{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "What are the benefits of working at a small law firm (about 10 attorneys) as opposed to a midsize firm. What is the difference in the amount of work/ billable hours, benefits (health insurance and PTO), opening doors for future career opportunities, etc. I have an interview at a small law firm, which is not what I ideally wanted, but I am considering it because of the COVID uncertainties. I appreciate any kind of guidance.", "post_id": "5fb2ea9f14bc520024f562fa", "reply_count": 12, "vote_count": 3, "bowl_id": "5da60c126e5f0d001f32f497", "bowl_name": "Women in Law" }

What are the benefits of working at a small law firm (about 10 attorneys) as opposed to a midsize firm. What is the difference in the amount of work/ billable hours, benefits (health insurance and PTO), opening doors for future career opportunities, etc. I have an interview at a small law firm, which is not what I ideally wanted, but I am considering it because of the COVID uncertainties. I appreciate any kind of guidance.

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I worked at an 8 person firm for about 3 years out of law school. It definitely depends on who you’re working with, so I would make sure you click well with the partners before you go into it. We definitely had a lot more flexibility and no billable requirement, which was very nice. I recently lateraled into a big firm and did have a difficult time moving from a small firm into big law. However I do think it was a great place to start before jumping into a bigger firm as a first year associate...first couple years are always tough. As A1 said though, definitely make sure you know what the deal is with insurance/benefits before you accept anything.

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Thanks so much! It’s also good to know that it’s possible to eventually transition into big law from a small firm. That’s something that I’m interested in doing in the future, if possible.

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I worked at a small firm and loved it, but I think it was an especially great culture fit for me. I felt like the work was manageable and my coworkers were helpful and supportive. It certainly wasn’t the best paying job but I had good health insurance.

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Good health insurance is important!

Some of my dead worst experience was working at a small firm. Hours bad, training worse, and you would not believe the inappropriate behavior. OTOH, some of my absolute best was working at a small firm. Lots of mentoring, immediate client engagement, generous revenue sharing, fabulous benefits. It's not so different than any other firm size: find out the reputation of the individual attorneys and do not hesitate to call former employees about why they left and if they would ever go back.

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This is a good point re: WFH. Any new firm is going to be hard. But the benefits of working in a small firm that center on comraderie and the close nit nature of the firm are going to be minimized since you will be on boarded virtually and not spending much time just chatting and sharing with coworkers.

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I worked at a 7 person law firm for a very well-known attorney. Formed no connections because we all worked on our own projects. We were plaintiff’s side so didn’t have billables, garbage insurance, no 401(k). I would find out about all of these things (and if you’re interviewing in person, the office set up). I was miserable. I’m at a midsize (insurance defense) now and can actually say I love my job. I’ve made connections through clients, coworkers, and this place actually has a coffee maker 😂 2k billables with bonus structure, 401k with matching, insurance and dental. Slightly better pay. I think it REALLY depends on the small firm. I think/hope my first experience was unusual, although I know someone from my year in the exact same crappy position at a firm a block away from my old job. Defense work and 2k billables. She is also miserable.

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Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you’re at a better place now and happier! I also agree that having a coffee maker is a very important benefit that must not be overlooked! 😂

I'm currently at a 15 person firm. I've been here for six and a half and I love it. I got great client interaction as a first year and a lot of responsibility. I was right away encouraged to get my own clients and bring in business. The hours are lower - I am basically done at 6pm every day and hardly ever work weekends. The people are great. I get along with basically everyone, even if we sometimes get on each other's nerves. Pre COVID, we used to eat lunch together for the full hour. I couldn't imagine leaving, even when things get tough. I feel like they've invested in me and believe in me. I've been successful because of their support and what they've taught me. I also feel respected and empowered to set boundaries, for example with weekend work. Of course, nothing is perfect. Pay is lower obviously. Small firms are dominated by like five or six personalities. And if some of them don't like you, well that sucks. So it's important to be flexible and be able to adapt to everyone's idiosyncrasies. Because no matter how insane those idiosyncrasies are, even if everyone acknowledges that they are crazy, they aren't going to change. I've seen some people struggle with that aspect. You also can't be very picky about your practice group - you have to go wherever you are needed. I am actually grateful for this, as I was hired for one practice area and then had to dabble in another when an associate left. I now love that particular work. Ultimately, each firm is different. Personality is going to be key. You can learn any practice area or work style. But fit is tough.

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Thank so much! You pointed out some great things that I hadn’t thought of.

I recently switched from mid-sized to small firm. It’s been a difficult transition for me but I think it is mostly due to social reasons. I miss coworkers and the support that comes along with working with a larger group. That being said, there is more flexibility, more focus (because there are less distractions from work), and less pressure (plus lower salary) at the smaller firm. The resources are about the same. “PTO” was specified in my offer here but I think, at least on defense side, PTO is non-existent; what time you can take off just depends on whether you’re meeting your billables. Billable hour requirement at small firm is technically the same, but there isn’t the pressure to surpass it as there was at the larger firm. I don’t use the health insurance but I’m told it’s good. Not sure about future job prospects but keeping my fingers crossed that the change doesn’t effect future career options. Jury’s still out on which I prefer but, for now, it’s what works best for my family. Best of luck to you!

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