Securing a Big Law position is considered the pinnacle of success for many lawyers. After all, these coveted positions boast undeniable benefits, from comfortable salaries to impressive stature.
Unfortunately, the reality of Big Law doesn’t always match up to its lofty expectations. Some lawyers find the environment too intense. After all, Big Law is notoriously known for its unyielding workloads, poor work-life balance, and chronic burnout.
If you’re considering leaving Big Law behind, you’re not alone. Below, we’ll explain why many lawyers leave Big Law, how to determine if doing so is right for you, and what alternatives await you on the other side.
With Big Law’s high-profile clients and ample resources, these large law firms can provide young lawyers with prestigious career opportunities. During your time at one of these law firms, you may get the chance to work on cases that shape legal precedents, work on corporate transactions that garnish national headlines, and work with the most sophisticated clients and immensely talented colleagues. Not to mention, you’ll likely earn a lucrative salary and enjoy top-notch resources and support.
Unfortunately, these benefits are not without their drawbacks. Big Law can be incredibly demanding—the long hours, tight deadlines, and extreme work culture can take a toll on you, both professionally and personally.
The good news? Big Law isn’t your only option to advance your career. Many lawyers find fulfilling career opportunities outside of the Big Law grind—like working as in-house counsel, as just one example.
Making a career change is a big decision. If you’re on the fence about leaving Big Law, you may be wondering how to tell when it’s the right time to make the move.
Here are some signs that you may be ready to consider some other options:
Before you hand in your resignation letter, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the steps involved in finding a new position. This way, you can make the transition out of Big Law as gracefully as possible.
In-house roles are a popular alternative for lawyers who become disillusioned with Big Law. As an in-house lawyer, you represent one client rather than regularly juggling working on matters for multiple clients at a large law firm. Not only will you get to develop an in-depth understanding of your employer’s business, but you’ll also get the chance to broaden your legal skill set.
In-house counsel roles can vary quite notably from one company to the next. Similarly, the in-house counsel role will differ at each company in regard to the paths for career advancement. Big Law lawyers traditionally move from associate to either counsel or to partner, but your career progression at a company will depend greatly on the type of company you join, whether that’s an innovative startup or an established Fortune 500, for example.
Beyond these differences, Big Law and in-house counsel positions diverge in several other ways.
Here’s a quick overview of a few differences:
If an in-house counsel role potentially interests you, you can prepare for the transition by following these steps:
In addition to taking these steps, you also want to prepare yourself mentally for the changes involved in transitioning out of a big firm. You'll have to adapt to a new environment, adjust to a new pace of work, and align yourself with a new company culture and corporate governance.
Shifting to in-house counsel may have some initial hurdles, but the potential benefits are often substantial and worthwhile. If you select the right position, you can obtain more job satisfaction and develop a deeper connection to your company. You may also get the chance to work a more reasonable schedule, broaden your skill set, and enjoy a healthier work-life balance.
While in-house counsel boasts many benefits, it’s not the only alternative to Big Law. Some other options you can explore include:
If you want to leave Big Law, there’s an abundance of alternatives that may be better suited to your needs and goals. By making the transition, you can overcome your Big Law burnout and open yourself up to more aligned opportunities.
Now that you understand the opportunities outside of Big Law, you may be eager to start the process. If so, E.P. Dine can help. As legal recruiters with over 40 years of experience, we’ve helped countless lawyers in your position land their dream jobs, whether that’s an in-house counsel role, a position at a mid-size firm, a branch office of a larger firm, or at a small law firm. By partnering with us, you’ll enjoy dedicated support and valuable feedback throughout the recruitment process.
Ready to take the next step in your legal career? Reach out to E.P. Dine today.
1Heart.org. Job strain combined with high efforts and low reward doubled men’s heart disease risk.
2Reuters. Don’t blame baby: Survey finds most women quit big firms over culture, not family.
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