The Offerings of the Boutique and Mid Firms

The boutiques and mids have redefined what makes a law firm attractive. Is the size of the firm, or its name, all that lawyers care about anymore?

I marvel at how the boutiques and mids continue to grow and the opportunities they offer to lawyers. In recent years these firms have taken a good share of the work in the legal services market. They’re winning coveted work and clients because they can provide cost-effective services. They’re also snapping up a lot of the talent. They offer a compelling proposition to overworked lawyers feeling frustrated and constrained in their current roles.

The boutiques and mids have redefined what makes a law firm attractive. Is the size of the firm, or its name, all that lawyers care about anymore? From my discussions with lawyers it’s flexibility, responsibility and the opportunity for promotion that are key considerations.

Young lawyers complain that major firms typically handle complex, high-risk matters requiring Partner sign off and supervision of their work. They believe that as a solicitor or senior associate at a major firm, there’s only so much responsibility you’ll get. They want to deal directly with Partners, in a more client facing role. They want to be exposed to coveted work with more responsibility and greater involvement. Junior lawyers want to progress faster.

Most lawyers also argue that they’re being worked into the ground as they strive for that promotion. They believe partnership opportunities with the majors don’t come around as often they once did. More importantly, lawyers are physically and emotionally drained from chasing the promotion that’s just around the bend; but the bend is never-ending.

The boutiques and mid firms boast opportunity and the winds of change have eroded the stigma attached to moving away from a major practice. There is a growing trend of lawyers who are willing to look to the mid and boutiques in order to achieve control of work life and the promotions they seek. No longer are they seen to be committing career suicide. They are taking control over who they work for and who they work with. They’re stepping to the beat of their own drum.

The major firms will always offer compelling career opportunities for lawyers. Their Partnerships will continue to be coveted as will be the opportunities they offer in regard to work and client exposure.

But the boutiques and mid firms also have a compelling offering and definitions of career success are broadening. Ambitious and driven lawyers should consider what it is they seek and align themselves with the brands that reflect their values and ambitions. For those lawyers in private practice seeking a rewarding balance of personal and financial gain, the boutique and mid-sized firms may certainly be the way to go.

Lisa Gazis, Managing Director, Mahlab (NSW)

Lisa manages Mahlab’s NSW operations and conducts senior corporate and partner level search and recruitment campaigns. She provides strategic consulting services to corporations and law firms in Australia and abroad.