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.
1. Highly Varied Work
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.
2. Flexible Work Schedules
The cozy, adaptable environment of the small law firm lends itself to more flexible work schedules among lawyers and staff.
3. “Hands On” Experience
Because staff is limited, new attorneys and paralegals perform more substantive legal tasks with less supervision than their mega-firm counterparts.
4. Significant Client Contact
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.
5. Informal, Relaxed Atmosphere
Unlike the conservative mega-firms, small firm culture is often more relaxed and dress codes are less formal.
6. Abbreviated Partnership Track
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.
7. Friendly, Collegiate Environment
Everyone knows each other on a first-name basis in a small law firm, fostering friendly, informal working relationships.
8. Little Competition
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.
9. Greater Input into Firm Processes and Management
Working for a small law firm grants the legal professional greater control in the direction and management of the firm.
10. Increased Visibility
Small law firm employees can more easily prove their worth to those in power making it simpler to garner recognition and reward.