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May 11, 2006

Law "Subs": Have Law Boutiques Come of Age?

"So we'll trade you your immigration people for our patent guys--they were getting on everyone's nerves anyway."

Larry Bodine and Carolyn Elefant, leaders in new thoughts and in news of new developments, have attracted attention by highlighting the New Jersey ethics decision allowing law firms to purchase other law firms as wholly-owned subs. The New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and Committee on Attorney Advertising have issued Joint Opinion 704/37. So my firm can buy your firm as an investment--and sell you later if you don't work out. The advisory opinion was apparently prompted by a request concerning a law firm which sought ownership of another law firm in a speciality area--or a boutique. Lots of issues raised here, as Larry and Carolyn each note. And then there's this article by Mary Gallagher of The New Jersey Law Journal with an arresting quote from James Jones of Hildebrant International's DC office. Jones said that for large sophisticated clients, "[t]he idea of clients hiring one large firm to do everything is a thing of the past". We wait to see if other states will take positions. While we don't know who made the New Jersey request and why, this development will lead some to speculate that non-BigLaw boutiques over the past 15 years or so have shown themselves worthy of purchase in the marketplace. Premature, I know. But if that's right, will boutiques and solos even want that?

Posted by JD Hull at May 11, 2006 04:12 PM


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