Call it their moment of truth­-a health scare, frustration with working in a "factory" atmosphere, fear of being swallowed up in a global enterprise or simply reaching an age where change was needed.

Various circumstances have compelled the following advisors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals to leave large, lucrative firms to work at small "boutique" operations.

Whether they started their boutique from scratch or joined an existing firm, they all have prospered, partly because many were able to bring their high-net-worth clients with them.

None wants to return to a firm with hundreds or even thousands of colleagues. All say the small boutique firm can-with hard work and dedication-lead to big things.

A Life-Changing Diagnosis
When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer eight years ago, attorney Bruce Stone awakened to the fact that time was precious and he needed more fulfilling pursuits in his life.

It was a revelation that, three years later, resulted in Stone leaving Holland & Knight-a "wonderful law firm," as he describes it, where he worked for 29 years.

"They were shocked when I left," he says. "[Cancer] makes you realize you are just as mortal as your clients. It became increasingly apparent that for my happiness, I needed to make a change."

Stone became a shareholder with law firm Goldman Felcoski & Stone, P.A., in Coral Gables, Fla., where he specializes in estate planning for domestic and foreign clients.

His transition from a large global law firm to a small boutique was made easier by the fact that his Holland & Knight clients stuck with him, except for one who Stone thought his old firm could better serve.

Stone has found a niche working with family offices on specialized estate planning matters. This has meant, ironically, that his clients have a higher average net worth than those he worked for at Holland & Knight.