For some, the phrase “small law firm” implies certain stereotyped practice areas, clients, and attorneys. At its worst, the stereotype invokes unsophisticated clients and matters that are routine and uninteresting. I doubt the stereotype is wholly true anywhere. I know for sure it isn’t true in San Francisco or Silicon Valley.
I know many attorneys in small firms who have specialized, high-end practices. These specialized practices are often called boutiques, and they are perfectly suited to serve the entrepreneurial, high-tech client base that abounds in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It remains to be seen whether we’re experiencing a boom or just another bubble, but I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not an economist and I’m not making predictions. I am only remarking on some great practice opportunities for smaller law firms which exist here, maybe because we are fortunate to have so many imaginative, passionate, and savvy entrepreneurs working on exciting projects in so many different industries….
Hi everybody! I’m Chris Danzig. You might have seen me around Above The Law over the past year, covering technology and West Coast legal news. As of today, I’m excited to be the site’s newest full-time editor, joining David Lat, Elie Mystal, and Staci Zaretsky.
I’m a journalist by trade, not a lawyer. I’ve spent too much time writing about the law — and the stressfulsituations that can arise within the legal profession, which sometimes drive lawyers to drink — to ever want to practice.
I left that job about two years ago, and have worked as a full-time freelance reporter since then. I’ve written for a variety of publications, covering health care, music, social justice, and a bunch of other stuff. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and raised.
Keep reading for more personal trivia about yours truly (and to see the photo of myself that Lat asked me to provide)….
A few weeks ago, I was drinking an Old Cuban with my roommate at my favorite bar, Grand Tavern. We were sitting on the back patio, when a group of men across from us started talking loudly about Above the Law. My ears perked up, and I began wondering if I might overhear something like this or this.
Fortunately for the gentlemen across the bar, I didn’t hear anything scandalous. Fortunately for me, I did hear them mention Brian Smith, a former associate at Nixon Peabody, who opened the doors to his new business, Huckleberry Bicycles, last Friday in San Francisco.
I met up with Smith last week, and we spoke about how he became a part of our growing club of lawyers not practicing law….
Nobody ever seems to believe me when I say this, but San Francisco gets chilly. It is cold most of the time. And foggy. The warmest time of year is right now, in late October. If you come to visit in July, and you stay in the city, and you will get cold.
That’s why every San Francisco tourist ever buys those cheesy sweatshirts with “San Francisco” written on them in a font that strangely resembles one of the main logos for our hugely disappointing championship-winning major-league baseball team, the Giants. Actually, it might be exactly the same logo. The baseball team is currently in a trademark dispute with the clothing company from Hayward (Oakland’s smaller, crappier neighbor to the south) over rights to the logo.
But hold on, the Giants have been using it for almost 20 years. They must have gotten the rights locked down years ago, right? Oopsies….
Anytime my lawyer friends talk shop, my divorce lawyer friend always has the most interesting stories. A few months ago, a group of us went for happy hour. The conversation turned to a discussion of what we were doing at work. I said that my client was contemplating settlement over his parking lot lawsuit. Everyone yawned. My finance lawyer friend began to talk about securitizing something, but then just stopped talking because she knew her work was even more boring. This trend continued until my divorce lawyer friend talked about a recent trial. The highlights of her story included a lesbian affair and a mail-order bride. We were all rapt.
For that reason, I have wanted to profile a divorce firm for a while. Recently, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with San Francisco family lawyer (I guess they prefer that term) Erik Newton. His firm, Heath Newton LLP, has become a highly regarded boutique law firm that specializes in “Family Building,” “Divorce and Dissolution,” and “Asset Protection”….
For the next few months, I am working and living in San Francisco. It’s not surprising, but I have met some interesting folks since I moved here. And, I have learned not to sit down on any public space.
It is safe to say to that it is a different world here than in Chicago. This difference, I have learned, is present not only outside of the office, but inside as well. How? No, people do not go to work naked (at least not many). According to several small-firm attorneys, this difference manifests itself in a work culture that stresses healthy competition in a supportive environment.
Let’s examine this difference in a little more detail….
I rode BART into San Francisco on Monday for dinner. As our train approached the Embarcadero station, the driver came on the intercom.
“We aren’t stopping at this station. Don’t want to drop you in the middle of a protest.”
So my roommate and I got off a block later and backtracked. We encountered a few clumps of would-be protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks and bandanas. They might have been more intimidating, but many had hipster neck-beards curling out from underneath the masks. Mostly, though, there were a lot of riot police. A lot. Who were mainly just standing around.
The protest was in response to Bay Area Rapid Transit’s recent decision to temporarily turn off cell phone reception in four San Francisco stations, which was in anticipation of another protest, which was in turn a response to a recent police shooting in a San Francisco BART station.
Only in California do we have protests about protests. It’s all very dramatic, but where do law and technology fit in? As is the trend these days, pesky hackers broke into the BART Police Officers Association’s website on Wednesday and released personal information about the men and women who patrol the local subway system.
Read more about the allegedly horrible, no good, very bad policy decision that led to the hack after the jump….
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.