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Why Are Law Grads Going to Small Firms? Right, They're Not.

By Edward Tan, JD | Last updated on

Like clockwork, the ABA has released its latest employment placement data. And it looks like for recent New York law school grads, small firms are where it's at.

Almost 20 percent of 2010 New York law graduates were employed in law firms with 50 or less attorneys. Many of those firms had less than 10 lawyers. On the surface, it would seem that recent graduates have heeded the "sagely" advice of their contemporaries.

You've all heard (or are currently experiencing) the work-life balance issues that come with BigLaw. It's not always fun, but it certainly pays the bills. However, this apparent trend toward small firms isn't quite what it seems.

Yes, lawyering at small firms will give you more hands-on experience. You'll get to talk to clients all the time. People are more friendly, less competition, blah, blah. You guys all know the old list of touted benefits of small firm life.

Many outlets are reporting that the ABA's latest employment data signals a change in the legal landscape. While it's true that a good chunk of new grads are taking up work in smaller offices, the reality is that it's simply more of the same.

Take the New York figure. While one in five grads from the whole state of New York are ending up in small law firms. Between 50-60 percent of grads from top-tier schools like Cornell Law School, NYU, and Columbia Law School are working in BigLaw.

When you look at the state as a whole, nearly 20 percent of New York law grads end up in firms with more than 501 attorneys.

All this new ABA employment data shows is the status quo.

Many students from Top 14 schools continue to rake it in at BigLaw. While everyone else continues to jockey for whatever's left. New law school grads aren't flocking to small firm life. They're just trying to get jobs.

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