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Michael Katz Revamps Boutique Law Firm Model

Michael Katz has been part of big law firms, small ones and pretty much everything in between. Now he figures the tiny boutique group he founded six months ago is the best way to attract and keep top legal talent.

The aim of Katz, Ruby & Carle LLP is to be the “go-to firm for high-stakes and complex business, commercial, and intellectual property cases.” To reach that goal, the upstart firm plans to unite top lawyers from the full spectrum of age groups.

Katz himself is 59 while name partners Nathan Carle and Byron Ruby are 41 and 34, respectively. The fourth lawyer, Adam Sechooler, is 41 years old.

As a result, Katz said, the firm aligns with clients with both traditional and cutting-edge legal needs, showing a strong understanding of the local bench and bar, and the technological and business savvy its clients expect.

“We are refining the boutique model in several ways, but they all represent a return to a traditional model that emphasized professionalism and long-term loyalty,” Katz said.

That starts with creating equity—an ownership share in the firm—at an early stage.

Most Talented

“We believe that the most talented tier of younger lawyers is less willing to trade long hours now for the perhaps illusory promise of equity much later,” Katz said.

He said he’s been “at a good number of boutiques by now, and the older lawyers in most contexts treat the clients as their own property.”

Katz started as an associate at the ultra-prestigious Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York in 1993, and ended up putting in the backbreaking hours expected of newcomers, along with developing a dose of paranoia about feedback from his older colleagues.

Cycle-Breaking

“I decided to break the cycle and go even-steven with partners from different generations and give them the equity that they want up front,” he told the Business Journal on March 6.
Each person will get “an equity share.”

Another feature: the “duty to voice dissent” when called for.

He said his four-lawyer firm is already “attracting a lot of attention” from lawyers who don’t want to work 60 hours a week in a subordinate role. He plans to hire three to five more attorneys this year.

“We have a ton of work—we’re turning it away,” Katz said.

The client list is already varied. He said the biggest is chip company MaxLinear Inc. (Nasdaq: MXL) of Carlsbad, while others include chip company Litrinium of Mssion Viejo; Quality Health Partners Inc. of Santa Ana and opioid and addiction treatment company BioCorRx Inc. (OTC: BICX) of Anaheim.

Newport Council

Katz’s law firm, located across the street from South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, is also involved in a free speech case involving the 2022 race for Newport Beach City Council.

“The top tier of the next generation has strong advocacy skills, has faced stiff competition, and possesses valuable insight—they do not want to be a cog in the machine.”

Katz added: “As a legal community, we need to give young legal talent a voice and a stake in the enterprise. In some quarters, that is heresy.

“To do this profession well sometimes requires a lot of hard work.  But that is different than demanding a set number of billable hours—which we do not do,” Katz said.

According to Carle, “big firms are counting on clients to pay ever-increasing fees to ever larger teams of lawyers tasked with often overlapping assignments and duplicative effort, without delivering superior results.”

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