The Benefits of Working in a Large Law Firm

These firms offer great salaries and significant resources

Less than a quarter of all attorneys in private practice are employed by large law firms—those with over 20 lawyers, according to the American Bar Association. These law firms are sometimes known as mega-firms or "Big Law," and there may be a good reason why so few lawyers get to join their ranks. Application to these firms is highly competitive. 

Employment in a large law firm has unique benefits that set it apart from other practice environments, from areas of salaries to advancement potential. But there are challenges as well. 

High Salaries

Large law firms rank among the highest paid practice environments for legal professionals. Employees are often granted more generous compensation packages than those working in the government, judiciary, small firm, non-profit, or public interest sectors. Unpaid interns are almost unheard of, unlike in smaller firms. 

These firms can afford to pay well because they typically attract major, moneyed clients. 

Well-Credentialed Colleagues

Because many large law firms are willing to pay top dollar, they can recruit the most well-qualified lawyers, paralegals, and staff. Mega-firms often recruit only the top students from the most prestigious law schools. Paralegals in large law firms generally have bachelor’s degrees as well as experience in their legal specialty.

Sophisticated, Challenging Work

Much of the high-end, complex litigation and transactional legal work goes to large law firms because they boast high-caliber talent and a broad range of resources. And high-end, complex legal work in a broad range of practice areas provides an intellectually challenging environment for law firm attorneys and paralegals.

These are firms that attract high profile class action suits that require strong, large staffs to manage and try in court. Of course, the downside to this can be very long workdays and virtually nonexistent days off. 

Large, Diverse Client Bases

The clients of large law firms tend to be more plentiful and diverse than those of smaller firms. A large, diversified client base makes it less likely that the firm will encounter financial difficulty if a client takes its business elsewhere.

Many of the mega-firms have multi-jurisdictional practices and multiple locations across the globe, allowing lawyers and paralegals to serve international clients.

Extensive Firm Resources

Large law firms have more on-site resources than smaller firms. Large firm resources range from full-service copy centers and extensive law libraries to in-house gyms and full-service cafeterias.

A large law firm has extensive administrative and support staff at its disposal as well. Staff can include legal administrators, legal secretaries, paralegals, marketing specialists, IT personnel, file clerks, librarians, court filers, and messengers.

Luxurious Offices in Prime Locations

Large law firm offices tend to offer more plush and spacious surroundings than small firms, public interest firms, and the government. Large law firm offices are generally located in prime areas of town, close to the courthouse, with fine dining and other amenities nearby to woo clients and recruits. 

Of course, luxurious offices usually require a certain dress code, even on weekends and holidays. 

Well-Developed Training Programs

Large law firms often establish well-defined training and mentoring programs for associates, paralegals, and other law firm professionals. Many also have elaborate summer associate programs and in-house educational programs that provide continued growth and learning opportunities for employees.

Many large law firms create diversity initiatives to promote the success of women and minority attorneys and to encourage equal opportunity.

Significant Advancement Opportunities

Many large law firms are based on complex organizational hierarchies, creating more opportunities for promotion. For example, the career path of a lawyer in a large firm might progress from entry-level/junior associate to mid-level associate, to senior associate, to non-equity partner, then to equity partner, and finally to senior partner.

Pro Bono Initiatives

Large law firms frequently establish pro bono and public service programs that encourage lawyers and paralegals to commit a certain number of hours to helping the community and under-served populations, such as children and the elderly. This can be helpful because many bar associations require ongoing pro bono participation for membership. 

Don't Overlook Name Recognition

Working for a top-name law firm that's well-recognized and highly regarded in the legal community affords a certain level of status and prestige. If you ever do decide to move on, it will look very good on your resume.