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The boutique law firm trend continues, with more partners splitting from their big and midsize firms and striking out on their own. This week, as five attorneys formerly with Chicago’s Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg announced their new firm Chicago Law Partners, 15 lawyers from Virginia-based LeClairRyan broke away to form Murphy & McGonigle. Both new firms cited the opportunity to charge clients less as one reason for the new ventures. Murphy & McGonigle is focused on the financial services industry and handles litigation and regulation matters. Six of its new partners previously worked in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division. The fledgling firm opened offices in New York, Washington, D.C., and Glen Allen, Va. In addition to enforcement defense and government investigations, the firm handles securities litigation, arbitration and financial services counseling. Name partner James Murphy said the attorneys decided to split from nearly 300-attorney LeClairRyan because they felt that a boutique format would be more efficient and cost-effective. Both qualities have been in growing demand amid turmoil in the economy and increased SEC enforcement activity. “We believe we’ve created a new model that allows us to manage our overhead rigorously,” he said. “Under this model, our attorneys will be freed of bureaucracy because we are outsourcing non-core functions.” Human resources, information technology and marketing are among the functions that will be outsourced, Murphy said. He hopes that freedom from bureaucratic responsibilities will help the firm recruit attorneys who want to focus on their practices, not firm management. The firm plans to cut client costs with the use of technology and a “litigation support group” based in lower-cost Virginia. Electronic discovery is just one area in which the right technology can make a big difference, Murphy said. “You can really cull a lot of nonresponsive documents before you put an army of lawyers together to review them. We’re using technology to cut down on those upfront costs,” he said. The firm plans to use contract attorneys for those tasks. It hopes to expand, particularly in New York and Washington, Murphy said. Murphy and LeClairRyan Chairman Gary LeClair agreed that the split was amicable. “These are great lawyers and no one will be rooting for their success more than we will,” said LeClair, noting that the two firms plan to work together in the future. Like Murphy & McGonigle, the Chicago Law Partners has a narrow practice focus, in this case on not-for-profit organizations including trade and professional groups and charities. Founding partner Jed Mandel used to head Neal Gerber’s not-for-profit organizations practice group. “As a boutique firm with a focused concentration, we can be more nimble in anticipating and responding to client needs,” Mandel said. “We can also be more efficient, from a cost standpoint, in delivering the specific services our clients need.”

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