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5 Commonplace Career Mistakes for Lawyers in Big Firms

October 12 2016 - It is hard enough to get a job in a big firm, and keeping it is a whole different ball game. It takes years of dedication and sacrifice for a prospective lawyer to clear law school and get into a large firm. Once you're in, though, things are as good as they'll ever be. You will be earning a lot of money, working the most challenging and high-profile cases for some of the biggest names in the business. That said, there is a tremendous amount of stress you have to tackle on a daily basis, and the expectations and responsibilities will be at an all-time high. Studies reveal that most attorneys who stay at big firms experience a burnout after 10 years, while those who start at or move to smaller firms tend to keep practicing for longer than that. Either way, there are many ways your legal career can go downhill.

Mistake #1: Losing Your Head

A lot of people get intimidated or psyched out at big firms, and are forced to leave. It is a tough job, and only those who stick it out until the end are the ones who find success. As a young attorney, it is quite likely that you have no clue what you're doing. The learning curve is steep, and you're bound to make mistakes along the way. Especially at the big firms, you are likely to be critiqued or condescended at by junior partners, but you must understand it is all part of the process. Being the best at what you do all your life, only to be a cog in a machine can be a brutal hit to take, but it is also a valuable lesson. It often takes years for an associate to become an asset, so you've got to keep your head down, move past the bad reviews and work diligently.

Mistake #2: Less Billing Hours

As a lawyer at a big firm, you're expected to bill upwards of 2,000 hours. Staying busy is both profitable as well as important; as it means that you're trusted with work and can take on tough assignments. Your billable hours are what earn the firm money, and are the fundamental metric on which you shall be judged. It shows your superiors as well as future employers exactly how dedicated you are, and how profitable you can be. Every assignment is a gift and should be treated with utmost diligence. Your work ethic is what makes you stand out. If you're liked by clients, you're bound to get more work too.

Mistake #3: Working Contract Law

Contract law is extremely demeaning in the long run. You're essentially doing the duties of a full-fledged attorney for a fraction of the price. It is not a steady guarantee of work and carries neither the perks nor the protections or prestige of a full-time job. Contract lawyers are generally also considered to be un-hirable due to lack of proficiency by any respectable personal injury law firm Boston or any other big firm, which may or may not be true. Working on a contract to analyze documents is also a gigantic waste of your time and the years of training you've gathered at the law school.

Mistake #4: Dishonesty

An attorney is nothing if not trustworthy. Cheating, swindling, even corporate espionage are very real things that you will be exposed to in your early years in a big law firm, but you have to have the gumption to do away with them rather than to destroy your career completely, and risk being fired, blacklisted, or worse, convicted.

Mistake #5: Bad-Mouthing

Whether or not you respect and like your superiors in the firm, they are still your superiors and determine your entire career while at the firm. You've got to keep your opinions to yourself, because if any case of abuse or bad-mouthing is discovered online or travels through the grapevine to your superiors, you will either be terminated, or they will spend a considerable portion of their time making your life hell.


A job at a law firm is challenging and rewarding, all at once. There are too many ways in which you can wander off the path and lose your way in your legal career, which is why it is important to remember that as long as you keep a cool head and work your way through each case, you should have a great time, and climb your way to the top soon enough. This is the case with most firms and most careers. Don't be silly, and don't give up if the going gets tough. It is the mark of a good professional.

Author Bio:

Jeb Collins is an experienced attorney at a prestigious personal injury law firm Boston. He has been working for over a decade and a half and has learned a lot, which he has now taken to sharing on his blog for attorneys and clients alike.

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