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5 Signs It’s Time To Ditch BigLaw For A Boutique

By Shayna Posses

Law360, New York (February 10, 2016, 7:54 PM ET) — Leaving a behemoth firm for a boutique shop can be a scary proposition for attorneys who have been dreaming of BigLaw since that first frenzied 1L exam. But lawyers who have made the move say if you’re spending more time feeling stifled than practicing law, it may be time to go.

While joining the BigLaw ranks means the chance to take a crack at high-stakes matters for big-shot clients, more and more attorneys are pondering a return to smaller firms for a reprieve from red tape like endless approval signatures and sky-high billing rates.

Already in 2016, 11 Arent Fox LLP attorneys left to launch a Los Angeles-based boutique called Larson O’Brien LLP, joining a crop of small operations like McNamara Benjamin LLP and Tyz Marton Schumann LLP that popped up last year as BigLaw litigators left their firms behind to strike out on their own. Attorneys are also electing to join already established shops, like Mike Mutterperl, who left Bracewell LLP at the beginning of the month for Zeisler PLLC.

Ultimately, the key to making the big decision is a whole lot of self-reflection, said Mike Regitz, who left Norton Rose Fulbright to start intellectual property boutique RegitzMauck PLLC in March.

Whether you joined your firm for the money, training or prestige, he said, “At some point, you have to evaluate whether those reasons [why] you ended up at the BigLaw firm are still valid — or if they ever were.”

However, determining whether to make the leap to a boutique is one decision the committee won’t make for you, so Law360 talked to attorneys who said bye to BigLaw to find out how to know the time is right.

You’re Craving Flexibility

Without a doubt, attorneys say, the biggest benefit to moving to a smaller shop is the increased flexibility.

At a big firm, lawyers are encouraged to pick a specific practice group and stick with it, said Ryan Tyz, who left Fenwick & West LLP in the fall to help start San Francisco-based technology litigation boutique Tyz Marton Schumann.

“You don’t really get to roam from that practice group,” he said. “You’re just given work.”