15 Challenges to Working in a Large Law Firm
Life in a large law firm may mean higher salaries and challenging work but it is not without its disadvantages. Below are fifteen challenges to working in a large law firm.
Long hours are the norm in most large law firms. 50 to 80 work weeks are not uncommon among lawyers and paralegals.
High Billing Quotas
Large law firms are notorious for imposing high billable hour quotas. Typical quotas range from 2,000 to 2,200 hours a year which equates to around 42 hours of billed time a week. Since administrative tasks (such as billing time) and non-billable tasks (such as marketing) are inevitable, billing 42 hours means working 60 or more hours a week.
Long Partnership Track
The road to partnership in a large law firm may be longer than that of small firms, with many tiers and stricter requirements for advancement.
Weekend work and late nights are not uncommon for those employed in a large law firm where the motto is "work until the task is done". High-end work such as M&A (mergers and acquisitions), commercial real estate and complex civil litigation lends itself to long workdays and irregular hours.
New associates in large law firms may operate with little autonomy and complete routine, mundane tasks such as document review, cite-checking, and multi-jurisdictional research, leaving the juicier assignments for more experienced attorneys. Paralegals might be stuck with low-end work so that more complex tasks can be billed by attorneys at a higher rate.
Strict Academic and Experiential Requirements
Large law firms may be harder to break into for those lacking experience or top academic credentials. Lawyers in the top firms generally have superior academic credentials and first-tier law school training. Paralegals in large law firms often have a four-year degree, a paralegal certificate and several years of experience in their specialty.
Large Law Firm Bureaucracy
Large law firms often have many tiers of management as well as complex, well-established procedures and formal divisions of responsibility. Employees may have little input into firm processes and management and little control over their work or their economic and professional futures.