These days the legal world is polarising: at one end the large firms are getting larger and taking ever more market share, at the other end boutique firms are flourishing. However trading as a sole practitioner carries with it many drawbacks. It can be high risk, expensive to insure, may struggle to attract clients and meet their demand. Furthermore, by definition it will mean a lack of colleagues to work with and bounce ideas off, which in turn means promotes turning a hand to work that is outside normal area of expertise, turning it down or referring it to a competitor.
If you decide you need colleagues to help with setting up your law firm (perhaps even contributing capital) or growing it then the most common place to find those colleagues is your current/previous place of work. In all probability soliciting your colleagues to leave with you will be a breach of your partnership deed/service agreement and so is best done with consent or very carefully. Having a legal battle on your hands when launching your firm is the last thing you need.
A carefully chosen recruitment agent can help here, not all agents offer the same benefits. Look for one you trust, whom you feel really understands what your firm has to offer candidates and clients and remember that to start with your firm is going to be unknown so if an agent is able to help you recruit a high quality candidate who would otherwise not have considered your firm then that is a good investment. It is true that agents really earn their money when recruiting for small firms which have a higher need, a lower draw/lesser reputation and will only be interested in certain types of candidates.
According to Simon Janion, founder of the legal recruitment specialist EJ Legal, “most successful newly established firms tend to specialise in a single area of law, such as employment or IP. The focus on a particular discipline means the founding partners are sometimes able to bring their clients with them without running into serious covenant issues. In fact, if they leave their previous firm on good terms, they can remain the specialist to whom the firm prefers to refer the work. For the client the attractions are lower charge-out rates without compromising on the quality of the advice they receive, nor do they have to establish a new client/solicitor relationship. Niche firms are attractive homes to other specialists in the discipline, so growth in the early stages is often impressive. But the growth needs to be maintained and the problems come later when, as they often do, the firm starts to think about spreading its wings and to look seriously at bolting on other disciplines. At this point the niche firm joins the general ranks of full-service law firms competing for a small pool of high calibre lawyers with significant followings. Smaller and with no track record or profile in the new disciplines or sectors the firm finds it hard to recruit partners of the same quality as those specialists who set the firm up. Hiring lower calibre partners is a slippery slope and once the firm is on it, it will never recover its original position. The solution is targeted head hunting. It is the best way to bring in a high quality colleague, but there is always a tension when bringing a new partner straight into the equity, which in turn makes due diligence crucial."
There is an alternative solution if you seek all the flexibility and freedom of setting up your own law firm but wish to avoid the investment inherent in setting up.