From 4,000 Lawyers to a Handful

Photo by Kevin Dinkel (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Editor’s Note: The author of this post is the former West Coast Chair of the Securities Enforcement Practice at DLA Piper and recently founded his own boutique firm.

By Nicolas Morgan, Founding Partner of Zaccaro Morgan

Giving up my position at one of the largest law firms in the world certainly had its downsides.

However, I didn’t foresee a few other things that I left behind. Besides many good friendships in New York, London, Boston, Beijing, and elsewhere, I now appreciate all of the administrative support that I largely took for granted. Who knew there were so many options to choose from when it comes to leasing photocopiers?

On the upside, my conflicts checks now consist of not much more than stopping by my partner’s office. Our firm is focused on providing the same high quality representation of clients in SEC and other government investigations and defense of complex litigation and white-collar matters that my partner and I provided at our former firms. But now we are building everything about our firm with that emphasis in mind: every personnel choice, every overhead expense, every strategic decision furthers our clients’ interests in those areas.  For many of those overhead expenses, from marketing to eDiscovery, we have tapped numerous high quality independent resources – many of whom also came from large firms.

And, thankfully, clients are responding. While some legal problems do require a firm with more than 4,000 lawyers, not all do. A multi-national company with a need for boots on the ground in four continents might not be a good fit.  But even most multi-national companies most often confront issues that require a discrete, focused legal team with the right experience.  Similarly, some clients will always be more comfortable with the big firm model, but not all clients are all of the time. We encountered one CEO of a public pharmaceutical company who expressed pleasant surprise that a firm such as ours existed — sometimes getting the word out that an alternative exists is the biggest challenge.  However, nearly from the first day we opened our doors, clients have approached us not in spite of the fact that we’re a boutique but specifically because of it.

Whether it’s a public company, securities broker, hedge fund or private equity fund adviser, or an individual, our clients hire us because of our combined decades of experience as trial lawyers both in the private sector and while employed by the SEC and, in my partner’s case, as an Assistant United States Attorney in the S.D.N.Y.

As we roll up our sleeves to apply that experience to our new clients’ legal issues, we do not have many of the resources that we had available to us at our former firms. But we do have the resources that matter most to our clients.