The Rise of Boutique Law Firms

Posted 14 March 2017 12:28pm

The 2016 Australia: State of the Legal Market report was recently released by Melbourne Law School and Thomson Reuters. The report found that over 2016 there was a continued growth rate in the number of specialist and boutique law firms.

One newer trend the report found was for boutique firms to concentrate on a particular client industry or sector. An example of this is Salvos Legal, a commercial law firm where all profits are channelled to the charitable work of the Salvation Army. Another example the report provided is that of family law practitioners adding corporate and tax law to their capability sets in order to settle marital disputes between high net worth couples. This trend could represent a fundamental shift in the structure of law firms to adopt a more ‘client focused’ rather than ‘area of law focused’ approach.

One commentator, writing for The Law Society of New South Wales, remarked that ‘boutique’ does not necessarily mean ‘small’, and that the idea of boutique is aligned closely with the concept of specialisation. They further commented that boutique firms have a powerful value because they start with client needs and work backwards to the structure of the firm.

The benefit of this approach is evident as large firms struggle to maintain expertise across a range of practice groups. However, boutique firms can also face the challenge of not being able to work for large clients as most significant transactions require multidisciplinary advice.

While boutique firms will always face difficulties in contending with full service law firms, the growth of boutique firms over 2016 symbolises a recognition of the importance of a more specialised approach to legal services.

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