As Layoffs Launch Lawyers into Solo Firms, Small Shops Are Hot, Experts Say

Omair Farooqui had always been interested in running his own law firm. But being laid off last year from his job as an intellectual property associate in the Palo Alto, Calif., office of Manatt Phelps & Phillips pushed him into actually doing it.

Sensing from a work slowdown that his job wasn’t secure, Farooqui started networking. Within a month of his layoff, he and bankruptcy attorney Javed Ellahie had agreed to open Ellahie & Farooqui in San Jose, reports the National Law Journal.

Other laid-off lawyers are making similar moves, and experts say it’s a good time to open a small firm. “Cost-conscious clients are more willing than ever to retain smaller outfits that offer lower rates, and new solos can build their practice on that foundation,” the legal publication writes.

Farooqui says he is making about a third of what he earned at Manatt right now, at a billable rate that is half as much as what clients at his former firm were charged for his work.

Developing a practice niche in an area that you enjoy is key, says Deb Volberg Pagnotta. She made a move to a solo environmental practice working out of a friend’s office, years ago, after she was laid off from a high-profile job as a government lawyer in New York, the NLJ notes.

And if you already have one, so much the better. The day after M. Katherine Durant was laid off in October from her job at the Georgia Court of Appeals, she hung out her own shingle.

I’ve seen firsthand the myriad ways that lawyers can bungle an appeal,” she said at the time, explaining that her plan was to market legal services statewide to other attorneys in need of co-counsel. “Trial lawyers without the time or inclination to learn how to do an appeal properly will need me to help them.”

Related coverage: “Despite Economy, Some Open New Law Firms—and Thrive” “Unable to Find Jobs, Law Grads Hang Out a Shingle” “How Lawyers Survive Being Fired; Like Riding in a Careening Car, One Says” “Big-Firm Alumni Have Van, Will Practice”

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