It is a dream of many entering the legal field to eventually work at one of the largest law firms in the UK. The benefits of achieving this goal are obvious – high salaries, top benefit packages and a prestigious name on your CV, to name but a few. However, more than 60% of law firms have between 2 and 100 qualified lawyers and there are unique advantages to being part of a small or mid-sized law firm, for all PQE levels.
Visibility & progression
- One benefit of being part of a small or mid-sized law firm is that you will likely have more visibility to your peers and your manager (and all the firm’s partners) due to smaller team sizes.In a closer-knit team, you can more easily prove your worth to those in power, making it simpler to gain recognition and reward.
- With an increased profile comes the potential for increased influence.Lawyers can gain greater control in the direction and management of their firms at a range of levels as hierarchies are often more fluid and partners are more open to hearing and acting on suggestions from team members.
- Another positive for solicitors with long-term development goals is that in a smaller team, you can typically expect faster career progression potential with less internal competition because there are fewer colleagues vying for promotion and work compared to a larger firm. There may even be a shorter route to partnership.
- At the junior level, solicitors, legal executives, and paralegals may perform more substantive legal tasks due to limited team sizes. This can be daunting, but it produces a faster-paced learning environment and when individuals succeed, they often are ahead of their peers in the traditional scope of years of experience – an attractive attribute to have.
- This hands-on experience often extends to client interaction too. Junior lawyers in small law firms may operate with greater autonomy and have a wider scope for business development than those working in large law firms where client contact is often reserved for more senior lawyers. This might be ideal if you're a people person and enjoy one-on-one contact with those you're helping.
Opportunities to specialise or generalise
- One of the main advantages of working for a smaller firm is the potential to work in some unique practice areas. Specifically, boutique law firms that operate in London and the regions focus their practice on a specific, niche area of law. For instance, there are firms that specialise in music, online gaming, technology, pensions, insolvency, and shipping law.
- For those who aren’t keen on specialising or who enjoy handling multiple practice areas, smaller firms may hold the answer there too as small practices can often be generalists and engage in challenging, varied work across a broad spectrum of practice areas.
- Small firm culture is often relaxed with a good level of camaraderie.Everyone knows everyone on a first name basis and friendly, comfortable working relationships can prosper. If this is important for you then small firms may be better suited to you.
- You may find that this more relaxed atmosphere leads to more flexibility in dress codes and office presence, as well as working hours. For those looking for a good work/life balance, you may want to consider these types of firms.
Although there are plenty of positives to working in a smaller team, you should consider the following when making a decision:
- Fewer members in a team may mean less support staff, and this may lead to fewer people contributing to those inevitable all-hands-on-deck emergencies that mark some areas of law. Therefore, small firms are best suited to hands-on individuals, especially at the senior level.
- The hands-on aspect may lead to pressure and more room for errors that could put the law firm at risk unless safeguards are in place.
- You may find that although you have close, dedicated relationships with current clients, your opportunity to network for new clients is limited by both finances and time.
- There may also be salary concerns as you could earn less – possibly considerably less – than professionals working for a large law firm.
If you would like to discuss solicitor roles in the South East – whether that be at a large firm or a small firm! – please contact Liam Andrews.
Phone: 0117 917 1864
Mobile: 07921 895 776
Liam is an energetic member of the long-standing South East team. Before joining Chadwick Nott he had previously worked both in law firms and legal recruitment. Liam recruits qualified solicitors at all levels including solicitors, associates, senior associates, and partners into permanent private practice positions from Oxfordshire down to Hampshire and right across the region to Kent. He has strong relationships with clients that range from international firms, through to regional, boutique and high street.