I have spent a lot of time telling you all the reasons why I was unhappy as a Big Law associate, how and why I left Big Law, and what I’m doing now. I’ve expounded about what is wrong at Big Law. But there’s something more to the story. Something you ought to hear.
Many of you, if given the chance, really should accept the job at Big Law. Here’s why:
For the Prestige.
Clients and other lawyers are impressed with the Big Law name on your business card. It opens certain doors, gives you instant respectability. It masks the smell of insecurity that emanates from a brand new, freshly-hatched baby attorney.
If you someday want to go on your own, it doesn’t hurt to be able to say that you started out at Big Law. People nod and smile and assume that you learned all you needed to know while you were there. Other lawyers respect that you put in your dues at Big Law before hanging a shingle. Clients assume that they are getting the same level of expertise and service that they would at Big Law.
For the Money.
You have student loans to pay and bills coming in. Why incur the added expense of running a law firm when you can bank a little money working at Big Law? Yes, working for yourself means more flexibility, but the hours won’t necessarily be any less than at Big Law, and the learning curve is just as steep either way. And in this economy, nothing beats a guaranteed salary. If you are uncomfortable with not knowing that the bills will be paid every month, the job at Big Law is probably right for you.
For the Experience.
As a new attorney, you have a lot to learn. A LOT. So why not do it on someone else’s dime? Being a brand new Big Law associate means that someone else – your boss – is responsible for the work that goes out. Someone should be reviewing your work product, looking over your shoulder, correcting your mistakes. As appealing as the autonomy of a solo practice is, it makes sense to work under the wing of a more experienced attorney when you are fresh out of law school. Just be careful – not every firm actually mentors their young associates, and it is just as much your responsibility as your boss’s to build that relationship.
For the Clients.
One of the toughest things about being a new solo attorney is building a client base. But if you go work for Big Law for a few years, you will likely build a clientele of your own that will follow you if and when you leave. It also will let you build a referral network that benefits the Big Law firm while you are there but follows you when you leave.
For the Security.
You’re not an entrepreneur and maybe you never will be. Learning to practice law while simultaneously learning to run a business is, to say the least, daunting. Going to work at Big Law feels more secure (although, in all honesty, with law firms laying off attorneys, there is no such thing as security). Not to mention, there is a reason that Big Law is big: lots of people LIKE working for someone else. They like knowing how much their paycheck is going to be month-to-month. They like not having to market so heavily. They like having a path laid out for them from associate to partner to equity partner. It’s safe! And safe, for most people, is not a bad thing.
You have a job offer from Big Law. You know you want to own your own firm someday. But someday does not have to be today. Take the job! Take advantage of what Big Law has to offer. While you are there, pay attention to everything that it takes to make a Big Law firm succeed – it’s not really much different from what it takes to succeed as a solo. You are not committing to a lifetime as a Big Law associate. You can still prepare yourself for that time in the future when you decide to go out on your own. What have you got to lose?
So before you just assume that working for yourself is better, find out if Big Law is for you. I know it was right for me, if only for a while.
And if you don’t have an offer from Big Law, don’t sweat it. You’ll be fine too. That’s what SPU is here for.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.