Large Law Firms

What constitutes a large law firm may vary somewhat geographically – but if a firm has more than one office location, or over 100 attorneys, it is a fair assumption they could be considered a large law firm no matter where they are located.  Large law firms tend to serve corporations, as opposed to individuals, and have a range of associated practice areas – such as mergers and acquisitions, transactional, patent, securities regulation, and of course corporate law.  Large law firms tend to pay more than small or medium firms, but also require longer hours.

Most medium and large law firms have “summer associate” programs. These programs are designed to give students legal experience while providing firms an opportunity to evaluate students’ work before offering permanent employment following law school graduation. Large firms generally hire their entry-level associates from their summer associate pool. Therefore, it is important to think carefully about your position after your 2L or 3E summer.  Some firms will recruit students in the fall of their final year, but these opportunities are scarce.

Web Resources

Small and Medium Law Firms

What constitutes a small or medium firm? The terms “small” and “medium/mid-size” are relative, depending on the market or region within the U.S. For example, the size of a small or medium firm in New York City or Washington, D.C. is different than that in Denver or Cleveland. Regardless of how they are categorized, smaller firms provide employment to a significant percentage of the private sector: the ABA reported in 2012 that approximately 70% of attorneys in the private sector practice in firms with 20 or fewer attorneys.

Practice. A small firm can have a diversified practice, in that its attorneys practice in various areas of the law. Such a firm is known as a general practice firm. A small firm can also specialize in particular areas of law, such as patent, tax, or civil rights, and is referred to as a boutique firm because of its specialty practice area. Either type of firm can have sophisticated, complex practices with a diverse client base ranging from Fortune 500 companies to middle market firms to “Mom and Pop” businesses to individuals. There is a tremendous opportunity to define your practice and take responsibility early in this sector; accordingly, small firms target attorneys who can demonstrate a commitment to a particular type of practice and who have hands-on experience that will allow them to make a contribution immediately.

Recruiting and Timing. One feature that many small firms have in common is that they do not follow predictable hiring cycles for entry-level attorneys. Because these firms tend to hire only to fill a position when an employee leaves or when business demands, it is difficult to define a recruiting “season” for this sector. Many firms say that they prefer attorneys who have experience, as the firms may not have the time or resources to train junior lawyers. These hiring practices extend to summer employment: classes tend to be smaller, if they exist at all; and it is far less common for small and mid-size firms to make permanent offers to summer associates.

Outreach. Employers in this sector typically rely on word of mouth and personal referrals in hiring interns (“clerks”), summer associates, and permanent attorneys – networking therefore is a key component of the job search process. You will want to review the resources on our Networking and Relationship-Building page, including the Guide to Informational Interviewing, and develop a LinkedIn presence early in your law school career.

The resources below contain valuable information on seeking out, evaluating, and connecting to firms outside the “Biglaw” world.

Finding Firms

Evaluating Firms

Applying and Beyond