Why joining a smaller law firm could lead to big career prospects

The type of law firm you choose to work for is probably the most significant factor in your career path, but many lawyers make this decision without fully considering all the opportunities. Large law firms with recognisable brand names are generally considered the most desirable places to work, but employees there can suffer from very long hours, extremely high stress levels and dehumanising conditions. Here are some of the often-overlooked ways in which working for a smaller firm can really help boost your career:


A better work-life balance


While any job in the legal sector is likely to demand out-of-hours working on occasion, smaller legal firms often have a more respectful approach to their employees’ leisure or holiday time. Constantly working very long hours is one of the most common reasons why lawyers leave the sector, as they simply burn out, so the opportunity to have a better work-life balance can be a really significant benefit.


There also tend to be more opportunities for flexible working with smaller law firms, as they need to compete harder for candidates. Practising at smaller firms also tends to offer better long-term job security and stability.


More interesting work


The client lists of smaller firms tend to be more diverse; as well as the big corporations and financial institutions that larger firms tend to work with, they may also represent charities, public sector organisations, smaller businesses and start-ups, as well as private clients. This range of clients can lead to a greater variety and more interesting work, and gives you opportunities to apply lessons learnt working with one sector to another.


Smaller firms are also more likely to focus on niche areas of practice, such as employment, media or technology law. Becoming a market leader in a specific area like this can help to give the firm a higher profile and can give you experience that you simply might not get at larger firms.


More experience with clients


Working at a small law firm is far more likely to get you hands-on experience of working directly with clients early on in your career. Unlike large firms, where client contact is often reserved for senior employees, you are likely to get greater autonomy and exposure to clients. As all lawyers will have client contact at some point in their careers, getting this experience early on can give your career a huge boost.


Opportunities to build relationships


One of the best benefits of working for a smaller firm is the opportunity to work directly with partners early on. Forming relationships with your partners, getting their advice and learning from them can help you to get there yourself.


As well as working with partners, a smaller firm gives you the opportunity to get to know all of your colleagues across the whole firm. These relationships can be helpful when you need input or advice from another department, and a strong network of contacts will help lay the foundation for a successful career.


A less formal atmosphere


Larger firms naturally tend to be more conservative and less tolerant of any perceived eccentricities. The culture at smaller firms is generally more relaxed, with more cross-team socialising, less formal dress codes and a friendlier, family-like working environment. Individualism is more likely to be championed than suppressed and you’ll be exposed to a more diverse mix of personalities.


Opportunities for rapid growth


Of course, just because a law firm starts off small, doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. Some small firms have big ambitions, and can experience really rapid growth if they are well-managed. This can lead to opportunities to earn more money and advance your career rapidly, which simply might not be possible at a larger firm where you have to wait to fill dead men’s shoes.



Moving to a small firm may not be the right move for every lawyer. If you’d like some personal advice on what type of firm you should be considering, get in touch with us on 0333 370 46 16 or info@zestrecruitmentandconsultancy.co.uk.