Our last post made the case for why paralegals should push for a career at a large law firm. We know that a large firm is not for every paralegal. In fact, some paralegals may prefer life in a smaller firm. This is understandable since smaller firms have their own unique benefits. Here are four factors that make small law firms the legal environment to work in.
You Learn – Just Differently
Large law firms are structured to help ensure paralegals learn on the job. They have supervisors and senior paralegals to look towards for mentors and to get questions answered. Bigger firms also provide training – either on-site or off-site.
In a small law firm, paralegals still have the opportunity to learn. The opportunity is just presented differently. Consider, for example, the following facts:
- Small law firms have less resources when compared to big firms; and,
- Senior paralegals may be non-existent for support and attorneys may be too busy to provide directions and project details.
Combine this with some additional facts:
- Paralegals in small firms are often asked to work on every aspect of a file – from beginning to end; and,
- While paralegals will be tasked with substantive legal work, they’ll also be called upon to do less legal-type jobs – like court filings, bates numbering, and answering phones.
In essence, paralegals in small firms have to accomplish a ton of “things,” without a lot of resources for help. This type of environment forces paralegals to learn – and to learn fast. They don’t have a choice really, for failure to learn may translate into the loss of a job.
The discussion so far may depict small firms in a very stressful light. Sometimes they are stress machines. But, this stress is countered with an atmosphere that emphasizes team-work and comradery. Small law firms have a handful or two of employees – including paralegals, attorneys, and administrative personnel. All of these professionals will rely on one another to get the proverbial work done – through both thick and thin. These same professionals, though, will likely lunch together, attend social functions and gatherings together, and visit the same CLEs.
All of this mixture produces a recipe that fosters “go team.” Tight bonds are formed in small firms. Solid friendships can get kindled. Further, great legal contacts get made that may serve beneficial throughout a paralegal’s entire legal career.
Small firms have a much looser structure when compared to big firms. The latter have committees, policies, and formal procedures. Small firms, in contrast, are run more loosey-goosey. There’s a general concept of how things should get done, but after that, there’s no real rigid framework for making sure the job gets down that way. Less rules and guidelines may not bode well with some, but many other paralegals may flourish in such a climate.
You’re Empowered, Provided That…
The reality is that there are many challenges to working in a small firm. Further, these challenges must get met without the so-called “perks” associated with big firm life. But consider this:
- If the challenges do get met;
- If paralegals can learn without great resources and perhaps low levels of support;
- If a paralegal is a great team-player; and,
- If the paralegal excels like nobody’s business…
Then all of these get recognized very quickly by a manger or senior attorney.
This gives the paralegal a tremendous amount of power because the firm will not want to lose her. A reliable and well-proven paralegal is like a power hitting MVP on a baseball team. As such, the paralegal can try and negotiate things like: a better salary, more time off, a more flexible work schedule, work-from-home opportunities, or paid training. Granted, a small firm will not likely provide all of these, but the potential of just a few gives the paralegal just a bit more power to work with.
What this all Means
LAW DAWGS has been in the business of legal staffing for almost 30 years. This means we’ve worked with countless paralegals to help find the best position for their specific needs. We understand that while a large law firm may be a great fit for one paralegal, a smaller firm may serve as a better match for another. Your unique background helps determine the best opportunity for you. We know this.
However, we just want our paralegals to know that big firms don’t always mean better jobs. Small law firms have great qualities that make them preferable over larger firms. Paralegals should simply consider these qualities when hunting for their first job, or in deciding whether to change jobs.
And speaking of jobs…please know that LAW DAWGS is always here to provide exceptional employment assistance. Simply contact us today for help.