One career chapter closes, and another opens.
About 9 yrs ago I left BigLaw, very much against the advice of senior people around me (I was much too junior they said), and joined a very small boutique firm in Austin that was, at the time, relatively unknown in the broader ECVC market. As the youngest lawyer at a small shop, and breaking all kinds of conventional career advice, I saw it as an adventure to see what could be done – with some creativity and hustle – in a market dominated by traditional firms.
I’d also started a popular legal blog in which I wrote about problems I saw in the industry. That included how certain lawyers with deep relationships with VC firms were somehow also representing the companies those VC firms invest in; and acting as if there wasn’t anything wrong with inexperienced entrepreneurs relying on counsel with conflicts of interest. Articles got shared, word got around, people seemed to notice.
Over time we grew to, depending on whom you ask, one of or *the* top recognized boutique practice in emerging companies and VC (startup) law. We had phenomenal colleagues and clients, and a deep emphasis on early adoption of legal tech, work-life balance initiatives, and a remote-centric culture; long before distributed teams were “cool.”
We were recruiting from, and negotiating with, all of the top ECVC BigLaw brands 100x our size; and unlike most boutiques, we had a great recruiting pipeline with top law schools. We were thriving, while giving elite lawyers a refuge from the (in my opinion) dysfunctions of the broader industry. And we achieved all of this, profitably, at rates $300-400+ per hour below the firms right across the table from us.
Within the span of about 10 years into my career, at 35, I found myself leading, managing, and recruiting a nationally recognized elite ECVC law group I was proud of. In many (but certainly not all) ways it was a very fun run. The adventure was a success, not just in terms of helping change a segment of the legal industry, but in building lasting relationships with colleagues, CEOs, and other great people along the way.
A few weeks ago that chapter in the book of my career closed. I’m thinking about writing a separate blog post explaining in depth why and how it closed, given the numerous inquiring minds in my network who have reached out. There are definitely some lessons that could be drawn for the benefit of other lawyers, recruiters, and people in the market. But for now, I have bigger immediate priorities.
After the closing of this nearly decade-long chapter in my career, as I was contemplating new possibilities, several of my closest (and highly capable) Partner colleagues approached me with an idea: why not build a new pirate ship together – this time entirely our own – with trusted colleagues committed to the core vision? Why not take it all to the next level? And thus a new chapter begins.
I’m thrilled to have just recently accepted an invitation to help build out Optimal Counsel LLP (“Optimal” for short), as a Partner and legal CTO. I could not have imagined a more stellar set of Partners and associates to serve as the “founding team” of this new boutique firm that I am joining.
Lean, Modern, and Elite is our mantra. Unapologetically tech-driven, remote-first (I’m still closing top VC deals while hiking the mountains in Colorado), and with the high standards our clients have always expected from us. Loudly asserting that elite legal talent can deliver the goods while still having the autonomy, lifestyle, and top-of-market compensation it deserves.
This is not “BigLaw lite,” with a thin veneer of newness attached to the same stale operating model and backward firm culture. We are not a firm for lawyers who romanticize about industry tradition, “face time” in an overpriced office, and the good ol’ boys of the good ol’ days. The overwhelming loyalty of Optimal clients and lawyers is evidence that we are built for a different kind of lawyer, working for clients who are fundamentally tired of the legal industry’s baggage.
How far can we go with even more freedom and flexibility to push the envelope in the legal industry? My last chapter started with me taking a leap mostly on my own. This one starts with a tribe of extremely talented, ambitious lawyers with a unified vision and purpose. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in another 10 years.
Cheers to a new adventure,