Tom Wallerstein

  • Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, California, Deaths, Litigators, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: ‘There’s a Practice Guide for That’

    Tom Wallerstein’s firm, like most firms in California, has a series of Rutter guides on its shelves. And even though he runs a virtually paperless office, he still loves his printed Rutter guides. Wallerstein even has a joke about Rutter. Whenever a colleague questions his ability to solve a particular issue, he jokes, “I’m sure there’s a Rutter Guide for that.” The joke has a serious point, namely, that the basics of most practice areas can always be learned. And if it’s easy enough to learn a practice area, why shouldn’t a lawyer forming a small firm become a true generalist; handling everything from family law, wills and trusts, civil, criminal, and essentially whatever walks in the door?

    27 Comments / / Feb 10, 2012 at 1:15 PM
  • Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Which is Better for Clients?

    A general counsel recently asked Tom Wallerstein, “Why should my company risk hiring a lesser-known, small firm?” Tom told him that it shouldn’t. Tom doesn’t think any company should unnecessarily “risk” its business without good reason. Tom will be the first to admit that there are some matters that simply demand big firm attention. But Tom also told the GC that there were many matters that he thought his smaller firm could handle just as well as could a big firm….

    49 Comments / / Feb 3, 2012 at 11:36 AM
  • Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Lawyer Advertising, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: A Marketing Matrix

    When Above the Law first covered Tom Wallerstein’s “adventure in shingle hanging,” he remembers someone quipping that his only business came from attorney referrals and that he didn’t have his “own” clients. The comment wasn’t true, but he still found it interesting. Is a client who pays you money somehow not “your” client, or not a “real” client, just because the client was referred to you by another attorney? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to him….

    28 Comments / / Jan 27, 2012 at 1:42 PM
  • Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, California, Copyright, Intellectual Property, Small Law Firms, Trademarks

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Beyond the ‘Small Law Firm’ Stereotype

    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. To break the stereotype, Tom Wallerstein remarks on some great practice opportunities for smaller law firms which exist in Silicon Valley….

    46 Comments / / Jan 20, 2012 at 10:04 AM
  • Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Why Wait?

    Tom Wallerstein thinks that if you are in law school and you have the choice between working for an established firm — big or small — or working for yourself/starting your own firm, it’s a no-brainer that you should go with the established firm first. You can always leave the firm to pursue your own practice at any time, but the converse isn’t true….

    69 Comments / / Jan 13, 2012 at 2:44 PM
  • Billable Hours, Boutique Law Firms, Money, Small Law Firms

    Size Matters: Crisis of Faith

    Valerie Katz thought she could do some missionary work and convert her friends in to small-firm lawyers. Something unexpected happened, though. One of her friends asked her why she believed small-firm life was so different from Biglaw. She went through my standard list of reasons: quality of life, money, autonomy, mentoring, etc. But that was where things took an unexpected turn: her friend did not buy it. Does size really matter, she thought?

    27 Comments / / Jan 12, 2012 at 4:37 PM
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    Billable Hours, Boutique Law Firms, Money, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Working for Free

    When Tom Wallerstein started his firm, several mentors gave him the same advice: Don’t work for free. It’s easy to see the problem with working for free. Giving away what you’re trying to sell isn’t exactly in the business plan. Unfortunately, this sage advice can only really be learned the hard way, through experience. Even if your gut tells you that taking on that client is a bad idea, this can be surprisingly tempting to a new firm or solo practice….

    37 Comments / / Jan 6, 2012 at 1:24 PM
  • Biglaw, Money, Partner Issues, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Top Ten Differences

    This is the time of year when everyone pulls out a Top Ten list of one thing or another. Tom Wallerstein don’t mind; a Top Ten list is a convenient format for reflection and New Year’s Eve has always been a time of reflection for him, whether that involves setting goals or just thinking about the ups and downs of the past year. He thought he would use the opportunity to offer my perspective of the Top Ten Differences Between Biglaw and Boutique. So without further ado, let’s push in the button and let the top ten play…

    33 Comments / / Dec 30, 2011 at 11:10 AM
  • Biglaw, Billable Hours, Holidays and Seasons, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: It’s a Dead Week

    Recently, someone remarked to me that the week after Christmas is a “dead week.” He meant that many people take the week off, many companies are short staffed, and business generally is light. When I was in Biglaw, I always worked the week after Christmas. Even though most partners wouldn’t be around, I figured that […]

    62 Comments / / Dec 23, 2011 at 12:31 PM
  • Small Law Firms, Solo Practitioners

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Come On Along, or Go Alone

    Tom Wallerstein was talking to a friend who is a junior partner in a large firm, and who is thinking of starting her own firm. She knew what practice area she would focus on, and she had at least one client who she felt sure would go with her. But she still had two critical questions to resolve. Open a solo practice, or form a partnership? Form a “virtual” office, or start a traditional “brick and mortar” shop?

    25 Comments / / Dec 16, 2011 at 4:38 PM
  • Associate Advice, Biglaw, Money, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Looks Like Rain

    The traditional method of building a book of business no longer works for most associates. Firms now sometimes go so far as to actively discourage associates from forming too-strong relationships with clients, lest the associate leave and take the client with them. With these challenges, how can an associate ever hope to make the rain they will need if they want to open their own firm?

    64 Comments / / Dec 9, 2011 at 4:45 PM
  • Biglaw, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Going Through the Motions

    Often, associates who know that they will not become a partner seem content to just put in their time, try to keep their head down, and collect a paycheck while waiting for their firm to announce their intended bonuses. They rationalize that they know they will leave anyway, so why bend over backwards for the firm? Tom Wallerstein proposes the answer to this question….

    62 Comments / / Dec 2, 2011 at 12:22 PM
  • Your ATL editors: Elie Mystal, Staci Zaretsky, and David Lat.


    The ATL Holiday Party: A Photo Essay

    Thanks to everyone who came out last night to attend the Above the Law holiday party. The festivities were extremely well-attended. Here on the internets, some people like to say “WWOP.” So let’s get some pics up in this joint….

    / Dec 1, 2011 at 2:47 PM
  • Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, California, Litigators, Silicon Valley, Small Law Firms

    From Biglaw to Boutique: Trading Places

    Some people thought he might be nuts for leaving litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel. But the prospects of starting his own firm and building a practice from the ground up were too compelling to ignore. Please welcome our new small-firm columnist, Tom Wallerstein!

    113 Comments / / Nov 18, 2011 at 2:45 PM
  • Boutique Law Firms, Litigators, Solo Practitioners

    Adventures in Shingle Hanging: Two Quinn Associates Go Their Own Way

    You see partners spinning off from bigger firms to start their own shops all the time. We’ve covered some of these high-profile partners that are still taking the risk during the recession, like the Skadden partners who formed BuckleySandler, or the Boies, Schiller partners who formed Stone & Magnanini. But starting your own firm isn’t […]

    174 Comments / / Sep 14, 2009 at 6:29 PM