Should You Work for a Large Law Firm or Private Practice?

Submitted by Nadya on Tue, 08/13/2019 - 14:49

Perhaps you’ve started thinking about what would make you truly happy. Maybe you recently graduated law school and are trying to figure out the next steps. Or, you have a successful solo practice and are being approached by larger law firms. Alternatively, you’ve been working in corporate law for a while and are wondering if it’s time for a change. As you assess your current career, we’re here to help you figure out if bigger is better.

Benefits of large law firms

First and foremost, the legal industry, more-so than other industries, relies heavily on name recognition. As you know, the legal world cares a lot about status and prestige. Therefore, working at a large firm that’s easily recognized will look great on your resume and can help you advance your career.

Speaking of career advancement, large firms have mentoring programs that clearly outline growth opportunities for employees. Due to the hierarchical structure, a career path with promotions can clearly be seen. A lawyer may start out as an entry-level associate, then be promoted to a mid-level associate, to a senior associate, and so on. Some firms also offer initiatives to promote the growth of minorities, resulting in more equal opportunities.

Besides going up the ladder, the work itself can be interesting. Due to their name recognition, large law firms usually attract high profile class action suits. These are complicated but unique cases that can affect not only many of the people involved in the case, but also shape future laws. Such cases result in sophisticated and interesting work for employees. Likewise, it’s possible that the firm will be able to provide you with international clients, if that’s something you’re interested in.

In general, it’s easier for large law firms to offer competitive benefits. They are very selective in their hiring, and in theory, top notch attorneys, paralegals, and associates work for them. Additionally, they usually attract clients who can spend more money on cases. As a result, they offer high salaries and compensation packages. You’re likely to have great health, dental, and life insurance. They also have great resources, ranging from law libraries to cafeterias, gyms, and prime office locations.

Drawbacks of large law firms

It’s not unknown that the work at a large law firm can be long and daunting. Many people are involved in the cases and the collaboration is what allows the outcome of the cases to be successful. When you’re a part of a larger plan and have people below and above you relying on you, that doesn’t leave you much room for flexibility. Therefore, your workdays will likely be very long, and time off will be difficult to find. As a result, it’s harder to obtain an appropriate work-life balance, and to work on the projects that you truly want to work on.

Benefits of private practice

On the other hand, the biggest benefit of working in a private practice is the flexibility that you’re provided with. If you decide to open your own practice, you’re the boss. That means you decide how much you want to work, what hours you have, and what your deadlines are.

You are also in charge of hiring other personnel, so you can find a team that you’re truly happy with. It’ll then be up to you to make sure your teammates are happy working for you, but we have some ideas to incentivize your employees if you need additional help!

If you’re not the boss but you’re working for a private practice, you’ll likely have a better work-life balance than you would at a large firm. Your hours will probably be shorter and more flexible.

Although it is recommended to focus on one area of law, being a solo practitioner will give you the flexibility to work in multiple areas in general. First, you’re welcome to choose all of the areas of law that you would like to work in. However, even if you do decide to practice one area of law, you’ll probably have other responsibilities within your office. For example, you may have to work on your sales and marketing to establish your law firm and to get your name out there. Or, you might need to edit your own website and blog. If you enjoy more varied work throughout the day, working for a private practice could be for you, as you would be able to help in multiple departments.

Lastly, it’s easier for you to establish interactions with your clients in a private practice than it is in a lager practice. This also allows you to provide the clients with the attention they deserve, and the clients might be happier with this personalized interaction.

Drawbacks of private practice

It’s harder to establish your name. Large law firms already have name recognition, which makes attracting clients easier. They also have a marketing department devoted to finding clients. This is harder to do for a private practice. You could hire someone to do your marketing for you, such as building out your website and working on SEO and PPC campaigns. Alternatively, you might choose a lead generation company to work with, such as eGen. Word of mouth will be significant for you, so you’ll need to work extra hard to maintain great relationships with your clients.

Whatever you decide, it’s never too late to ride the wave of change if you’re unhappy with that you’re doing. You’re in charge of your future and you just have to be very mindful when opportunities come knocking on your door. Don’t be afraid to go after your dream!