The recession has had opposite results for BigLaw and little firms.
As the WSJ Law Blog phrased so well today, “big firms were…largely caught flat-footed by the downturn.” But while BigLaw regressed, smaller firms have evolved. The Los Angeles Times published an article yesterday espousing the relative success of boutique firms during the downturn.
The LAT points out that boutique firms are doing well in the dismal economic climate because they offer specialised, personalised service that clients perceive to be more cost-efficient. As well, smaller firms offer lawyers the ability to have a life outside of work, which Vice Chair of the ABA Laura Farber said is the preference among young lawyers.
LAT: “Over the years that balance was made virtually impossible unless you didn’t want to sleep,” Farber said of attorneys’ quest for meaningful practice, community involvement and quality time for home and family.
The American Bar Association doesn’t keep figures on the number of lawyers who moved from Biglaw to smaller practices, but since 4,600 lawyers vacated the halls of big law firms last year, those thousands had to go somewhere.
But another reason that should be noted: boutiques have flourished because they have the distinct advantage of security—something that the large firms with thousands of attorneys could not boast last year. They may not offer the same paycheck or gilded nameplate (though some do), but smaller firms may make for a better quality-of-life for practicing attorneys who do not want to fear for their job, much less get home to the kids at a reasonable hour.
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