Private practice involves legal work in a for-profit setting or on behalf of for-profit organizations or causes. In addition to practicing at the law firm types described below, private sector lawyers may practice in corporations, accounting firms or trade associations.
Large Law Firms (100+ attorneys)
Most large firms are located in urban areas, offer top salaries, and have high billable hour requirements. They typically have "summer associate" programs for second-year J.D. students and seek to hire entry-level associates from those programs. The current partnership track in most large firms is 8-10 years. Generally, large firms wait until the spring semester to recruit and interview LL.M. students, if at all. Clients of large law firms tend to be large corporations or financial services firms, and large law firms are typically "one-stop shops" in having a range of practice areas to service the needs of their corporate clients.
Medium Law Firms (35-100 attorneys)
Many attorneys find a smaller (but not too small) environment better suits their temperaments and work styles. Salaries at medium firms generally are not as high as at large firms, but neither are billable hour requirements. Many medium firms hire for both summer and permanent positions on the same schedules as large firms, but some wait until late winter or early spring. Firms at this size may have a diverse client base ranging from individuals to large corporations.
Small Law Firms (fewer than 35 attorneys)
Nationally, one third of the attorneys in private practice work in firms of two to 10 attorneys. Many small firms are "boutiques," where all lawyers specialize in the same area of the law, but most are general practice firms. Salaries and billable hour requirements are often lower than at large firms, and partnership decisions do not generally follow standard tracks. Small firms often offer greater responsibility to younger attorneys than large firms, but they can require client generation earlier as well. They usually do not hire until the spring semester for summer positions, and LL.M. hiring, if any, would occur on an "as needed" basis.