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Once you have a law degree, you need to decide if you would like to work at a law firm or go in for a private practice. Both have their merits and downfalls. You need to choose keeping in mind your skills, your lifestyle requirements and see which of them fits the bill.

Working as a private lawyer and working at a private legal firm will provide you with experience that will help you learn and also improve your research and writing skills; though the benefits of private practice can be very attractive for some lawyers.

A. Harrison Barnes of provides an overview of the law firms and in-house opportunities. At law firms the employers hire attorneys who have a few years of experience in any law firm. This is done as a law firm is considered as a “finishing school” for a new lawyer as this is where he gets an opportunity to hone his skills.

Though the environment of a small law firm will be different from a large firm, the practice will almost be the same. There is a little difference between working in a small law firm and a big law firm. Smaller firms lack the resources which a larger firm can provide. You will be expected to handle your own paperwork where as larger firms can engage the services of a legal secretary. On the other hand, in a larger law firm, working hours will be long compared to a smaller firm. A. Harrison Barnes says that the major difference among the two is the salary. You get a high salary in a large law firm but you get a lower salary in a small legal firm. In terms of experienced gained, in a larger law firm you will have more exposure since they will have a larger focus on various legal aspects. A smaller firm will primarily focus on a particular type of law. In a smaller firm you may be required to secure your own clients, while in a larger legal firm you would already have a set list of clients which need to be worked on.

Then, there are mid-sized firms that can give you a better exposure than the small firms.

The practice here will be less generalized. Without doubt, mid-size firms will have a few more departments as compared with a smaller firm. The starting package will also be substantially higher but they still cannot match the library services and the administrative support which bigger law firms can provide.

Working with a larger legal firm is advantageous in a variety of ways. Their in-house training programs will help you develop your professional skills. You may be rotated through various departments before you choose to focus on a particular practice area.

Working at a legal firm also has many other advantages. When you are a fresher, your work will be monitored. A senior member of the firm will act as a mentor and will guide you through difficult deals. Regardless of the size of the firm, you will learn to deal with clients and will learn on how to keep them happy. A happy client translates to a happy law firm. But in doing so A. Harrison Barnes says that you have to give up your personal needs. You have to even worry about billable hours.

A. Harrison Barnes says that working in-house is a little different from working at a law firm. The company they work for is the one and only client of the in-house lawyers. This means that you do not have the pressure of recruiting new clients. In-house attorneys are expected to foresee potential problems and stop them before they escalate into major issues. For this, business knowledge and in depth knowledge of the industry in which the firm is employed is absolutely critical.

On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about billable hours since the client pays for your salary. If you are working as an in-house lawyer you do not even have to worry about losing your job in the present economic conditions as it provides job stability. The in-house attorneys do not even need to work for longer hours compared to those in law firms. Since they have only one client to service, the lawyers have to only meet the demands of the client. If the company is running smooth you don’t have to give extra hours but if a crisis arises, you will be expected to complete the work no matter how long it takes.

Many in-house jobs come with stock options and also bonuses which bridge the salary gap. Though you lose in salary you gain time for your personal needs and you can easily control your working hours, says A. Harrison Barnes.

It is you who has to decide where you will find your happiness– in private practice or in an in-house legal firm. This decision is extremely crucial since the differences between the two are vast. Depending on your interests and your career focus, you need to decide where you would like to see yourself. A. Harrison Barnes suggests you to think twice before you make your decision.

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