Two former Big Law partners have joined forces to form a new boutique firm in Chicago called Fairchild Morgan Law.
The new firm is the product of a merger of Morgan Legal Group, which was founded in 2015 by Geoff Morgan, and Fairchild Law Offices, a firm formed in 2010 by Jessica Fairchild. Morgan was previously a Schiff Hardin partner based in Chicago and a chairman of the business division at Michael Best in Milwaukee, while Fairchild is a former Sidley Austin corporate lawyer in Chicago and a former in-house counsel for the nonprofit entity Chicago 2016.
In contrast to those big players, Fairchild Morgan Law is a boutique transactional law firm with eight lawyers, some who have worked for other top-tier firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and Foley & Lardner, operating in Chicago and Milwaukee. Despite its small size, the partners said the new firm offers a range of specialties, including M&A, joint ventures, investment services, private offerings, contract review, and commercial real estate transactions.
Fairchild Morgan Law’s founders said they are undeterred by the longtime dominance in Chicago of global firms such as Kirkland & Ellis and Sidley Austin, and the tendency of some financial institutions to establish formal internal guidelines telling employees which outside counsel they may hire for a given type of deal. In such a tough legal market, the founders say, there is definitely a place for law firms that can offer an alternative to exorbitant legal fees.
“We are Big Law firm expatriates, and we’ve observed that there are a lot of companies for whom Kirkland, White & Case, and Sidley are not great fit because they’re not fee-sensitive,” Morgan said. “For some of the huge companies, the legal fees aren’t as much of a factor. But for midsized companies, up to a billion in market cap, legal fees often are an issue.”
Midsized companies that need to undertake mergers or joint ventures, form LLCs, and do sophisticated legal transactions but find the larger law firms’ fees a deal-breaker may see the wisdom of partnering with a boutique firm such as Fairchild Morgan Law, Morgan said.
“We’re not going to be for everybody. But I think there’s definitely a niche for us,” Fairchild said. “We got a call recently from a private equity firm that has portfolio companies that need legal work. They had been using a Big Law firm, but now they said they want to sit down with us.”
While stressing the contrasts between their new entity and large, big-name firms, Morgan and Fairchild are not disparaging the Big Law world where they spent much of their careers. They maintain a strong relationship with lawyers at the mega firms and, indeed, the law firm model of which they are exponents draws heavily on referrals from those firms.
“When the revenues of a company are less than $10 million a year, they can’t afford Kirkland. So Kirkland gives a referral, and says, ‘Here is a smaller shop that knows what it’s doing,’” Morgan said.
Fairchild noted that they expect to get a lot of referrals from large firms for things that might not work well for them. “There may be a smaller transaction that the big firms are not set up to handle. We come in and we’re able to work on those matters,” she said.