Small Law Firms Popping up Across Country
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When the economy of the United States went in the tank back in late 2007, many lawyers began opening their own law firms after being laid off by the firms they were working for at the time. One area of the country where this was very prominent was Boulder, Colorado. In 2010, of Gross Hartman LLC opened its doors with seven lawyers in the fold. In 2009, the firm of Shoemaker Ghiselli & Schwartz opened its doors with six lawyers employed.

The lawyers who started these firms came from national powers such as the former Hogan & Hartson LLP, which is now known as Hogan Lovells USA LLP, and closed its office in Boulder in 2009. Another firm where these creators came from was Cooley LLP from Broomfield. Roberts & Olivia LLC, located in Boulder, is the smallest of these new boutique firms in Colorado. Bill Roberts and Keith Olivia worked at Holme Roberts & Owen locally and then at the former Hogan & Hartson Boulder office. When Hogan & Hartson closed, Olivia and Roberts moved to a building in Siena Square.


Smaller law firms across the country are more efficient and have lower overhead costs compared to larger law firms, which in turn helps to keep lawyer rates low. The smaller firm/big experience trend has developed over the past ten years after the economy tightened not long after the tech bubble burst.

“We spend a lot more time working directly with clients as opposed to the model that the larger firms use,” Olivia said. “The larger law firm model tends to work with layers of supervision – older attorneys supervising the younger attorneys.”

Andrew Shoemaker of Shoemaker Ghiselli & Schwartz, used the weak economy to his advantage when opening his boutique firm in March of 2009.

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“The economy was helpful to us,” Shoemaker said. “We practiced with a certain area of expertise for large sophisticated clients, and when the downturn occurred, clients realized they could get same product as before, but without having to pay for the overhead of an international firm.”

Jim Linfield, a managing partner at Cooley, had the following to say about smaller law firms:

“One of the things that works to our advantage, is our broad network with venture capitalists on the East and West coasts,” Linfield said. “We’re positioned to help (local entrepreneurs) get in front of the right funding sources. The firm is the largest in Boulder County, adding six new lawyers in 2009 and six new lawyers in 2010. The Broomfield office is one of the busiest of any in the firm, which is based in Palo Alto, California.”

The clients of Cooley accounted for half of all venture capital that was raised in Colorado in 2010 and 2011. There were more than 50 financings that raised more than $500 million.


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