Which type of law firm is for you?


When charting the next step in your legal career, the inevitable dilemma any professional would face is the choice between stepping towards a brand name or boutique legal firm. Brand name legal firms have all the signs for success. They appear to have a clear career path, strong reputation, good networks and high salaries. Smaller legal firms comparatively have less visibility in the industry, however, they appear to be more flexible with work arrangements. We take an in-depth look at their differences.

Why brand name firms look good

The brand name legal firms present promising advantages to any young legal professional. These organisations often boast high salaries, prestige and have valuable networks. Being part of a globally recognised firm typically would endow a legal professional with a wealth of varying experiences, both internationally and within the organisation. These large companies have the resources to provide strong training programmes with diverse client bases.

Many young legal professionals are more inclined towards the nature of work and high-profile clientele in the big law firms which allows them to establish working relationships and professional networks. This in turn will raise their profiles as up-and-coming lawyers and later add value to their resumes as potential employers often place strong emphasis on candidates who have practiced in a reputable law firm. In addition, lawyers also benefit from the lucrative remuneration package, in particular bonuses, which can range between six to eight months.

There are drawbacks to working for brand name legal firms as well. Such companies are known for their unforgiving work schedules with little emphasis on work-life balance. It is a very competitive environment with high expectations, irregular hours and sometimes mundane tasks. Due to the fact that most brand name firms are specialists in nature and employ a large workforce, one may not be able to experience a variety of tasks. In terms of career progression, legal professionals need to bear in mind that there is a long track to attaining partnership.

There is greater breathing room in boutique law firms which is evident in not just work arrangements but also in a range of professional duties. 

Why boutique firms could work

The boutique or lesser-known legal firms are often slighted for a variety of reasons. Law professionals look at these less-established firms as a step down in terms of career progression. Legal professionals often have an unfavourable view of the modest salaries, limited resources and lesser support at these organisations. Typically, because boutique legal firms do not attract the well-credentialed employees like the international brand names, the networks available are smaller as well.

However, small legal firms offer legal professionals the one benefit which is highly popular –flexibility. There is greater breathing room in boutique law firms which is evident in not just work arrangements but also in a range of professional duties. Law professionals will be able to experience a variety of different tasks. There is also significant client contact and hence increased visibility for professionals. Lawyers can also look towards more attentive mentorship and guidance from the partners, this is due to the size of boutique law firms which are easier to manage as compared to branded law firms. In addition, the track to attaining partnership is relatively shorter as opposed to firms with a strong brand name, as they would need to go through fewer levels before being made partner.

Knowing yourself

Think about what you want ultimately in your law profession and how to get there. Above all, beyond the comparison of pros and cons between the two sizes of legal firms, individuals must know the direction in which they hope to steer their career towards. They need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and to see career progression in a long term perspective, not simply for tangible benefits like salary and networks. This will help them to make the best move in their career, not one that provides temporary benefits but one that will holistically improve their career.

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