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Litigation Boutiques Continue Spinning Out of BigLaw

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 14, 2017 2:56 PM

When a piece of an iceberg breaks off, it's doesn't mean sea levels will rise around the world. But if a polar cap starts to fracture, scientists will certainly take measurements.

Sedgwick LLP, which has lost 40 lawyers in the past two weeks, is somewhere in between. It started with two groups of partners splitting off and then another 25 attorneys breaking away.

It marks the most recent -- and maybe the biggest -- fracture at the firm, which lost more than 10 percent of its lawyers each year in recent years. With 343 attorneys in 2014, the firm now says it has 250 lawyers worldwide. Many of the departing lawyers are following an established trend for former BigLaw lawyers: starting litigation boutique firms.

Down 30 Percent

The San Francisco-based firm issued press releases announcing the partners' leaving, saying the law firm was cooperating in the transition. One group is joining another firm in Texas, and another group is forming a litigation boutique in New Jersey.

Sedgwick chairman Michael Healy said both groups are seeking different services than Sedgwick offered. He said he plans to regrow both offices.

"We are well positioned to support our clients and look forward to strategic growth in the year ahead," he told the New York Law Journal.

It's common for law firms to lose partners, Bloomberg Law reported, but rare for 15 partners to depart at once in two separate groups. Healy said the two group departures are unrelated, and that Sedgwick is not laying off anybody.

Litigation Boutiques Spin Out of BigLaw

The news at Sedgwick is yet another example of litigation boutiques spinning out from BigLaw. This trend has been happening for a while now -- at least since 2010 when Above the Law declared it a "hot new trend" to leave BigLaw and start your own firm.

What type of boutique firms are former BigLaw lawyers forming? Here's one example: Former Sedgwick partners, associate lawyers, and 18 staff members are forming Tanenbaum Keale, a new boutique firm in New Jersey. This firm will concentrate on mass tort litigation for environmental, medical, and pharmaceutical cases.

There are plenty of reasons to love working in a small firm. Presumably this holds true whether you're starting out straight from law school or getting into the game from through the BigLaw backdoor.

Have an open position at your law firm? Post the job for free on Indeed, or search local candidate resumes.

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