Saturday, May 21, 2005

 

Big Firm - Small Firm, Part I

One of my objectives in starting this blog was to give law students and those considering law school an idea of what it's like to start out in the legal profession.

To that end, I am starting this series called "Big Firm - Small Firm," in which I discuss the professional and lifestyle differences between working for the two different types of firms. My comments are based almost entirely on my own personal experiences. I don't have any concrete plans for the direction this series will take - I am starting it off-the-cuff. At this stage, I don't plan to get into any sort of in-depth or long-winded analysis of the issue. My intention, at this stage, is to keep the posts short and sweet.

I previously wrote that starting your career at a large firm has its advantages, some of which are obvious. You make more money and you receive the benefit of a prestigious name on your resume.

Another advantage is that large firms have institutionalized legal support systems that most small firms simply can't afford. At the Evil Empire, we had a 24-hour wordprocessing and proofreading department, for example, so when you were working until midnight revising a brief that needed to be filed the next day, you could drop it off in Wordprocessing and it would be ready for you when you returned to work at 7:00 am. Sounds great doesn't it?

At a small firm, the "wordprocessing department" usually consists of one or two people, plus a part-time floater who takes over at around 5:30 for a few hours as needed. Overnight wordprocessing is practically nonexistent.

Similarly, large firms have 24-hour copying departments, which allow you to leave an overnight copy job that gets delivered to you the next day. No such thing in a small firm. There is really no disadvantage here, because photocopying can easily be outsourced.

Needless to say, large firms provide these services seven days a week, whereas small firms generally shut down for the weekend, except in extenuating circumstances, such as a Monday trial.

When I worked at a large firm, everyone automatically received a card key that permitted them entry into the building during off-hours.

I have worked at my small firm since September 2004, and no one has given me a card key to get into the building, even though I know they exist and someone somewhere must have one.

The thing you have to realize is that large firms provide all these wonderful support services because they expect work to be done on a 24-hour basis, whereas small firms expect you to go home each evening and not return until the next business day.

Sometimes the lack of sophisticated support services can be frustrating in the moment when you urgently need that copy job done or that document typed up. Those small inconveniences are well worth the payback you receive for being able to leave your work at work and have a full and balanced life.

Love the lawgirl
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