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October 24, 2007

Another Big Law Defector Goes Solo - Lizz Patrick

Another Big Law defection for all the right reasons:  Lizz Patrick of Georgia goes solo.  These excerpts are borrowed liberally from the New York Law Journal On Line (free subscription) but you will get the gist of why this talented lawyer went solo....entrepreneurial spirit, freedom, working on her own terms (at home) and her clients appreciate it.

After almost a decade as a partner at Troutman Sanders and then Kilpatrick Stockton, Lizz Patrick started her own firm a year ago, the Patrick Law Group.

“I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I’d had the bug for a long time,”

Patrick runs her firm out of her house, which she said works fine since most of her communication with clients is by phone or e-mail. For face-to-face meetings, she goes to them.

She said her clients don’t mind that she doesn’t have a Peachtree Street address or the resources of a big firm behind her. “One client said, ‘No offense to your firm but that was your mailing address,’” she told me. In-house counsel hire the lawyer, not the firm, she believes.

Freed of the overhead of a big firm, Patrick said she’s been able to drop her rate by about $150 an hour, declining to name a figure. She’s able to charge a flat task-based fee instead of billing by the hour if she chooses — or to perform a service at no charge on occasion as a form of lagniappe (I didn't know what this word was either!)for clients.

“You’d have to jump through a lot of hoops at a big firm to do that,” she said.

“My clients want personal, efficient and targeted service focused on their needs. I felt like I’d maxed out my ability to do that at a big firm.

“There are scores of people—accountants, associates, human resources staff—as well as equipment that a firm must have. … I could not push more value through the machine,” she said, stressing that this is endemic to big firms and not to any one firm in particular.

At the Patrick Law Group, she said, “I don’t have to cover raising associate salaries or opening an office in Dubai. My clients don’t care if I have a Washington office. They care if I’m available to do the work on their terms when it needs to get done.”

She said she can adapt more quickly to her client’s needs without the “large infrastructure and sunk costs” of a big firm. “If I see software or technology that I think will add value, I can add it. I have a meeting with myself and talk to my clients.”

Patrick spent about six months planning her business, working nights and weekends, before she launched it. “I did what I did in law school and in life: prepare, prepare, prepare,” she said.

She wrote up a business plan, researched costs, posited who her clients would be and projected her revenue for the first year—including a “death star” scenario if everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Once she launched her firm, she said, she was so focused on setting up her shop and transitioning her clients smoothly that she didn’t have time for doubts. “The biggest challenge is taking the plunge. Action cures fear.”


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