Here are some interesting facts we accumulated about law and legal careers this year. We found that large law firms may not always be the best choice. We note that, while salaries for new lawyers are not skyrocketing, they are significant compared to other careers. We discovered that small firms can boast as much legal talent as a large firm might.
Small Law Firms Can Certainly Compete!
In February, the Above the Law blog looked at small and medium sized law firms. They concluded that big law layers are moving into their own firms and attracting great new legal talent to come along with them. firms not bloated with a huge staff and impersonal structure often have more efficient management practices. Smaller firms seem more up-to-date with adapting technology—a plus in today’s world.
Law School Graduates’ Salaries
Quartz explored law career salary trends and today’s pay rates for law graduates. They found that, across the board for 2015, new lawyers can expect to command a salary of about $135K. In larger firms, that can be as high as $160,000. Either way, not exactly poverty level for recent graduates, even though the school-related debt is a major factor. The piece pointed out that salaries haven’t risen much since 2009, but let’s keep in mind that most of those years encompassed one of the worst economies we’ve seen.
Should You Work for a Large Law Firm?
Here’s how many large law firms work— the leverage model—in which a steady stream of disposable associates rotate through the firm every couple of years.
The benefit to the law firm? Partners make a lot of money when they hire young lawyers to do a couple of thousand hours a year at a relatively low pay rate doing work that’s often tedious and repetitive. These rookies will soon leave voluntarily or will be told their is no long term prospect for them.
The key is, these firms are selective. They hire talented attorneys with a great school record and a strong resume. So, some of the associates will, ultimately be able to compete (rigorously) for a few key positions.
What’s the benefit to you? There could be several, including a cool resume hit when you’ve put in time at a firm with strong name recognition.
Don’t overlook the fact that larger firms invest a lot of time training associates and exposing them to work they simply wouldn’t have access to at a small firm—at least not in quantity. If you put yourself out there, demonstrate a willingness to work like a horse, and sucj up every bit of knowledge and exposure offered, you have the ability to build a solid basis of legal expertise in a relatively short time.
The glaring downside is working enough hours to effectively dampen your entire personal life. You’ll be tired, cranky, and disillusioned. But, you may gain insight and skills that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. We’ve all heard the old saw that what you’re willing to put into any endeavor is exactly what you’ll get out of it.
Career choices, in law or any other discipline, are very personal decisions. As you prepare for graduation this month, and you work to ensure your success on your bar exam, spend a bit of time considering what kind of law career you think you’d like. Then organize your strategy and tailor your resume to your dream job. Get out there.by