Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

‘Boutique lawyers are very open about setbacks’

One director of a family firm discussed the best methods for handling setbacks, the common setbacks that occur for boutique firms, and the degree of openness about setbacks across the legal profession. 

user iconJess Feyder 11 May 2023 Big Law
expand image

Recently on The Boutique Lawyer Show, host Jerome Doraisamy speaks with Gale Family Law director David Gale. 

Mr Gale discussed the importance of being open about one’s setbacks and how it plays a part in counteracting false perceptions that one has experienced only success throughout their career.

Mr Gale discussed what has been helpful for him in handling setbacks.


“I often discussed them with my mentor and my close family — my wife [and] my dad, who is also a professional.

“In terms of what doesn’t work, locking oneself in a room and feeling glum and not talking to anyone about it is certainly not something I would suggest,” highlighted Mr Gale.

“As an example, when I was in a position where I’d lost my job, I called up a former employer and discussed it with her — I asked, ‘What am I going to put on my resumé? What am I going to say to my next appointment’.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry about it, here’s what you’re going to do, here’s what you’re going to say — put me down as a reference’.” 

As the owner of a boutique firm, Mr Gale discussed the challenges he foresees and how he plans to prepare for them. 

“One of the biggest challenges will be scaling up and managing workload”, he said. “When you’re a small practice or a sole practitioner, you can hit bottlenecks, with court matters that have pressing deadlines, and it’s a lot easier when there are people there to delegate to.”

“It’s also about managing when to put on stuff, especially in the initial phase of growth; it’s about juggling how to manage payroll.”

Mr Gale shared a quote by Richard Branson: “Building a business is jumping off a cliff and building the airplane as you go down.”

“That’s the thing I’ve learnt,” he noted. “I don’t have much experience with running a business, but I’ve found it’s an iterative process — you can’t pre-package it then start it; you have to develop it as you’re going along. That’s one of the challenges.”

Mr Gale discussed his experience of how others have shared their experiences of setbacks in the legal profession.

“My experience has been that boutique owners are excellent at discussing their setbacks,” he said. 

“I find that boutique lawyers are very open about it, especially in the business networks I’m involved in; they are very happy to discuss the setbacks and challenges,” stated Mr Gale.

“I think that’s a great thing.”

“Perhaps it’s a bit of a generalisation, but I think it’s a bit less commonly seen in the larger firms, [which] maybe want to present more of an image that everything’s going successful, that they’re flying along and growing,” Mr Gale posited.

“But internally, I know some consultants who consult to big firms, and sometimes on the face of things, they’re presenting one image, but internally, things are absolute chaos — partners not talking to each other and that kind of thing.”

“I do think boutique lawyers are a bit more transparent, at least in the networks I’m in,” Mr Gale said.

Mr Gale shared advice with those who are wary, or sceptical, of sharing setbacks openly on social media. 

“I see social media as an extension of our normal social lives,” said Mr Gale. “I see LinkedIn, specifically, as a bit of a networking event.”

“My philosophy of LinkedIn is that what you share is a bit like what you would discuss at a networking event,” he said.

“Yes, it’s a bit more public, it’s there for all eternity, I suppose, but it’s still very much my professional network and their contacts who are seeing the posts.

“In a networking event, maybe I’d be talking to a young lawyer who’s asking, ‘how did you start this practice? How’d you get to where you are?’. 

“In these conversations, I don’t just talk about the awards or achievements I won — discussing setbacks is part of a natural way of communicating.”

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!