Many legal professionals automatically assume that the benefits to working in a large law firm are greater than the benefits to a small firm. Attorneys, paralegals, administrators, and legal support staff may choose the former option in the hopes of gaining a higher salary and a more structured work environment. Granted, a large law firm might provide a great pay-check and plenty of structure, but life in a small firm isn’t all that bad. In fact, there are many perks associated with small firms that are just not found in the big firm alternative.
Lawyers in large firms work a lot of hours. This means that support staff (paralegals, administrators, etc.) must also work long hours. Further, as with life in a large firm, these hours are very structured.
While personnel in a small firm may still log many hours per week, the firm is typically more flexible when the hours get put in. This is not to say that a paralegal can mosey into work at noon. But small firms usually allow some give and take as to when employees come and go. They may also afford more opportunities for employees to work from home.
More Client Interaction
Consider, for a moment, the number of professionals working at a large law firm. It can be quite huge. With a set number of clients, this means only a relatively small percentage of employees will interact with clients.
In contrast, small firms obviously have less employees. The result is that there is a greater opportunity for professionals to communicate and work with clients. This is a great benefit for those that are “people persons” and enjoy interacting with those they’re assisting.
More Relaxed Work Environment
Mega firms are highly structured. They have to be given their size, reach, and the manner in which they operate. Small firms, though, are not as carefully ordered or organized. There are no committees or separate practice groups. Everyone knows each other. There is more socializing. Dress codes typically get less formal. Life, in general, is usually by far more relaxed.
More Varied Work
This point mostly applies to the lawyers out there. Attorneys at large firms are usually specialists, practicing in a small area of the law. For example, securities transactions or copyright infringement. Lawyers at smaller firms, however, are often called upon to work across multiple practice areas. This is definitely a perk for those attorneys that like broader legal exposure and enjoy a more generalized caseload.
Greater Input into Operations
Big law firms are managed by specific committees and groups. These entities make the rules and call the shots. They often do so while asking for little feedback or input from other personnel.
Small firms are usually run by senior attorneys. However, unlike the managing attorneys in large firms, they often include other members of the firm in making management decisions. “Other” members are typically not limited to other lawyers. Office managers, paralegals, administrators and legal support staff all provide some level of input into the day-to-day operations of a small firm.
The above is not to say that there are no advantageous when it comes to large law firms. There certainly are. But legal professionals should not quickly cast doubts and turn cold shoulders to smaller law firms. There are several benefits to these firms that are just not found in mega firms. This means a small law firm may be a better fit for your personality and may provide for a more rewarding work experience.
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