did members of the Delaware Chancery Court hear about this rather embarrassing allegation? The answer would appear to be yes, based on a letter that a Faruqi lawyer recently received after moving for Juan Monteverde to be admitted pro hac vice….

Please note the UPDATE added after the jump.

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Tom Wallerstein

I’m pleased to announce that the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. To the contrary, I survived my surprise three-week trial. It wasn’t a total surprise, of course. I had been expecting a trial, just not one that lasted more than a week.

Not that I’m complaining. Frankly, trying cases is a whole lot of fun. I’ve written before about my passion for trials and the competitive aspect of litigation generally.

That internal motivation is crucial for me. Trials usually require demanding hours, and that is the least of it. Beyond the mere number of hours spent working, I often find trying a case to be exhausting. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Whenever you’re not on center stage, say, conducting a witness examination, you are paying rapt attention, thinking and calculating and strategizing. Sustaining that over time, day after day, can be difficult. You have to give your all, and then some. And when even more is asked of you, fate will decide the rest…

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1010 Fifth Avenue is just steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (visible in the background).

Biglaw isn’t the only source of big bucks. In fact, some of the wealthiest lawyers in America are plaintiffs’ lawyers who work on their own or in small law firms.

But you don’t need to be a plaintiff-side lawyer from Texas to strike it rich. A partner at an elite litigation boutique in New York just bought an apartment once owned by a famous business mogul.

Let’s see what $12.5 million buys in the Big Apple these days….

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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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