For many aspiring solicitors the dream is to work for a magic circle or leading city firm. From there, following the successful completion of their training contract they can look to establish a career in the seat of their choice, graduating to become an associate, senior associate and eventually partner.
Having worked steadily for at least a couple of decades at a given firm, with a strong salary and a prestigious reputation and having essentially reached the ‘top of the ladder’ it can seem a bizarre choice when partners choose to leave to set up their own firms.
However the boutique law firm is rising in popularity and over the previous couple of years partners from a number of leading law firms have left and joined forces to establish their own practices. See our infographic below for an illustration of just a few of the moves.
Why are boutique firms such an attractive option? A key reason can be a desire to concentrate on a specific area of law. Having reached the rank of partner and become an expert in the field many wish to practice solely in that area rather than be subject to the varieties of work that may come their way in a larger firm. A boutique firm offer both the autonomy and the flexibility to achieve this.
The specialised practice areas of boutique firms will attract some practitioners’ previous clients at those times when they require advice on niche issues. At the same time the client can retain a relationship with the original firm, for those times they need assistance with legal matters not within the other firm’s expertise. A boutique firm is also able to take on splinter work or files that a larger firm may not as it conflicts with other clients or is not considered weighty enough.
The other key pulling factor is the atmosphere a boutique firm can offer. As lawyers develop their own practices they can also develop the internal structures of the business. Boutique firms may expand over time but most begin with only a handful of partners who have either worked in a team together previously or are bound by an a common interest in an area of practice. A smaller team can circumvent bureaucracy. Relationships are more transparent, communication can be more open and meetings can occur ad hoc. Whilst operating in a niche area and with high profile business the culture of the firm can still emulate a high street practice.
Of course boutique firms still carry a certain degree of risk, establishing a new firm is not an easy venture. Moving from a significant partner salary to a setting up your firm can be daunting. The structure of the firm and the financial operations are suddenly in your hands. However the autonomy of specialisation has been a draw many and looks to remain that way for some time.