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How Suited Are You to the Practice of Law in a Large Law Firm?
by Harrison Barnes, Managing Director
Are you more drawn to issues involving people and human behavior than to data, theory and numbers?
In 1980, corporations first surpassed individuals as the primary consumers of legal services. Those entities overwhelming turn to large law firms for their legal help. As a result, most work handled by large law firms today involves the transfer of money, not the personal concerns of people. (There are, of course, some exceptions, especially in adoption, immigration, criminal, elder, marital, professional licensing and employment law matters.)
Do you prefer to work on concrete, relatively short-term projects, rather than to analyze complicated issues that can take years to understand fully and resolve?
The democratization of information caused by advances in technology has lessened the public's need to pay lawyers for advice on routine matters. Competition from non-lawyers-escrow companies, independent paralegals, accounting firms, even funeral homes-has further eroded dependence on lawyers for help in matters that require interpretation of the law. Lawyers in big firms now earn most of their fees by analyzing complex fact situations or those without black-and-white legal conclusions. This type of problem solving requires a foundation of in-depth analysis, accumulated through many hours of review and research.
Would you rather gather information and communicate with others orally than use written methods?
Oral communication in large law firm practice is limited to depositions, telephone calls, client conferences, negotiation, mediation and court appearances, rare assignments for new lawyers in all but a few practice areas. Even for experienced lawyers, the need to keep records of conversations and to report to clients, opposing counsel, the court and colleagues make writing a big part of every day.
Therefore, those who'd feel most comfortable in a big firm environment would have answered no to all three questions.
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