LawFuel looked at some of the best boutique law firms in the US and UK – spanning litigation, family law, commercial law and elsewhere. Check out 30 of the best . .
Ben Thomson* One of the defining factors driving the legal profession’s growth – both in the US, the UK and elswhere – has been the development of boutique firms that have often stolen a march on their Big Law rivals.
Whilst big law firms have continued on a major growth trajectory, it has often been the small law firm – the boutique firm that has a defined practice area or specific areas of focus – that have helped growth their market share as highly sought after providers of legal services.
Choices abound, but choosing the best is another story.
Just as with our list of the 30 most prestigious law firms, we have to make some value judgments here but the ‘prestige list’ generated high interest with a number of readers suggesting firms that we thought better suited the ’boutique list’, (were we wrong?)
Are we looking for size and influence? Earnings? Prestige? Innovation? Work culture?
In a nutshell we are looking at all these things, but also something else: the X Factor that makes a ’boutique’ law firm genuinely great – its expertise, its people, its innovation, its diversity – a bunch of different criteria.
And after exhaustingly going through the names, we’ve come up with out ‘top 30 best boutique law firms’ in no particular order. After all, how can you measure a DC-based appellate law boutique with a UK sports law outfit?
No, instead we have listed firms that are great, influential, sometimes very new and small and other times well established and with multiple offices across different locations.
We looked at firms that exemplify what being a boutique really is: high expertise, high earnings, high reputation and high repute for workplace culture and diversity.
It’s our choice. And we would love to hear from you as to what you think – and which firms should be included in the list.
We placed Susman Godfrey into our list of the most prestigious law firms because they are an outstanding example of a small, focused and specialized law firm that should to into the list of top law firms.
Susman Godfrey is a litigation boutique with four offices in the US and fewer than 150 lawyers and has developed a flexible billing arrangement that permits contingency fees and yet has also developed a strong and sociable culture that fits well with those seeking to challenge themselves, earn top money and enjoy the workplace too.
Another complex litigation specialist, Reid Collins is a Texas-based operation with five national offices and a ‘best lawyers’ winner along with a clutch of other awards it has picked up for its work in complex financial and other litigation and disputes.
Another firm that works on its culture and with flexible billing and the fleet-of-foot style that characterizes some of the best boutique practices. It prides itself on not being beholden to corporate clients (take that, Big Law!) and works hard to prove its chops by winning some major awards and rewarding its attorneys with top payments.
Attorneys can make partner after five years and without a lockstep system the firm uses a two-tier structure for its promotional career structure, working on building and rewarding its legal talent.
A new firm born of Boies Schiller and headed by profile legal star Natasha Harrison, Pallas Partners is based in London with a growing New York office and focuses its work on litigation, investigations and multi jurisdictional arbitration work.
Like many of the boutiques, the firm is happy to take on larger firms of any kind and is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the best litigation boutiques with a strong reputation for financial and private equity disputes among other areas, including regulatory investigations and related areas.
The firm also has a strong interest in building its pro bono, diversity and career-enhancing training across the board for those seeking top level experience to build their legal career, but also with a strong emphasis upon social equity issues.
A specialist law firm focused on regulatory and enforcement work, Buckley has a roster of the largest consumer banks in the US along with many others in financial services representing fintech companies and investors alike.
The firm was founded in 2009 with principals from Skadden and has offices in five centers, including London. Although reasonably small at around 50 lawyers, Buckley has a consistent Tier 1 ranking for its work in financial services, banking and related areas and continues to excel with its financial services work, including litigation success at all levels.
The firm provides a full range of regulatory, enforcement, litigation, and transactional services including the largest consumer banks and others, along with fintech companies, venture capital and private equity firms.
Another high-stakes litigation firm Keeker was American Lawyer’s first boutique law firm of the Year right back in 2005 and has continued to deliver top results for its clients (and partners) ever since. The Californian-based law firm has special expertise in white collar criminal defense and one of the best intellectual property boutique law firms around.
The firm has a strong focus on diversity, as well as placing a lot of attention upon gaining courtroom experience for their litigators with focused mentoring assistance and maintaining a healthy workplace ethos.
Formed by former Quinn Emanuel partners – including Jennifer Selendy, pictured – (see our list of the most prestigious law firms here), Selendy Gay has fewer than 50 attorneys but its work in complex litigation has already given it a reputation of being a top-tier boutique, obtaining over $45 billion in recoveries – impressive in anyone’s language.
The firm looks at ‘right sizing’ its litigation teams, which includes using contract and part-time attorneys to deploy for specific cases and using focused discovery and issue-defining techniques to bring a special litigation approach that has seen not only high verdicts achieved, but also the dismissal and defense of some major claims brought against the firm’s clients.
When it comes to international fraud cases and their ilk, there can be few firms better able to cope among the smaller firms, than Kobre & Kim, (Michael Kim, pictured above) a firm that was grown into a multi-jurisdictional firm employing everyone from former DAs to UK Kings’ Counsel and barristers.
The firm focuses on disputes and investigations only and prides itself on being ‘trial ready’ with a hefty team of trial-hardened lawyers well experienced in matters of criminal fraud, commercial disputes and the like.
If boutique law firms are specialists, then Sacker & Partners, an award winning UK boutique might take the cake for its specialist work as pension scheme trustee experts. The firm has profit shares that rival the Big Law rivals in the Magic Circle and over the past 50 years has continued to exemplify the best of what boutique law firms should be.
Enjoying a high retention rate and with almost 60 per cent of partners being female and the firm also enjoys flexible working and enjoys profits that are reported at close to £1 million right back in 2018/19, which made it then the fifth most profitable law firm in the UK, proving that hard-driving, sweatshop hours are not necessary to create a firm that makes plenty of money and yet is thoroughly enjoyed for its culture and work culture too.
Another litigation firm, with over 130 attorneys spread across seven offices, McKool Smith calls itself the ‘Powerhouse Law Firm’ and provides more of those high-stakes litigation alternatives for litigants wanting to win at any cost. The firm provides services in IP law, bankruptcy, white collar crime and other areas.
The firm boasts of 23 ‘top 100’ trial verdicts and pays close attention to diversity and providing high level assistance to its younger attorneys seeking to be blooded with the firm’s top level, high stakes litigation work.
One of the newer firms to emerge from the innovation economy, Gunderson Dettmer was founded in 1995 and has grown to a firm with well over 400 lawyers and 11 offices providing one of the most established specialist practices in the technology and venture capital sector.
The firm’s work in technology start-ups and life sciences, along with its venture capital work make it a sought-after place of employment from lawyers wanting high-value, high interest work with top mentoring from partners and a lively office culture.
The firm has earned recognition as the Most Active VC Law Firm Globally and Most Active VC Law Firm in the United States in PitchBook’s Global Venture Capital Tables along with high recognition among other industry publications.
Formed by former partners from Boutique Law List member Keeker Van Nest, Durie Tangri is a San Francisco-based outfit that specializes in IP cases, handling work for some of the biggest names in tech, including Google, LinkedIn, Fitbit, Netflix, Microsoft – among others.
With a client rolodex like that, the firm is one that heralds its ability for “downright geekiness” given the strong tech-based nature of much of its IP work. But it has built a formidable reputation among the Silicon Valley tech-meisters for bringing strong legal skills
One of the larger ’boutiques’ with around 250 lawyers, Kasowitz Benson operates from 10 offices nationally and with co-founder Marc Kasowitz’s leadership as the “toughest lawyer on Wall Street” and described also by Bloomberg Financial News as an “uberlitigator,” the firm has become one of the country’s pre-eminent litigation powerhouse firms.
The firm’s professional excellence is such that it has achieved some massive verdicts for clients in benchmark litigation work that has been seen across a vast array of industries from finance and equities, to restructuring, intellectual property, oil and gas, technology and more.
Although known to be a hard-driving firm with high billable hour outputs, the firm has also established a reputation for its open door policy, high training and overall commitment to a workplace culture that promotes healthy interaction and career advancement.
A UK-startup that broke away from Gunnercooke, Ignition Law has shot into the start-up stratosphere since commencement in 2015. With a multimillion pound turnover and focusing on agile working technology and strongly focused on start-up and specialist clients, the firm is one of the best law firms in the UK for handling matters in this area, continuing to blaze trails in the entrepreneurial business space.
Started by Alex McPherson (above) Ignition Law has picked up awards in all directions, including the Lawyer Awards, Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards and others. With nine partners and/or senior management professionals leading the team, Ignition is destined to continue to lead the way forward in the start-up space.
A small firm carrying a hefty litigation punch, Goldstein Russell is another specialist law firm that has received recognition from various awards like US News and others for its small team of under a dozen lawyers and focuses its work on the US Supreme Court. The lawyers have all been in DoJ, SCOTUS and other clerkships or positions and it handles complex litigation work ranging from patent and regulatory work to employment and constitutional issues.
Although the firm principally practices in the Supreme Court, Goldstein & Russell also represents clients in a small number of important matters in the federal courts of appeals.
CleanTech Law Partners
full-service law firm dedicated exclusively to the renewable energy industry. Our clients include renewable energy project developers, cleantech companies, financiers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs. CLP’s legal team has extensive knowledge of the clean technology sector and experience working with renewable energy companies across the US and around the world.
CLP attorneys include the former commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, the former general counsel to the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, chief legal advisor to a publicly-traded geothermal company, in-house counsel to the top solar developers companies in the US, and one of the leading tax practitioners in the renewable energy industry.
Cleantech Law Partners advises clients on a variety of legal matters involving cleantech technologies and alternative energy projects, including: project structuring and finance, negotiating key development agreements, federal and state regulatory matters, drafting leases and real estate agreements, securing intellectual property rights,
One of the country’s leading entertainment and media boutique firms, CDAS has a small contingent of entertainment attorneys in the Los Angeles and New York offices, the firm handle everything from trademark protection and management to transactional and entertainment and media law deals of every kind.
With around 30 lawyers, the firm punches above its weight in terms of its focus on these specific areas of law and has garnered high praise for the work it has done across the entertainment and media industry space over the past 25 years.
Epstein Becker is a healthcare specialist firm although it has expanded its services into media, communications, life sciences and financial services. With a national presence, the firm is a heavyweight in the areas it focuses upon and comprises attorneys who have been in-house counsel, regulatory and other specialists, providing ‘add-on’ services to complement in-house legal teams.
The firm is linked to Deloitte Legal and has a strong culture for client service, diversity and inclusive practices.
A financial services boutique firm based in Brussels, Parnassius has also developed particular expertise in TMT, life sciences, biotech, corporate finance and other sectors, building strong relationships with law firms in other jurisidictions and domestically in these areas.
Parnassius attorneys have generally come from top tier law firms bringing their expertise into the boutique environment. Founded in 2011 by Giles Collard, a lawyer with high commercial and academic credentials, he is assistant professor in corporate, finance and commercial law in Brussells as well as authoring numerous publications on banking and finance law.
The Washington DC-based appellate and complex litigation firm was formed in 1993 from three former Big Law attorneys. This is a firm that is rooted in appellate and top level litigation work and most of the new attorneys will have served in judicial clerkship roles prior to joining.
The firm tends to work in small teams providing high-level access to partners when handling complex and often leading appellate cases. Mentoring is available but it is very much a ‘hands on’ role where early stage recruits will be deposing and handling the substantive and legally challenging work provided by this leading litigation boutique.
Representing Elon Musk, among others such as Amazon and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, is one of the clients that this Southern Californian litigation boutique – billing itself as ‘disruptive trial lawyers’ – handles with its usual professionalism and litigation success.
Founded by two lawyers from Irell & Manella (John Hueston and Brian Hennigan), along with other attorneys the two brought with them, the firm had grown within days to an opration with over 30 lawyers and today employs around 80 attorneys.
Here’s an example of a small boutique start-up law firm that we like and which exemplifies the specialization and expertise that will make the difference. Manders are a UK family law boutique that have specialized in high-end family law disputes and issues. A newly-established practice, the firm has focused on high net worth clients, using a focused approach to cut out what they call the ‘white noise’ of separation, providing different payment solutions and already picking up awards and recognition for their work in the area.
A small firm at this point, to be sure, but one that has already garnered some high interest, big name clients and developed a culture focused on both growth and workplace satisfaction.
Another top litigation boutique firm, Bartlit Beck has been working for 25 years as one of the country’s leading litigation practices, working with a success-based and fleible fee arrangements,, the firm has achieved some notable wins, scoring regular awards and accolades for its work.
The firm has been recognized with a ‘Trial Firm of the Year’ at the Benchmark Litigation awards and a ‘BTI Awesome Opponent’ among the top firms in the country, as well as recognition through directories like Chambers USA and others.
Competitive opportunities for employment exist with the firm, which provides high level training and remuneration as well as a fast-track opportunity to become involved in the firm’s traditional, high-stakes litigation work.
Started by the firebrand attorneys Steven Molo and Jeffrey Lamken in 2009 (above) (from Shearman & Sterling and Baker Botts respectively) the firm has offices in New York, Chicago and Washington DC focusing its work on white collar crime, intellectual property and business litigation.
The firm was quick off the mark with six major wins in the US Supreme Court in two years, establishing itself as a ‘johnny-come-lately’ law firm that was here to stay – and to make its major mark on litigation work at the highest levels.
The firm are active members of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and sponsor the ABA Judicial Intern Opportunity Program and work hard to embrace diversity, employing top graduates, often with clerkship backgrounds.
A two-time winner of the boutique firm of the year, Kaplan Hecker is another Big Apple-based white collar crime specialist, employing around 50 lawyers and punching well above its weight with major victories, such as the acquittal of Robert Bogucki, the former head of Barclays’ foreign-exchange trading desk in New York in a case that The Global Investigations Review named the matter its “Most Important Court Case of the Year.”
Such wins are not unusual for the firm, which employs a range of attorneys from both the prosecution and defense side of the table, employing litigators seeking trial action and often having served in clerkship roles.
With 13 partners the firm has embraced what it calls both ‘old fashioned’ and ‘new fashioned’ values to embrace technology, client service and a culture that encourages talented lawyers.
Known for its expertise in technology and IP law, (‘big law for the new economy’) Culhane Meadows was founded by four attorneys and grown into a firm of …. with lawyers coming from AmLaw 200 firms such as Baker & McKenzie, Skadden Arps, Jones Day, Greenberg Traurig, Kirkland & Ellis, Duane Morris, Reed Smith, DLA Piper, Dentons, Hunton & Williams, Alston & Bird, Haynes & Boone, and various other firms.
The firm has a strongly client-centered approach using technology to help deliver efficient services and shunning the lavish lobbies and marbled columns of ‘big law’ firms, with a focus also upon diversity, family-friendly and strongly team-based client servicing.
Another appellate boutique Beck Redden is a Houston-based litigation firm that has garnered a national reputation for its litigation work. Founded in 1992 by three litigators, the firm was always focused on becoming a leading litigation powerhouse and has reached its goals in that regard. With over 40 lawyers, Beck Redden continues to handle major cases at state and federal level, representing everyone from Fortune 500 companies to smaller litigants.
The firm secured a dismissal of a major claim against a client in the Deepwater Horizon litigation and has a strong commitment to local pro bono work as well.
Divorce law remains a highly specialized area for lawyers and may be avoided by some biglaw firms, but in the UK Vardags has become the most celebrated divorce ‘shop’ headed by Ayesha Vardag, has been widely described as “Britain’s Top Divorce Lawyer” and the “Diva of Divorce.“
With clients that will often involve private companies, property empires, trusts, international/hidden assets and investments and jurisdictional disputes, Vardags involves a range of international associates as well as clients and will chose the ‘optimal jurisdiction’ in which to commence divorce proceedings.
With a team of over a dozen lawyers and professionals, the firm is optimized to handle divorce work at the drop of a Whats-App notification.
New York-based Morvillo Abramovitz is a 40 lawyer litigation boutique that specializes in white collar crime and regulatory matters, where it has established a stellar reputation for its work in both areas.
Tracing its history back to 1972 the firm has recruited many former District Attorney and regulatory lawyers into the fold and has handled both high profile cases and many on a ‘hush hush’ basis with success that has seen the firm collect awards and recognition from the legal media in a way that has enshrined itself as a leader in its class.
It is also a strongly diverse employer providing significant opportunities for those seeking public law experience.
‘Claimant-friendly’ Hausfeld is an award winning UK boutique that has a strong entrepreneurial streak that characterizes many boutique firms, particularly in their earlier years as the firm is less than a dozen years’ old.
With offices across Europe and the United States, Hausfeld has possibly the largest competition litigation team in the UK, acting throughout the firm on commercial disputes and litigation issues, particularly where others might be conflicted. The firm also performs strongly in banking litigation as well as public and environmental law issues.
The firm is interestingly multi-jurisdictional, strongly litigation-focused but with an impressive inclination towards human rights and environmental claims. In 2022 a leadership change within the firm saw leading strategist and lawyer Lianne Craig who has been strongly involved in the development of the firm’s commercial disputes practice.
Sports law is big business and a typically boutique-suited area of law that continues to grow along with the massive growth in big money sports work. Northridge is a great UK sports law boutique that has built a practise handling FA and a raft of premier league footballers.
Firm clients range from sports clubs and governing bodies to a growing list of tech businesses, leisurewear brands and various new economy businesses, including employment and commercial work in the ‘old economy’ too.
The firm has been recognized in the Legal 500 rankings for both Sport and Media & Entertainment (including Media Finance). Corporate and Commercial lawyer Ian Lynam is also recognised as a Leading Individual in the Legal 500 as well in the Chambers directory.
This Washington DC-based firm has grown in offices and reputation as its white collar crime and related areas representing clients in trouble – often of the headline-making kind.
Among its big name clients have been Fannie Mae, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Enron and others that have hogged headlines for the wrong reasons.
Working mainly on plaintiff-side cases the firm represented major corporations and individuals and has developed its reputation for health care litigation, complex commercial and business cases, ethics disputes and other cases. It also handles major pro bono and
Another, yes another, litigation boutique, but on Bondurant Mixson’s case it is strongly focused upon business litigation and appears for both plaintiffs and defendants. It is also Atlanta based, but has built a national reputation from Georgia and like a good boutique it focuses on what it does best – which is business litigation – without trying to be all things to all men – or women.
The firm was established by a brilliant young (at 26) Georgia lawyer Emmett Bondurant (above) and has a strong background with attorneys who have served in government positions as prosecutors, public defenders, regulators or government officials and has used that governmental experience very well when prosecuting or defending cases.
It also uses its attorneys in a lean manner to focus upon cases in a directed, strategic manner where the lawyers become heavily involved in litigation from day one, rather than having different lawyers ‘drafted in’ to help with matters along the way.
The firm hires and trains its lawyers well and is unquestionably one of the top business litigation operations in the US.
Who have we missed who should be on the group listing? Let me know, or email us at LawFuel ([email protected]). Or comment below.
Former Big Law Chief Resigns to Dedicate Time to Helping Children in Need
Big Law leader takes on new role helping kids after featuring in Big Law salary…
Who Are The ‘Tier 1’ Top NZ Law Firms In The Legal500 For 2023?
The Legal 500 rankings for 2023 include a range of kiwi law firms that the…
London’s Big Law Firms Brace for Economic Downturn and Rising Recruitment Costs
The lessons of the GFC when law firm headcounts went down have seen Big Law…
FAQ: How Settlement Negotiation Work In A Personal Injury Case
When someone is involved in an accident and suffers injuries, they may be entitled to…
Gender Equality Advocate Named First Female President of International Bar Association in Two Decades
After a 20 year gap, the International Bar Association has elected its first woman president,…
Which Are The Best Civil Rights Law Firms in NYC?
Choosing a top civil rights lawyer in NYC is more than checking online – it…