While last year’s BigLaw layoffs may have resulted in some BigPartner profits, that’s little comfort to the thousands of unemployed associates and law students poised to enter the job market. As pundits and publishers pore over the latest law firm financials, there’s much speculation about what these figures portend for 2010. Whatever happens this year, it’s hard to imagine that there’s going to be a place at the BigLaw table for all those hungry lawyers.
One alternative is to go small. According to an article in this week’s L.A. Times, “LittleLaw” has become “the largest and fastest-growing sector of the legal community.” In fact, law firms with more than 100 lawyers represent only a tiny fraction of all law practices. Most law firms employ fewer than 20 attorneys, and most attorneys in private practice work at small firms or as solo practitioners.
There are a number of advantages to smaller firms, in addition to their relative abundance. There may be more job security. As my colleague Naomi Newman recently observed with respect to the consulting industry, small and midsized businesses tend to be more nimble and “better able to project and set the pace for future growth.” The L.A. Times similarly notes that “solo and small boutique law practitioners across the country” have been “better able to adapt to a shifting legal landscape than Big Law firms that had to shed more than 4,600 lawyers nationwide last year.” In addition to flexibility, smaller practices often offer better work-life balance and growth opportunities, as partnership becomes an increasingly elusive goal at large law firms.
- posted by vera
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