While BigLaw litigators can be frustrated by rate inflexibility or stifled by conflict issues born in other sections of their firm, the best litigation boutiques offer ambitious attorneys the same opportunities as bigger firms to work high-stakes cases for top-tier clients, analysts say.
Many litigation boutiques are the result of first-class BigLaw partners starting their own shops, essentially creating a small, standalone version of the litigation section at their old firms, according to a number of legal recruiters. Freed from some of BigLaw’s constraints — but endowed by the experience and reputation big firms offer — the best litigation boutiques are every bit as attractive to clients and attorneys alike as corporate mega firms.
“Largely, they're sought out because they're good and they don't have conflicts,” said Martha Ann Sisson, of legal recruiting firm Garrison & Sisson. “They're not competing on price, they're competing on skill and expertise."
Here, Law360 looks at eight litigation boutiques that analysts say have all the talent of any BigLaw litigation section.
Keker & Van Nest LLP
When Greenberg Traurig LLP — the third-largest firm in the U.S., according to a Law360 analysis earlier this year — was hit with a motion for sanctions in California federal court, it turned to Keker & Van Nest for representation, cementing the Bay Area firm’s reputation as litigation specialists on par with firms of any size.
Founding partner John Keker, who prosecuted Col. Oliver North early in his career, has become an icon for white collar defense. His reputation and his charisma are part of the firm’s appeal for talented attorneys, said Paige Drewelow a managing director in Kinney Recruiting LLC’s San Francisco office. That talent spurs further success for one of the top litigation firms in the state.
“What makes them unique is they've got some of the best talent in the Bay Area and California,” Drewelow said, adding the firm is a favorite of Supreme Court clerks looking for work in San Francisco, in part because associates are given more responsibility earlier in their career, and in part because of the prestige of the work itself.
“They get amazing work — white collar criminal defense and [intellectual property] litigation and that's pretty much it," Drewelow said. “They have a number of people who have gone on to be judges.”
The firm has defended high-profile clients like "Star Wars" filmmaker George Lucas, Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, cyclist Lance Armstrong and Major League Baseball and its teams.
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