Smaller Firms are Best Placed to Nurture Legal Talent

10 January 2019
Author: Polly Lloyd

Law firms look set to expand their legal teams in the first half of 2019, with a particular focus on their disputes practices. Yet new research, recently shared in the Global Legal Post, suggests that there is a lack of skilled lawyers, legal secretaries and paralegals available in the market to meet this expanding demand. The research notes that large international firms are likely to struggle most with the increasing trend for leading individuals at all levels to move to smaller, often specialist, firms.

The draws of small firms for talented lawyers and business services employees include opportunities for greater work-life balance, diversity and flexible working. Smaller firms can also provide a stronger sense of community, creating an environment that lends itself to greater empathy and acceptance of individual circumstances and challenges. This friendlier and more open culture can also result in greater diversity across the workforce.

For trainees, associates and paralegals there are further benefits to choosing smaller firms. It is likely that they will perform more substantive legal tasks than those at their larger counterparts. This can result in a faster-paced learning environment. Associates may also have greater levels of client contact; at large law firms this is often the reserve of more senior lawyers.

Smaller outfits can also more easily promote accelerated career progression, as there are fewer layers of management and bureaucracy. It can also be easier to demonstrate worth and gain recognition; lawyers can more easily build an individual practice and move towards partnership. With all this in mind, it is unsurprising that many talented junior lawyers are opting to join smaller firms.

For partners there is the opportunity for increased influence over firm management, strategy and development. There is more tolerance and understanding of individual ways of working, and greater scope in the development of practices, in terms of direction, variation and growth, due to both the flexibility and the lack of client conflicts found at smaller firms.


Although this new research does not herald a step change in today’s global legal market, it indicates that many of those working in private practice are rightly thinking beyond firm size, profile and global footprint when choosing where to work.

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