By Sally Kane
The large majority of all attorneys in private practice are employed in small law firms (law firms with less than 20 lawyers). In fact, almost half of all lawyers in private practice are solo practitioners and another 15% are employed in firms of 10 attorneys or less, according to the American Bar Association’s 2000 Lawyer Statistical Report.
Employment in a small law firm presents a unique set of advantages and disadvantages that make it quite different from working in a large law firm or other practice setting. Below are several pros and cons of working in a small law firm.
Unlike the high-degree of specialization seen in many large law firms, lawyers in small law firms are often generalists and engage in challenging, highly varied work across a broad spectrum of practice areas. The exception is the boutique law firm which focuses its practice in a niche area of the law.
The cozy, adaptable environment of the small law firm lends itself to more flexible work schedules among lawyers and staff.
Because staff is limited, new attorneys and paralegals perform more substantive legal tasks with less supervision than their mega-firm counterparts.
Associates may operate with greater autonomy and have more client contact than associates in large law firms where client contact may be reserved for more senior lawyers.
Unlike the conservative mega-firms, small firm culture is often more relaxed and dress codes are less formal.
With fewer attorneys and layers of management, the road to partnership in a small firm may be shorter than that of a large law firm.
Everyone knows each other on a first-name basis in a small law firm, fostering friendly, informal working relationships.
With fewer employees vying for assignments, promotions and a slice of the profits, legal professionals in small law firms face less in-house competition than their big-firm counterparts.
Working for a small law firm grants the legal professional greater control in the direction and management of the firm.
Small law firm employees can more easily prove their worth to those in power making it simpler to garner recognition and reward.