Small firms care about many of the same things that any size legal employer cares about: they want to hire qualified individuals who will do the job well and enjoy their work enough to contribute to the success of the business. Smaller firms, however, might emphasize different skills and qualities in making their hiring decisions.
For example, grades matter less to smaller firms than evidence of substantive skills. A small civil litigation firm will be more inclined to overlook the “C+” you received in Criminal Law and value the “A” you garnered in Legal Research & Analysis.
Clinical experience will often be viewed favorably, since it indicates an ability to handle a case from client counseling to research and resolution of the issue. Prior legal experience, such as summer jobs and part-time work during the school year, will likely be valued, because it demonstrates practical lawyering skills and an understanding of the business of law.
Small firms value hard workers, so showcase evidence of your work ethic. Consider how you might frame your work experience in terms that convey that you are a hard worker. Perhaps, for example, some of your jobs during law school do not seem relevant, but collectively they demonstrate how you worked your way through law school; let employers know about that accomplishment, particularly if you do not have much other work experience to showcase.
Once you have some post-graduate experience, moving to a smaller firm becomes a bit easier since you bring with you some real-world skills and, perhaps, some clients. Since smaller firms are less able to spend time training new attorneys, having some experience will be viewed favorably by employers.
If you are looking for small firm opportunities after working for several years, you should consider making direct contact, using a service like BCG Attorney Search, do work with many small firms, however.
See the following articles for more information:
- Associate from a Small Law Firm Wants to Make a Lateral Move as Partner
- To Boutique or Not to Boutique
- Real Challenges of Working in a Large Law Firm