Small mercies

Life without a safety net – that’s how moving to a much smaller firm might feel.

A larger firm has so many advantages – a recognised name in the market, a raft of colleagues to share traumas and tribulations with and a ready-made support network of secretarial, IT, finance and marketing professionals. Add to this a clear career path and making the swap seems all the more reckless.

And yet for some of us the chance of exerting greater control over our working lives makes up for all of the apparent disadvantages associated with making the move.

Moving to work in a smaller practice can be a positive step up in terms of career progression: from the outset, you will likely have a more significant amount of responsibility; you are likely to have full involvement in client management and direct client contact both on the work front and in work generation; and your scope of work and experience is also likely to be much broader.

Add to this the chance to play a part in deciding the firm’s development plans (which, in the top City law firms, is something likely to be in the hands of a small group of partners only) and the attraction of the move becomes more obvious.

Working in a small practice offers greater flexibility of working and the benefit that when you work hard, it is seen and recognised.

Equally, you recognise and value the commitment of your colleagues. Partners see how hard you work and, for those who do not comfortably blow their own trumpet, this can be one of the biggest advantages for choosing to work in a smaller niche practice. Equally, it’s harder to hide if you slip up.

Marketing and networking is a key part of working in a smaller practice. You are expected to get involved in trying to win business for the firm, and play a greater part in managing the new clients you are successful in winning.

Succeeding in a major firm is an achievement. It’s a massively competitive environment, but one in which many others seem to have a (sometimes political) say in your progress.

In a much smaller firm everything is more personal – success is in your hands. It feels like a more ‘honest’ position and far from being a career death knell, the small niche firm helps you stand on your own two feet and become a better business adviser to your clients.

Layla Bunni, associate, Starr & Partners