BigLaw often means big pay, big benefits and a big workload, but the weighty cachet of a large law firm career is not for everyone, and for those thinking of exiting, timing is key.
A midcareer move to a boutique, midsize law firm or away from private practice altogether can have major long-term consequences, both positive and negative, on lawyers' long-term aspirations. There are numerous ways to make the move too fast, too slow or for the wrong reasons.
Legal recruiters say those considering a move away from BigLaw should first determine what their prospects are at their current firms, what their goals are for the future, what stages of their careers they're about to enter, and how marketable their skills are elsewhere.
If associates find themselves a few years into their BigLaw careers and they still aren't being handed substantive legal work and significant responsibility over client matters, they may be facing the first red flags that a transition somewhere new could benefit them, according to Michelle Fivel, a partner in the associate practice group at legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa LLC.
If their goal is to one day be law firm partners, they'll need a good deal of client contact and hands-on experience within the first five years of practicing law to get there, she explained. And if that's not something they're getting at their current law firms, it could mean they should look elsewhere, quite possibly at smaller firms.