Summary: Here are 12 observations that you and anyone else who desires to work in a BigLaw firm should consider before actually applying to that firm.
- It’s quite an achievement to land a top law firm job as an associate just out of law school.
- The question is now that you’ve landed that coveted job, are you ready for the day-to-day grind that comes with the responsibility of being a BigLaw lawyer?
- To that end, here are 12 aspects of BigLaw employment that, at the very least, you can review with yourself if you plan to leave or continue with law.
Law can be a difficult and demanding profession. Law can be especially difficult and demanding within the offices of BigLaw firms.
The work stresses are many, all of them coupled with long hours and weekend work.
- There are and always will be demanding clients.
- There will never be enough hours in the day to take care of every issue.
- And if you plan to take care of every issue, you will be heading toward burnout before you even know it.
Of course the burnout is the worst. Do that and your productivity will suffer. And once your productivity suffers, you risk yourself getting fired from your prestigious law firm job.
To that end, Above The Law
recently listed the 12 things any prospective lawyer should know before
they envision themselves working in a BigLaw firm.
- The hours are worse than I expected.
No explanation needed here. Associates are often worked the hardest of any of the legal staff in a BigLaw firm. Late nights and weekends are part of the non-negotiable deals when it comes to new associates and BigLaw.
- The culture is colder/harsher than I expected.
Yes, the culture is colder and harsher than a lot of associates anticipate. But then BigLaw is a business that caters to clients who expect excellence. This can make for an atmosphere in which there’s precious little time for praise and/or coddling.
- It is impossible to maintain personal relationships and be a good associate at the same time.
A BigLaw firm is the last place where you’d want to meet a significant other, much less a friend. There’s no time for it, and who knows if your newly found friend will be working at the same firm as you two months from now.
- Benefits are not as generous as at peer firms.
This really depends upon the firm and what they offer. At any rate, if you’re going to work insane hours under tons of pressure, you may as well get the best benefits that suit you dependent upon the law firms to which you applied.
- They don’t have the practice area/specialization I really wanted.
This can be an issue but realistically, it should not be blamed on the law firm. After all, if the firm does not have the practice area/specialization you want, why did you decide to work there in the first place?
- The opportunities to get real training are limited.
A work situation in which you get little to no training may have to do with the current workflow within the law firm. Give it some time and see whether new cases or a slowdown in work might provide you time to get trained on new projects.
- There isn’t enough work at the firm to meet hour requirements/bonuses.
BigLaw firms are occasionally known to hire more associates than they need. But if you feel there isn’t enough work for you, others, particularly partners will notice. If you don’t have enough work within your current firm, your two options are to quit and seek out a legal job within a firm that has more work than where you currently are, or wait to be fired from your current firm for not having enough work.
- Partners/senior associates here don’t respect personal time.
Personal time is nonexistent in the world of a BigLaw associate. Partners from the firm will call you at all hours of the night and weekend, and you most likely will not be asked, but told to go into work when no one else is there. Suffice to say this is the grunt work young associates are required to put in as they rise among the ranks of associates onward to partner.
- The firm is stingier than I anticipated (in terms of reimbursements, compensation, crediting hours, etc.)
Again, this can be a behavior associated with the firm and not the entire league of BigLaw firms. Many BigLaw firms have reputations to uphold, which makes actions like being stingy in regards to reimbursements and compensation a scandal no one within the firm wants or needs.
- The majority of the work I'm doing is repetitive and unengaging.
Welcome to the world of a BigLaw associate. At first, yes, the work will be repetitive and unengaging, but as time goes on and you gain more knowledge, you will most likely take a larger role in future cases.
- Remote working is not widely accepted.
While BigLaw firms tend not to evolve as quickly as smaller firms, sooner or later they will come around to using new forms of technology to conduct business, which should include telecommuting. You simply have to be patient with them.
- Nothing, everything is awesome.
This is good to know. It seems as if you’ve adjusted well as a newly arrived associate into a BigLaw firm. You can readily take the workload and long hours. This makes you a rarity in not just law, but with work in general.
Understandably, there can be a lot to complain about regarding the inner workings and the work itself that goes on in BigLaw firms, particularly for associates. This, however, depends greatly upon the law firm’s culture and the type of individual you are as a lawyer.
Patience and hard work pay enormous dividends to new associates within BigLaw firms. If you have these two qualities, there’s no question a BigLaw firm can be an entity in which you can easily practice law.
However, if any of the 12 things above that you wish you had known before you started working in a BigLaw firm
unsettles you, maybe it’s time for a change, or at least time to change law firms.
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