“Legal careers are fast-paced, high paying and fulfilling.” This sounds familiar, right? How much do you agree with this depends on what kind of life experiences you have had. On weighing all the factors in, you might realize that all these adjectives don’t co-exist when trying to explain the plusses of the legal careers. In other words, high-paying does not always mean fulfilling, and fast-paced does not mean fulfilling either. So, why is there this difference, as opposed to the starry dreams of legal careers we have seen in the past?
It all boils down to where you work. On joining law school, one realizes that the best kind of job opportunity one can get as an attorney is one at the top law firm, which is based out of a fancy city. However, it is time we burst that bubble of yours and give some reality check. If you want to know what is it that is so bothersome about large firms, read on and we’ll tell you.
Big does not mean ‘Great’
A lot of my learned friends have graduated from top Law schools and always dreamed of a prestigious firm’s name associated with them on their resume. Some of them worked hard, interned well and managed to find a small role in a workplace so large, that they had an existential crisis! My friend worked as part of the team of 750-odd associates.
Imagine the kind of competition that goes on around there! It could possibly be worse than Law School. It is intimidating to know that you have 749 other people working under the same roof, on the same kind of tasks and you do not have an opportunity to make your mark. Here is where the existential crisis comes from.
There is no such thing as uniqueness because you all are practically consumed in the same task profile and there is nothing that makes you more valuable than them.
Where’s the Fullness?
Many associates working with big firms often complain about how they do not see the other side of their firm. This is not about the size of their facilities, but about the functions. A big firm will hire an employee for a specific task profile and expect them to stick to the same. They have no opportunity to witness a newer function, or even remotely be involved in something else apart from their profile.
This is because there is one person assigned to do each specific task in a law firm the size of your neighborhood. More often than not, do they get the chance to make a lateral shift. This leads to limited experience and less exploration opportunity within the firm.
Imagine making it into such a big firm, but being confined to just one small cell of operation. Almost feels like a prison, right? This is the stark reality which is not often revealed to the new-comers in the industry. So, if you’re somebody in a big law firm who thought of themselves as an expert of a particular domain, big congratulations to you because then you never step out of this marsh of functional capacity.
You would often miss out on a lot of learning opportunities that you may have experienced in a cross-functional role. But, there are no cross-functional roles in a big law firm!
Feel the stress building up
If you’re into this profession, you understand by now that lawyers are paid to be stress-relieving agents. People go through various problems in their life, that they wish to get solved through their lawyers. As a result, a lawyer is always stressed about the fact that their client may go to prison, or lose that deal, or not get enough money as damages, if they do not defend them well.
This is worse if an individual has the elusive hard-luck of being a partner at a large law firm. In one of the interrogations, partners at these top law firms complained of insomnia, depression, and anxiety. This is very common in firms that are so big because the pay-checks are also bigger. More money just means more things at stake.
If your client knows your firm is big and prestigious, they also know you will go to any extent to bail them out of trouble, while maintaining the reputation of their firm. This extent often takes a toll on the mental health of the lawyer as they are always plagued with the problems of others, forget their own!
It is just a transfer of problems that clients do to their attorneys so that they do not have to worry about their problem on their own. A big law firm experiences a storm of such cases that have lots of money and reputation at stake and they cannot help but almost always think about them.
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night because you dreamt that you lost that important case and your client is going to jail. On this note, words to ponder upon are from the Batman Series, which say: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Minimal chances of escalation
If you thought that not being able to make a lateral shift was a problem, think again. There are issues that are worse than that and you may not even realize that you spent a decade of your life proving your worth in the same role. While competition is common everywhere, you need to be the top 1% in a large-sized law firm to bag a promotion or a raise.
Moving up the ladder is easier at a smaller law firm because you’re one of the few people working there and your work receives recognition. However, if you’re somebody who’s one of those 750 associates, imagine the skim chances you have to make it to the position of a Partner in that firm. In the face of reality, this is typically the stiffest competition you have faced.
While you thought as a child that peer pressure is the worst in high school, you have another chance to re-think of that conclusion. Making your mark and carving out your niche is never a cakewalk at a big law firm because with everyone else doing practically the same thing, imagine how alien and unique you can make your work, where there are no chances of even making a lateral shift.
Vertical shifts aren’t optional and they come with years of experience, hard work and proving your mettle. When there is little or no scope of you standing out of the crowd, imagine the disappointment that’s due.
Swanky offices, hotshot clients, seemingly prestigious name, poshest localities and one of the highest salary brackets are definitely lure-worthy. But, haven’t we all been raised with hearing stories that anything that looks good on the outside, may actually be our bait and drowns us into a deeper dive of greed?
Those stories did have a meaning and now have a practical example in the form of these large firms that are great to hear of, ONLY until you haven’t reached to the inside and have become an insider. The real picture of the stress, the limited professional growth opportunities are not artificial but stark pictures of the externally opulent world of the big game. While it is a personal choice, most of the people who are starting out always decide to start big.
Unfortunately, starting big always doesn’t have the best mental and professional impacts for all. If you know working in a pressure-cooker environment is for you, definitely go ahead and take your chance at that law firm you always dreamt of. Making moolah isn’t always equivalent to a good life. You may find no work-life balance, even if you get paid in truckloads. The realization comes at its own pace in people’s lives but we found it best to show you a true picture through this article.