Lawyers can work for a law firm and in this way handle different types of work for companies and individuals who are clients of their firm. They can also work for a company, in a legal department in the case of large businesses, or as the sole legal expert for a small business. They can also work for themselves by starting up their own firm. There is something to be learned from each experience, so it’s best to have an idea of what lies ahead before choosing one’s organization; work environments and job tasks can vary a lot.
LAW FIRMS: LAWYERS FIRST AND FOREMOST
Working for a law firm is the most usual type of work for a lawyer, and is also the first thing one thinks of. If you want to get legal experience, you like diversity and meeting new people, then this type of organization is for you.
Working for a law firm, lawyers do not just handle legal issues. They go to court to defend their clients, as opposed to most corporate lawyers who work in house.
Law firm attorneys work on many files and deal with different clients. Even in a specialized firm, no one case is the same as another. There are always new problems to solve and new cases to shed light on.
Firms are excellent springboards for new lawyers, because they allow lawyers to hone their skills and acquire expertise in various domains.
CORPORATE LAWYERS: LAWYERS IN BUSINESS
Currently, between 10 and 20% of lawyers work for a company. Such lawyers either handle all the company’s legal issues by themselves, or work in a full legal department, depending on the size of the organization. It is a major asset to have an in-house lawyer, even for a smaller company.
The law will not be your only concern when you work for a company. Business issues are also part of the game. You will work closely with project managers, salespeople, engineers, managers, etc.
You will work for the same cause: your company’s. To do this, you will have to specialize in your company’s line of business and its specific problems. You will become a true legal expert in matters dealing with your branch of endeavour.
Relations are generally more personal than working for a law firm. Since you see the same people every day, you can develop more sustainable professional relationships.
In a small company, you will have more independence as the only arbiter on legal issues in the company. You will often work without a supervisor, and will perhaps be called on to advise management. Your tasks may be quite varied, as they will touch on all of a business’s legal problems.
GOING OUT ON YOUR OWN: A TEMPTING ADVENTURE
By going out on your own, you become truly independent, with the freedom to choose the type of business you want to take care of. You will have to get your name out there and drum up business, a generally arduous step. This is why people often start their own firm only after they have gained a fair amount of professional experience.
Independent lawyers also have to handle all of the management of their business: accounting, recruiting, communications, marketing and administration. . . Entrepreneurship should therefore appeal to you, along with varied responsibilities. In addition, independents are paid in accordance with the services they offer, so you need to have a head for business and a certain taste for risk.
Small business, legal department, law firm or independent: whichever you choose, know that you can always change paths later on in your career. Nothing is carved in stone. While you may sometimes have to be patient and ready to make sacrifices, changing jobs or training for a new area are always a possibility.