Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Brune & Richard was not the first firm founded by women, but it may be one of the few to thrive in the male-dominated practice areas of securities fraud litigation, white-collar crime and employment law. “I don’t think people generally realize that we’re an all-women firm, or [that we] were,” said founding partner Susan Brune earlier this year. She and her colleagues are quick to point out, however, that the firm’s successes, whether in its practice or management, are due less to their gender than to the quality of lawyers they have been able to attract. The founders of Brune & Richard also say they never intended to create an all-women firm. But since it was founded in 1998, all of the attorneys and almost the entire staff have been women — until recently. The 11-attorney Manhattan firm brought in its first two male associates this year. Founding partners Brune and Hillary Richard said the guys fit in just fine. Some clients are disappointed, though. “Now we’re not ‘that quirky all-women firm’ anymore,” Richard said. “We’re just quirky,” Brune grinned. The new associates, Rishi Bhandari and Laurent Sacharoff, said they don’t feel conspicuous at Brune & Richard (pronounced BREW-knee & Ri-SHARD). “I had in my mind a wish list, and this firm met it,” Bhandari said. “People here are smart and intense, and there is respect for everyone in the firm.” Sacharoff, the first male to be hired, said, “It didn’t strike me as that big a deal.” GETTING STARTED Brune and Richard, both in their early 40s, met at Harvard Law School in 1985, where they were in the same first-year section and joked about one day starting their own firm. After graduation they went their separate ways. Brune took a federal clerkship in the Southern District of New York and went on to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Richard joined a small litigation firm, Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, where she rose to partner. Eventually, deciding it was time for a new challenge, Richard planned to go out on her own as a solo practitioner. When Brune asked her old friend for career advice, she ended up becoming her law partner. “It was a daring and, in hindsight, a brilliant move” to start the firm, Richard said. Six months after starting the firm, Richard won the Women of Power and Influence Award from the National Organization for Women, New York City. She brought her client base, and Brune brought contacts from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As a result, they never had to scramble for clients, Richard said. “We were very strict with ourselves. We required ourselves to report to work and work hard,” Brune said. The fledgling firm sublet a couple of attorney offices from Kaplan, Thomashower & Landau on Broadway for four years before signing a lease for 6,400 square feet on the 30th floor of a Broad Street building. The office currently supports 17 employees, including three partners. Brune jokes about growing into “a Cravath”-sized firm, but Richard predicts they will remain small to medium-sized. PRACTICE MANAGEMENT From the beginning, Brune and Richard have tackled the administrative work themselves, dividing managerial tasks evenly between them, they said. Partners emphasize the importance of hiring attorneys who fit into the office culture. They consider both professional qualifications and personality. So far, they have found all of their associates except one through alumni networks and previous personal or professional connections. In addition to hiring cautiously, the firm provides financial incentives in the form of “regular, generous bonuses” when the big fees come in, partners said. The firm also has an (increasingly rare) no-contribution health plan. Significantly, the traditional requirement that partner-track associates put in endless hours of face-time does not apply. “We don’t require people to be here just to be here,” said Nina Beattie, the first associate hired by the firm, who is now the firm’s third partner. Weekends are not required unless something is due, she said. As an associate, Beattie took three-and-a-half months off for maternity leave. Beattie admits that when she joined the firm, she was impressed that it was founded by “two smart, aggressive women who also had children.” “Having women with children at the helm, you don’t have a lot of associates worried about being relegated to the mommy-track,” Richard said. “Because when they look upwards, they see we’re all in the same boat. It takes a lot of stress off people.” With no formal maternity/paternity policy, Brune & Richard allows individuals to work out how much time off they need and desire. Most associates take a leave of about three months. FIERCE LITIGATORS In securities litigation or white-collar crime cases, Brune and Beattie each said she has been the only woman in a room full of men, but neither seems fazed by the gender imbalance. Clients of the firm include Patriarch Partners, an investment firm, and Laurus Funds. Some institutional clients that initially brought Brune & Richard small, discrete matters have since turned over all of their litigation work to the firm. David Grin, managing partner of Laurus Funds, said the fund works with several large law firms in other areas, but has moved all of its litigation work to the boutique practice. “If you should not pursue the case, they’ll tell you, and if you have a case, they go and they get results,” Grin said. “That’s the bottom line.” Brune & Richard represented Laurus entities, which were among the defendants in Endovasc Ltd., Inc. v. J.P. Turner & Co. LLC in the Southern District of New York. The defendants’ motion to dismiss was granted last year, and the case is on appeal, Richard said. Grin said his impression of the firm was not affected by the attorneys’ gender. But Beattie said one client swore “he’d never hire a male attorney again.” Elizabeth Stull is a free-lance writer.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.