At the Washburn University School of Law, students gain valuable education in the study of law, then move on to gain experience in the Washburn Law Clinic, a licensed firm run by law professors, where they practice law in the real world. Although this experience is valuable and can be used in many different careers regarding law, some students don’t know exactly what to do when graduating the program. The most prominent question when leaving law school is “Where do I go now?”
Some students believe joining an established firm is a good idea, but that choice doesn’t suit everyone. The perks of joining a firm are plentiful, but so are the downsides. Some lawyers have successful careers following firms and some feel it would be easier to become a county attorney. These are the difference between a big firm, and an independent lawyer from R. Johnson Legal Recruiting.
The perks of joining a firm, especially a large one, are plentiful. Lawyers can specialize more, meaning they don’t have to be as well-rounded as they would if they were a county attorney, who may have to be prepared to practice in a more diverse field. Those working in larger firms can find joy in the fact that they can specialize more, working with the same general case, knowing what to do since most cases would be similar regarding details. This could make for easier cases because of the similarity, but it may also present more challenging cases. When clients seek lawyers for cases that are odd or uncommon, they generally look toward larger firms.
Larger firms can also provide mentors to new lawyers and can provide the best continuing education because of their large amounts of resources and availability. Some firms provide a mentor when an associate selects a specialization. Joining a firm is a good idea for those not confident in their abilities as a lawyer.
Available positions at a firm may be things such as a summer clerk, which is like an intern. Positions such as that can make from $20,000 to $40,000 in a single summer. Junior associates can often make six figure salaries while salaries for senior associates are often upwards of $200,000 to $300,000 according to Forbes.com.
The downside of a large firm is losing out on the major advantages of working independently, first of all being the hours in the work week. Working in a firm means most lawyers can forget about the terms “weekend” and “holiday,” so those looking into a firm should choose wisely. Larger firms may have an employee work 10-12 hour shifts six or seven days a week. Working independently gives one much more flexible hours.
Advantages of a small firm or independently working also allows one to have more choice in the cases he or she works. Larger firms have senior members who have been working at the firm for a very long time, and they get first choice on cases, so new lawyers may be stuck with minor cases.
Independently working or a small firm can also provide you with a better sense of involvement. You may know all co-workers and become better acquainted with those in the community.
The market for a firm has changed drastically in the past 15 years. The graduating class of 2000, when looking at law students across the country, had nearly 60 percent of graduates working in a firm after 3 years. Now, as of 2010, only 40 percent of graduates find jobs in a firm according to a study done by the Washington Post. The competition is tough, but many law students have found that independent jobs are easier to find. Some even find jobs that aren’t the usual job for a law student, namely practicing, but rather advising. Today, many different jobs exist for law students. You must go find all available options and figure out which best suits you.
Deciding whether you want to work for a small firm, large firm or independently is a tough choice, but you must choose the one that best suits you. If you like a challenge and prefer to work alone, look into smaller firms or working independently. If you would like more practice before diving into the challenging cases, a larger firm may be for you.