Attorneys who quit law firm jobs during 2009 downturn find success as small corporate boutique

During the fall of 2009, as the legal economy was headed into a tailspin, two attorneys at the Wilmington, Del., office of Pennsylvania-based Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco did something counterintuitive.

Jack Harris and Buddy Berger left the security of their Riley Riper jobs and formed their own small law firm. Despite the difficulties they faced as real-estate experts in an imploding property market, Harris, who formerly headed the Delaware litigation group for Riley Roper, was kept busy with court-related matters and the firm found that its real estate transactional expertise translated well to helping struggling clients arrange new deals with their lenders, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Now, with corporate work on the upswing, the firm’s strategy has paid off, and it has seven lawyers on its roster.

When they started out, “People said, ‘You guys are nuts; the timing is bad, everyone is cutting back,’ ” Berger told the newspaper. “Other clients said you are in a tough time but if you make it through a couple of years you will be in a good situation.”

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