The past few years have helped (I think) reshape future lawyers’ perceptions of the legal profession and the job market. For one, there are plenty of other jobs besides working at a big firm. Two, even if you can get a job at a big firm, is it the right fit for you?
What is your long-term goal?
Do you know that you want to have your own solo practice someday? Do you want to work with big corporate clients? Are you more comfortable in a firm environment?
If your long-term goal is to start your own practice, there are a couple of trains of thought. One, you should work with another solo attorney to get a better feel for what it is really like. Two, go work at a big firm, make lots of connections, and set yourself up for future solo success.
I am not sure either path is wrong, but never forget to stay focused on your long-term goal.
What are your priorities?
Do you want to get in a courtroom within your first year? Do you prefer to handle things on your own, or under someone else’s guidance? Is money more important than experience?
Sure, I am generalizing a bit. For the most part, however, the bigger the firm, the farther away you are from being in a courtroom (or at least speaking in a courtroom). At the same time, when you do get the chance to talk, you will be extremely well prepared. If you are working in a small firm, or working with one other attorney, you are much more likely to get thrown into the fire quickly.
Big firms will almost always pay you more money, but many young associates complain about the lack of interesting work (doc review does not count). On the flip side, smaller firms will pay less, but you will be expected to handle more advanced things quickly.
Obviously, your experience will vary considerably, depending on the firm. But before you take the plunge, be sure to find out what you are (or are not) getting yourself into.