Above The Law Goes Small Law

As more and more small groups of lawyers break away from BigLaw, the demand for information on solo/small law firm practicing, management, and marketing is growing quickly. And that doesn’t even account for the thousands of law job searchers who have been unable to find employment after graduation. Which has led Above the Law, A Legal Tabloid – News, Gossip, and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession, to announce its move to cover small law firm topics:

In today’s legal world, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Clients are increasingly turning to small law firms, drawn by the personalized attention and reasonable fees that these firms can offer. Additionally, many partners are leaving large law firms to start their own boutiques, attracted by the flexibility and freedom offered by smaller, nimbler platforms. In light of small firms’ increased prominence, Above the Law (“ATL”) — the biggest site for original legal news, reaching 750,000 unique visitors per month — is pleased to announce the launch of two new columns aimed at the small-firm world.

“Small Firms, Big Lawyers,” will be written by Jay Shepherd (@jayshep). “Size Matters” will be authored anonymously by a young lawyer at a small firm in Chicago, who will be writing using the pseudonym “Valerie Katz.”

Here’s a teaser from one of Jay’s recent articles:

I’ve been working in small law firms my whole career — nearly 17 years. I’d like to tell you that I chose this path for carefully considered and noble reasons, but I can’t. In truth, I ended up on the small-firm path for one simple reason:

A blonde.

Is solo-small law better than BigLaw? I think Jay has an accurate perspective:

It’s not about intelligence or work ethic. It’s about personality type. White shoes just don’t fit me.

As for Valerie Katz, she’s scheduled to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so look for her first article tomorrow.

Above The Law has developed a strong reputation and is widely recognized as the most read legal blog and won the 2010 ABA Blawg 100 award in the news category.

For all you small law readers/bloggers out there, I encourage you to add these two columns to your feed readers. I also look forward to seeing Lawyerist team members’ takes on small law topics raised at Above The Law.

My Small Law Two Cents

A long time ago (2006), when I was faced with the small law/big law decision, the factors that weighed most on my mind were learning-style, lifestyle, and litigation experience. To me, small law offered a more “hands-on” approach to learning.

One of the major complaints of my law school colleagues that went the big law route was, and continues to be, their limited exposure to several aspects of the litigation process. While there are undoubtedly many situations in which recent grads get excellent experiences, by and large, learning in the big law atmosphere is a much more measured process.

One misconception that I hear a lot, that wasn’t my experience at all, is that small law offers better work-life balance. In my humble opinion, being successful at anything requires borderline obsession. Whether that’s healthy, narrow-minded, or simply untrue, that has been my experience and the experience of many young lawyers with whom I spoken. Regardless of the size of the law, being a successful attorney takes a lot of work.

However, it has also been my experience that small law offers more flexibility in terms of day-to-day schedule. While the numbers of hours necessary to be successful may not be less, the when and where you are able to execute those hours is more flexible in the small law environment.

Finally, I wanted tangible working trial lawyer experience immediately. It became quickly apparent that the opportunities for which I was looking weren’t as readily available in my big law prospects. In my first two years in small law, I was able to work 4 trials, argue too many motions, take to many depositions, participate in case evaluations and facilitations, and write at least two appellate briefs that I can recall of the top of my head.

Like other small businesses, small law firms are often more flexible, more efficient, and adapt to change at a faster pace than their big counterparts.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Kevin H. says:

    I agree that nobody has the exclusive or even an inside track on work-life balance. It’s a challenge no matter where you find yourself. It seems to me, however, that one of the elements of finding some form of happiness and balance requires a minimum of choice in the tasks and cases one is expected to handle professionally. I’ve never worked in a big law firm, so I can’t comment directly, but it seems logical to me that the smaller the firm, the more one has some say relative to the type of work one does. Maybe I’m wrong on that. Maybe associates in large firms can say “no” to tasks, cases, or clients they don’t want to work with.

    Being able to say “no” to cases and clients I don’t want is one of the biggest perks of working for myself. It’s worth whatever “security” I might find working in a big firm. But if working in a big firm makes you happy, go for it or stay with it. To each their own.

    As for abovethelaw.com getting interested in small firms… heck, we have at least as much silly stuff to lampoon and there are a lot more of us to target.

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