Patrick Murdoch is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Murdoch Legal, a boutique law firm focusing on corporate and transactional law. A McGill University faculty of law graduate, Patrick gained substantial legal experience in M&A and litigation as an Associate at Shearman & Sterling LLP, a renowned international law firm based in New York.
Patrick’s tenure at Shearman & Sterling LLP, coupled with his academic background, has provided him with a firm grounding in the legal field. In 2011, he made the strategic move from BigLaw to a more personal approach, setting up Murdoch Legal. His clientele spans from private equity firms to hedge funds to tech startups, reflecting his versatility in addressing varied legal needs.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Patrick Murdoch shares what they do at Murdoch Legal
- The right time to hire associates and delegate work
- How and when Patrick knew he wanted to be an attorney
- The importance of being hyper-responsive to clients
- How Patrick runs a 100% virtual law firm
- The best piece of advice Patrick received
In this episode…
Can a lawyer successfully transition from working in a BigLaw firm to running their own virtual-based boutique law firm? What challenges and opportunities could such a transition present?
According to Patrick Murdoch, a seasoned legal expert, making that transition is not only possible but can also lead to a more balanced professional life. Drawing from his own experiences, Patrick recounts how he left the world of BigLaw, desiring a more lifestyle-focused career where he could work hands-on with his clients. He saw the potential to provide the same high-quality legal services at a lower price, and Murdoch Legal was born.
In this episode of 15 Minutes, host Chad Franzen chats with Patrick Murdoch, Founder and Managing Attorney of Murdoch Legal, on his transitional journey from traditional BigLaw to a 100% virtual-based boutique law firm specializing in corporate and transactional law. They delve into the advantages of the virtual law firm model, explore the milestones of Murdoch Legal, and discuss Patrick’s unique approach to creating a work-life balance in the legal profession.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- Patrick Murdoch: LinkedIn | Email
- Murdoch Legal
- Shearman & Sterling LLP
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential.
To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition.
You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t.
Chad Franzen 0:12
Hi. Chad Franzen here, one of the hosts of Share Your Voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign to make sure you’re getting the best ROI your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experienced outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Patrick Murdoch is the founder and managing attorney at Murdoch Legal, a boutique law firm specializing in corporate and transactional law. Prior to founding Murdoch Legal, Patrick received his legal training. While working as an attorney at the offices of Sherman and Sterling LLP, a leading New York and international law firm. He left Sherman in 2011 and transitioned from the world of BigLaw to working hands on with clients ranging from private equity firms to tech startups. Hey, Patrick, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Patrick Murdoch 1:17
Pleasure to be here. I’m very well, Chad, how are you?
Chad Franzen 1:20
Great. Thank you. Hey, tell me a little bit more than about Murdoch Legal and what you do.
Patrick Murdoch 1:25
So I started Murdoch Legal about 10 years ago, I was transitioning out of BigLaw. Essentially, I didn’t want to work 100 hours a week, I wanted a little bit more lifestyle, focused career, I was thinking about raising a family. But I didn’t want to let go of law still interested me and I thought I’d have a little bit more flexibility if I launched my law firm. So 10 years ago, I started working with mainly tech startups in the tri state area and New York, Connecticut, New Jersey. And then I had a handful of tech startup clients when I was launching. And then I linked up with a company called entre based out of San Francisco that provides like a legal legal AI platform. And entre started pairing me with different private equity firms like Blackstone fortress and some of some of the biggest name private equity firms in the world. When I started processing their legal documents, legal forms, pretty much all the all the subsidiary legal work, except for the kind of main purchase agreement. And kind of the, you know, the center the the main transactional agreements that they would outsource to more experienced m&a counsel or BigLaw, I would handle all the other agreements where they don’t want to be paying, you know, a partner $1,000 an hour to review an engagement letter or in a consulting agreement, or an NDA. So I carved out a nice little niche for myself, working with private equity firms, pension funds, hedge funds, investment banks, and I still maintained a handful of startup clients. Fast forward. 10 years later, I’ve seen I slowly grew my team. We are now eight people. I have four people full time salaried three people, independent contractors, and then there’s myself. I processed it about my friend process is about 1000 contracts a month. Our revenues are roughly between 1.5 and 2 million annually. And I have a great time, my quality of life is amazing. I have two kids, you know, I work 30 to 40 hours a week, which is very reasonable. It’s kind of perfect. So I do lots of traveling. And my my law firm is unique because it’s entirely virtual. So I have very little overhead. Everyone works from home. And everyone hits their deadlines. My clients are happy. And I continue to see positive growth. That’s that’s about that’s about it. I’ll add that I’m I’m a New York lawyer. And in my team, I have other New York Bard lawyers, and then I also have a presence in Canada. So I have quite a bit of a Canadian attorneys, a few Canadian attorneys as well who worked for me, and one one attorney in Paris.
Chad Franzen 4:39
Oh, awesome. So you said that you said that you’re one of your goals was to kind of give yourself a little bit more flexibility and make work like the center of your life. And it sounds like you’ve been successful in that mission. Was that always the case? Since that’s the time you you founded your law firm?
Patrick Murdoch 4:58
No, I would say the first couple of years when it was just me or when I was onboarding and training my first associates, or the first people that started to work for me, I definitely had to grind a little bit more, you know, I was I, it was me in the trenches, processing every contract, I could get a hold of, and I was paying, I hung a virtual shingle, I would take any work I could get whether it’s, you know, reviewing website terms or privacy policies for just anything. And I was really high flying to build a name for my law firm and get insecure clients. But once I once I had an associate in place that I trusted, and that was trained up, and that I gradually learned how to how to delegate work. That’s when my time started to free up a little bit. And now, as I said, I have seven people working under me and I have a hierarchy in place. And you know, the more senior associates are training, the more junior ones. So yeah, it’s it’s just a matter of kind of fine tuning the machine over time, but definitely, at the start, I was I was grinding more. Yeah.
Chad Franzen 6:20
At what point did you feel like it started to smooth out where you were able to, you know, bring on an Associates and delegate work?
Patrick Murdoch 6:30
Yeah, that hit you? Yeah, there was the, the volume of work just got a little bit too high for one person to handle. I was I linked up with my first private equity firm client, as Blackstone, they’re sending me a lot of agreements. And, you know, I was just spending my my days processing NDAs, and engagement letters for for, for this one clients. And I just said to myself, I can’t, this is not why I started my own firm. I started my own firm to have more flexibility, not less. So yeah, it was, it was a tough leap to say, Okay, I need to hire someone to help me because you got to pay that person and you’re not, you’re not sure your revenues are going to be able to sustain paying yourself and another person. But I took that leap, a little bit of a risk. And once I had this other person trained, and I was satisfied with her work product, and I felt that the client also trusted her work product. I remember the first time I was able to go on a vacation with my family, we went down to Mexico. And I had I let this other person kind of manage the firm while I was taking, I took a couple weeks off. And she did an amazing job. And I was able to totally unplug. And that’s when it kind of hit me like wow, this, you know, this is this is sustainable. And this will allow me to grow in a manner that that I can still have flexibility to be a dad and to pursue some of my hobbies like mountain biking or rock climbing and road biking. It was kind of this this eureka moment. I remember when I was on that vacation in Mexico.
Chad Franzen 8:19
Sure, sure. Yeah. I’ve talked to some people who say that, you know, they were very hesitant to bring on staff, like he said, you have to pay him and then you know, you maybe you don’t trust them right away or you don’t, you’re not comfortable delegating yet, but then they decided that that’s the best thing we ever did.
Patrick Murdoch 8:34
Yeah, I mean, a lot of lawyers are very controlling, and are kind of risk averse. So the idea of handing off, you know, this business that they’ve built on their hard work to someone else, or you know, delegating a complicated assignment, that you could risk losing this relationship with the client that you spent all this time building, it’s very hard. But if you want to, if you want to take the shift, shift from lawyer to entrepreneur, you need you need to be able to do that you need to be able to trust your people. And if you do a good job training them, and you get that trust in plays, then that’s that’s when law can really work out. I mean, that’s when it really started working out for me.
Chad Franzen 9:20
How and when did you know you wanted to become an attorney?
Patrick Murdoch 9:25
I was in government before I was in law. And I had a BA in philosophy. And the government work wasn’t quite intellectually stimulating enough for me. And, and I thought, I thought if I went back to school and became a lawyer, I would have a little bit more intellectual stimulation. And a little bit more room for growth. I saw Yeah, lawyers, you can go in many different directions. You can go in the criminal direction you got litigation, you I’m a tax lawyer, IP lawyer, you can go work for the World Bank, or you can start your own business like I ended up doing. And I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to take my legal career. But I wanted it, I wanted the potential for for, for the opportunities a law degree would provide. So I was in government, I wasn’t particularly satisfied. And I, I applied to some law schools I got in, and I said, You know what, let’s, let’s do this and see where the, the path would, would leave me. And it led me to, to BigLaw, I took a job with a BigLaw firm in New York for five years. And as you know, as I said, working 80 or 100 hours a week, which was fun, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable.
Chad Franzen 10:46
When you while you were doing that, while you were, you know, working in that, for that firm prior to starting your own, was there something or maybe a few things that you really learned, you know, post Law School pre starting your own business that have helped you along the way?
Patrick Murdoch 11:02
Yeah, I think I working at a big top tier, BigLaw firm really taught me what, how to manage relationships with clients, that really taught me to be hyper responsive to clients. To hit deadlines, the deadlines, especially in a corporate context are tremendously important. And, yeah, it it showed me the type of work product that clients expect. So I knew that if I could replicate that work product, but charge clients, much less for the same product that that I could have a successful business. And that’s essentially my business model is, is I charge big corporate clients, private equity firms, pension funds, in a fraction of the price that a BigLaw law firm will charge them. But I’m providing them with that BigLaw service, that that same sort of work product that they can expect from from a Skadden Arps. Yeah, that’s, that’s sort of what BigLaw taught me it was was, you know, if you want to be successful, you need to be hyper responsive to your clients and their needs. And your work product needs to be top notch.
Chad Franzen 12:38
So once you started Murdoch legal, you had kind of learned that from your previous experience. But was there anything that you quickly realized that maybe you you didn’t know that you didn’t know?
Patrick Murdoch 12:51
Well, I so when I started Murdoch Legal, I mean, I embarked on this new path of working with with startups. And, you know, I, when you work with tech startups, you’re you’re confronted with a host of random regulatory issues and transactional issues. And yeah, you just, there’s a certain amount of learning as you go. I’m a lucky for me, I have a legal network in place with a lot of mentors and peers that I can I can turn to for guidance and advice. But yeah, the work was much less predictable when I started my business. And, you know, I confronted many issues, from a legal point of view, and also from a business entrepreneur point of view, that were new to me that I had to work through that I had to make a few mistakes on. But that’s how you learn right?
Chad Franzen 13:54
You said, you mentioned that your your firm is 100% virtual that is that’s kind of unique, relative to some of the other attorneys that I that I speak with on the show. Has it always been that way?
Patrick Murdoch 14:07
Yeah, so I, when I started my business, I did have an office, I was working in a loft in, in downtown Montreal with a friend of mine, who didn’t who had another business, there was a law firm, and I kind of rented out half the last space. And I had a couple of desks there. And when I brought on my first associate, she came to the office a couple times a week, and I trained her there and we worked together there. But then the the office space renovated and that insurance company essentially bought out the whole floor of the building I was on. So I was I was back to ground zero and I was looking for office space and the leases were to $3,000 a month and at that I had two people working for me. And I asked him, Hey, do you guys actually want to come into an office? You know, this is three or four years before COVID? And they both said, No, I’d rather work from home. So I said, Alright, let’s, let’s try it. And I actually found that my associates were more productive when they worked from home. And then I also said, I took it a step further, and I said, Hey, as long as you guys are hitting your deadlines, and you know, your your work is good, I don’t actually really care where you are, if you want to be on a beach in Costa Rica, you know, as as long as you’re in, you know, in a timezone where you can still respond to emails, and, you know, make your deadlines and, and your work is good, I have no problem. So that’s sort of allowed me to expand my net a little bit. And now some of my associates had been with me for nine years, one of them lives in Paris, one of them lives in New York, and a couple of them are outside of Toronto. And we meet up in person about once or twice a year, we have team meetups. But on the whole, yeah, it, I find it works very well. And as you know, when COVID hit, a lot of companies had to try and transition to this virtual model. But, you know, we just, we just went as business as usual. And before COVID, everyone thought I was nuts. They just didn’t understand that I had a virtual law firm, with no kind of office space. But now Now it’s everyone sort of seems to understand it a little bit more. And if anything, I kind of think my firm was on the cutting edge with respect to that. I think we’re gonna see more of a trend of, of law firms decreasing their overhead and going virtual.
Chad Franzen 16:49
Yeah, absolutely. So what are some in terms of Murdoch Legal, then what are some maybe some big milestones or moments that you look back on that you’re particularly proud of?
Patrick Murdoch 17:03
I think I think a big milestone was when I hired my my first associate lady called Talia. And I knew the relationship was gonna work. And I could trust her to to manage my firm. And another another milestone was when I started to garner enough work, that money ceased to be a stress point for me and my family. That I can sort of take that worry off the table. And I had enough kind of stable monthly revenues, that I knew I had built a successful business. And I didn’t have to worry about vacations or going out to restaurants or sending my kids to private schools, that I knew I had all that taken care of. And that’s when my my firm’s revenue hit about a million US annually. Was was kind of when I hit that comfort point. And then, yeah, and then also, what I realized that, that I didn’t have to, you know, kind of devote sacrifice my whole life for my job. And my job, being a lawyer is an important important part of my identity. And I like it, but it’s not, it’s not all of who I am, you know, I’m equally a dad. And I’m equally an outdoor enthusiasts. And when I realized when I realized I had kind of built this law firm that allowed me to travel to be a father, to not worry about money, and to manage a team. And, you know, I look around at some of my peers who are still in BigLaw. And I compare my life and I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t trade it any day of the week, I’m very happy. I think I found a nice balance. So kind of when I when I hit that threshold a couple of years ago, or three or four years ago, that was a big milestone for me.
Chad Franzen 19:15
I was gonna say, would you say that it makes you unique, maybe among attorneys to have that kind of, like perspective on yourself that’s more well rounded rather than just completely large. Right?
Patrick Murdoch 19:27
I think so. I think you know, I have a lot of attorney friends and and some of them they just, they really are passionate about what they do and they want to work those long work hours and for them it doesn’t even feel like work. That’s just that’s just what they want with their lives. And that’s fair enough. But for me, I think I think law I I’m inspired by it, and I like running the business and And but I definitely see it as as not the overarching theme in my life, I just see it as as one strand. And I think that makes me somewhat unique as an attorney. There. When I was starting my business, I had just relocated to Montreal, and I’m a I’m a New York lawyer. So most of my clients were in New York. So I was driving back and forth from Montreal to New York to, to manage my firm to meet new clients. And I remember I was I listened to this was 10 years ago, and I listened to Tim Ferriss book, The Four Hour Workweek. And that really influenced the way I built my business. Just just this perspective, you know, maybe I’m not going to work for hours, but I certainly don’t need to work at and it really motivated me to kind of build a team, train them up and outsource the work to my team. So yeah.
Chad Franzen 20:58
I have one more question for you. But first, tell me a little bit more tell me how people can find out more about Murdoch Legal.
Patrick Murdoch 21:09
They can go to my website, murdochlegal.com. Discuss disclaimer, it needs a bit of an update. One problem with having enough clients to keep you and your whole team busy is sometimes I don’t have to do a lot of marketing or PR or travel around the US meeting new clients. If anything, the workflow is almost too much. So I’ve I’ve devoted a little bit less resources to my website, but it’s, we’re coming up on the 10 year mark and I promised my team I was gonna do a full website overhaul. So stay tuned. But you can go to my website and Murdock legal.com. You can go to my LinkedIn page. Patrick Murdoch, you can Google me, there’s an interesting article that came out a Bloomberg Business wrote it. I don’t know, maybe five years ago, and it was about my transition out of BigLaw into a sole practitioner or, you know, boutique law firm, business owner. And it’s, it’s a, it’s a cool perspective for lawyers who are in BigLaw, but are kind of afraid to take the leap. So you can check out that article. Or, you know, you can send me an email at email@example.com Always happy to chat with young lawyers who are who are looking to branch out and take some risks with their legal career.
Chad Franzen 22:41
Last question for you, I’m sure you have received a lot of advice over the years during your legal journey. What would you say is either the best or the worst piece of advice you’ve received? You can think of it.
Patrick Murdoch 22:56
I remember a partner at Shearman & Sterling telling me that, you know, if you really don’t like what you do, it’s not worth sticking it out. Because you know, law can be so consuming that it can just kind of take over your life and you know, before you know it 20 years is flashed by so yeah, I think I think it’s it’s a his point was, you know, before you embark down this path, you know, really, really take a hard look and ask yourself if it’s right for you. If you’re if you’re you know, following your passion. And if you’re not, you know, switch it up, because life’s too short.
Chad Franzen 23:47
Yeah, good advice. Hey, Patrick has been great to talk to you today. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. So long, everybody.
Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes, be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.