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In Apparent Trend, Associates Increasingly Leave BigLaw to Become Small Firm Entrepreneurs

Posted Nov 28, 2011 9:06 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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In an apparent trend likely spurred by the bad economy, an increasing number of associates leaving or forced out of BigLaw are starting their own law firms.

One duo who left Proskauer Rose in 2009 formed their own firm and are now making more money than they earned at the large firm, the New York Times reports. “They are part of what appears to be a trend of lawyers in their mid-20s to early 40s leaving large firms to start their own small ones,” the newspaper says.

It wasn’t easy for Sari Gabay-Rafiy and Anne Marie Bowler. The first year, Gabay-Rafiy tells the newspaper, she made “just enough to pay the babysitter.” After moving, the two lawyers sent announcements to everyone they knew. Since then, they moved to smaller offices to save money and they continued their marketing campaign by handing out business cards wherever they go.

Experts tell the Times that associates are leaving large law firms partly because of layoffs and partly because the chances of partnership are becoming more remote. The newspaper spoke to several lawyers who struck out on their own. Among the lessons they learned:

• The lawyers at Yim & Chuang don’t take work they don’t want or can’t handle.

• The lawyers at Kauth, Pomeroy, Peck & Bailey offer flat billing rates, and they charge up-front for suits involving big document production or expensive expert witnesses. Kent Pomeroy, a lawyer and accountant, has left the firm, but first he advised his colleagues they needed to estimate how long they could go without a paycheck.

• Serena Minott at Minott Gore reserves two days a week for business development.

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