This winter, Scott Jaffe, Paul Roberts and Ross Schiller had an idea that could only have come out of the recession: a law firm staffed by laid-off lawyers. The trio planned to open a boutique firm in midtown Manhattan that specialized in finance, commercial law and bankruptcies. They bought computers, distributed marketing materials and signed up a few clients.

But by July, Jaffe, Roberts & Schiller was dead. Schiller was out, and Jaffe and Roberts were cutting a deal to combine with another start-up firm, Bryant & Partners. That firm, which was founded in January by DLA Piper refugee B. Seth Bryant, counted E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, among others, as a client.

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