So you went to law school with the idea that you would work in a large law firm and gain a six figure salary and prestige; however, because of the limited legal job market, this has not been possible. For this reason, more individuals are turning to small law firms. If you do not land a spot in a world-renowned law firm, it is not the end of the world. Choosing the road full of hands-on experience may likely pay more dividends in the long run.
There are several perks to practicing law in a small firm, such as hands-on experience, client interaction, and the opportunity for personal brand-building.
Hands-On Experience. There is almost no better way to gain hands-on experience than in a small firm. Young lawyers will receive extensive exposure to various legal issues and unique circumstances. This perk may pay off in the future when faced with a similar set of facts or legal issues. And, you’ll get the “kudos” because you knew what to do, or what not do, in the face of adversity. In a small firm, you won’t just hear about the action; you are part of the action.
Client Interaction. Contact with clients helps to boost a young lawyer’s confidence. Regardless of whether the clients are CEOs of corporations or parents in child custody matters, face-time with clients helps the lawyer to connect with the client and the client’s needs. This interaction may spark motivation in that the attorney obligates himself to the individual and the cause, rather than to the briefs or financial reports. Having a vested interest will open doors for referrals and networking possibilities.
Business Development. Client connections provide a means for growth as a lawyer in generating revenue and developing a book of business. In a small firm, an entry-level attorney will likely have more opportunities to engage in business development because of client relationships. Such connections will lead to more perks, such as serving on boards and committees, which may generate more business and pave the way for partnership.
Litigation. In a large firm, an entry-level associate within the litigation department may spend hours reviewing documents and may not actively participate in litigation for several years. However, in a small firm, you can count on direct involvement—at the outset. After you conduct the initial client interview, you will research the law, draft the pleadings, file motions, conduct depositions, initiate negotiations, reach a settlement, or ultimately go to trial. This is the fastest way to become a true trial attorney.
Branding. Attorneys, like athletes, must distinguish themselves from the thousands of other individuals who are—arguably—doing the same thing. Small firms provide opportunities for young lawyers to discover quickly who they are as lawyers. You will be able to cater your brand according to the needs of the clientele. All of the previously mentioned “perks” work together to help the young lawyer build his or her brand. As a litigator, one may discover that he or she has the ability to connect with jurors, which may help to render favorable verdicts. Thus, she is labeled as an outstanding trial lawyer. Or, a transactional attorney may discover that he has a knack for meeting clients’ needs by using drafting and negotiation techniques. Therefore, he is branded as a “money saver.”
These are just a few perks of practicing in a small firm. Now, the ball is in your court. Whether you are faced with job market challenges or simply looking for valuable experience, you should take the opportunity to explore the limitless possibilities and perks of small office practice.