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10 Challenges to Working in a Small Law Firm or Solo Practice

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Highly varied work, practical experience and a collegial, relaxed atmosphere are some of the benefits of working for a small law firm or solo practice. However, working for a small law firm - a firm of ten lawyers or less - poses a few obstacles as well. Below are ten challenges to small law firm employment.

1. Modest Salaries

Small law firms often have lower budgets than larger firms and generally pay lower salaries, although exceptions to this rule exist.

2. Limited Firm Resources

Small law firms have fewer firm resources requiring legal professionals to assume roles outside their traditional job description. For example, attorneys may be required to make their own photocopies, paralegals may need to file documents with the court.

3. Small Support Staff

With little or no support staff, lawyers may need to file papers with the court or perform other non-billable tasks themselves.

4. Modest Office Space

Offices may be less luxurious and contain fewer amenities than those of large corporations and law firms. Office space may be located outside high-rent areas further from the city and the courthouse.

5. Exposure to Market Fluctuations

Law firm stability and revenue may rest on a few clients; the loss of one major client could affect the future of the firm.

6. Fewer Benefits Options

Health care and other benefits may cost more because small law firms have less leverage to negotiate volume discounts.

7. Little Formal Training

Much of the legal professional’s training in a small law firm occurs on the job. Small law firms often espouse a “sink or swim” culture in which professionals must learn quickly to stay afloat.

8. Social and Professional Isolation

Small-firm legal professionals, particularly those in solo practices, may face isolation since a limited staff reduces the opportunity to socialize, network, share knowledge and seek guidance from others within the firm.

9. Little Prestige

Small law firms typically lack the prestige and name recognition of the mega-firms.

10. Local Perspective

Small law firms generally have a local client base and lack the multi-jurisdictional presence of larger firms, thus limiting the types of legal work performed and the types of clients served.

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