Boutique Law Firm

Boutique Law Firm

Boutique Law Firms


If you are looking to engage the services of a lawyer, you may see that some law firms are designated as “boutique law firms.” But what does that mean, exactly? And what are the advantages or disadvantages of opting for a boutique firm?


In some ways, legal services mirror the retail world. For many years, big department stores were the go-to shopping experience. You could find clothing, housewares, furniture, cosmetics, hardware, toys and more, all under one roof. However, as time went on, more and more stores began focusing on a single type of product. Eventually, it became more advantageous for you to go to a kitchen supply store, for example, rather than the kitchen department of a larger store. Because the smaller store focused only on kitchen supplies, its selection was better and more current, its employees were more knowledgeable, and you were more likely to find what you really needed there.


Law firms have undergone a similar type of change. While there are still many large firms that offer a wide variety of legal services, in recent years boutique firms – those with fewer than 25 lawyers, usually focusing on a specific area of law -- have flourished because they offer a particular service, provided by experienced and knowledgeable personnel.


The Trend to Boutique Law Firms


Although there are no hard statistics about the increase of boutique firms across the country, it’s easy to see that an increasing number of lawyers are opting out of large firms and starting boutique firms. A recent survey of law firms in Ontario shows us that the number of law firms with 25 or fewer lawyers or paralegals increased to 2,783 at the end of 2018 -- up 9 per cent from 2015, when there were only 2,545.


There are a number of reasons why a lawyer might want to do this; running your own firm provides you with greater flexibility, and allows you to focus on the cases you really want to tackle. You can choose your co-workers and operate based on your own philosophy, creating your own culture rather than adapting to that of a large firm. The emphasis on billable hours at big firms can lead to an unhealthy work-life balance, resulting in burnout and disillusionment. Smart young lawyers can find it difficult to settle for junior positions in large firms, knowing that the climb to partner can be steep and perilous. And some lawyers have an entrepreneurial spirit that makes starting their own firm irresistible.


Technology is also contributing to the rise of smaller firms. With software aimed at law services and more flexible co-working rental spaces available, it’s possible for a small firm to operate efficiently without the huge infrastructure possessed by large firms. Many boutique firms serve a need that is underserved by larger legal firms. By carving out a niche for themselves, boutique lawyers can shine like stars in their own sphere.


Advantages of Using a Boutique Law Firm


There are several reasons why you might want to work with a boutique law firm. Unless you have a wide variety of legal needs, a boutique may be uniquely suited to helping you with a problem.


  • Knowledge in the area. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision, for example, you don’t need a lawyer who knows about corporate litigation or shipping law. You don’t need someone who has done many divorce cases, or drawn up a lot of wills. You will want to work with someone who knows the insurance industry inside-out and who has experience with filing insurance claims and initiating personal injury lawsuits.


  • Efficiency. Small firms tend to be more efficient than larger ones. In large firms, junior lawyers may need to have input from other lawyers, who may need to have work cleared by senior partners, and so on. All of that paper-shuffling may lead to higher bills and delays. In small firms, there are no unnecessary steps in the process.


  • Personal service. Boutique firms don’t have hundreds of cases on the go, and they don’t have a huge team of lawyers working on your file. The lawyer who handles your case will be the “point person” for you, and all communication about the case will come from him/her. You will have the chance to build a relationship with your lawyer, who will understand where you are coming from, what your needs are, and what you expect from him/her. Your lawyer may even allow you to contact him/her outside of office hours, and may become a moral support for you during a difficult time. Yours is not just another one of hundreds of cases, as it would be at a large firm. At a boutique firm, you are one of only a handful of clients they’ve taken on, and your case is understood and valued. You can be sure that the firm is committed to the success of your case.


If you have a specific legal need, consider engaging a lawyer from a boutique law firm. These firms are small, but mighty!