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How to make the switch from small firm to powerhouse firm.

By Edward Honnold

Q: I am about to make the switch from a medium sized firm (one copy machine, no support staff, cheap, cheap, cheap) to one of the country's powerhouse firms. Can you give me some advice as to what differences I can expect?

A: You can expect many differences. First, as you are certainly aware, the pay will probably be higher at the powerhouse firm. But also the billable hour expectations may be correspondingly higher, either officially or unofficially. Be prepared to work more weekend and late evening hours. You may find the path to partnership somewhat longer and more rigorous at the powerhouse firm, and additional categories of senior lawyers may exist in order to take into account different levels of profitability. You may find that larger teams of lawyers are assembled to represent the major clients in complex legal matters handled by the powerhouse firm; as a result, it may take longer for you to have meaningful client contact and to exercise significant responsibility on a case. On the bright side, you may find the support staff to be more professional in the powerhouse firm, and the perks at work may be superior (for example, more free food and better office technology). You will discover over time whether the various trade-offs involved make the change to the powerhouse firm worthwhile. Good luck!

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