Law firms employ many occupations beyond lawyers. Some of these are administrative or support positions, while others have specific legal expertise and work on cases or projects.
Law firms can be structured as sole proprietorships, general partnerships, professional corporations and limited liability partnerships. Each entity type has different tax implications and exposure.
Many people enter the legal profession to make a difference in their communities or fight for justice. Working in a law firm, whether big, small, or solo, ultimately allows them to do just that. However, a successful career in the legal field requires more than just a lawyer’s license and education. It also requires the ability to work well with others and a solid understanding of firm structure and procedures.
Those seeking a law firm career should first take the time to reflect on their personal interests, skills, strengths and passions. This self-assessment will help them identify practice areas that genuinely intrigue them and align with their long-term career goals. Once they have identified those practice areas, they should conduct research to understand the nuances of each.
A good understanding of firm structure will help job seekers determine if a larger law firm is the right fit. Large firms often feature a highly-structured environment with lengthy hours and a buttoned-up culture. However, they can provide an excellent stepping stone for those looking to eventually become a partner.
Small law firms, on the other hand, typically offer more collaborative opportunities and a smaller staff with more varied job duties. Additionally, they can provide a closer feel to a solo practice and broaden the scope of legal topics explored.
When lawyers prepare legal documents, they need to ensure the documents accurately reflect their clients’ intentions and comply with relevant laws and regulations. They also provide guidance and counsel to clients, helping them make informed decisions about their legal matters. Lawyers often give oral and written testimony during court proceedings, such as depositions, trials and arbitrations.
A law firm may offer multiple career paths, from entry-level positions to partnership. New lawyers, called associates, perform legal work under the supervision of senior attorneys. After a period of time, some associates become partners, taking on greater responsibility and managing the firm.
Some law firms focus on a specific area of the law, such as personal injury or employment law. Others are general practice firms, serving a range of legal needs for individuals and businesses. Litigation law firms represent clients in cases that are likely to go to trial. Lawyers in litigation practices spend a lot of their time researching laws, writing briefs and memos, preparing for hearings and depositions and attending mandatory court appearances.
Other law firm workers perform administrative tasks, such as filing papers and scheduling meetings. They might also act as information and record clerks, entering data into the law firm’s computer system as needed. Many of these clerks were previously legal secretaries or paralegals. Large law firms employ hundreds or thousands of professionals and can have offices in multiple cities, states and countries. These firms can offer prestige, lucrative salaries and robust job training programs to attract top talent.
Legal case management is a process of organizing the many details associated with legal cases. A legal case manager works directly under attorneys and supports them by managing the case process, including scheduling, budgets, deadlines, client communications, and more. They also conduct extensive legal research and prepare documents for clients and outside counsel.
Most law firms require a team of professionals to manage cases. These include paralegals, junior associates, and legal assistants, who assist attorneys with research, document preparation, and client interaction. In addition, some offices employ receptionists and data entry clerks who are responsible for clerical tasks.
Firms need to track a lot of information and deadlines related to each client’s case, which can be difficult without proper technology. Law firms often use case management software that stores all of this data in a single location, and which can be accessed by any team member at any time. The software includes features like fundamental calendaring that tracks appointments with clients, opposing counsel, and other important parties. It also provides a rules-based deadline calculator and legal calendaring for tracking filing deadlines, court dates, and more.
Additionally, case management software allows for attorneys and other staff to keep in touch with each other through documents and files, as well as to track calls and messages. This helps the firm learn from its successes and failures, enabling it to better serve future clients.
The client relationship is the most important asset of any law firm. While there may be a lot of hours put into legal work behind the scenes, clients don’t see that and it is up to you to make them feel like they have made the right choice in choosing your firm over others.
This means you should always be polite, respectful and transparent in your dealings with them. Be upfront about your fees and what costs they will incur in their matter and communicate regularly with them. Ensure that your legal assistants and paralegals are also trained to communicate effectively with their clients. It helps to create scripts for phone calls and emails that can be used by the team so that the client gets consistent advice over time, and is not having to repeat themselves to different staff members.
Having happy clients will help to grow your business. Encourage them to refer your firm to their friends, family and colleagues. You can do this by running client referral campaigns and using inbound marketing to attract them to your site. This will not only increase your client numbers, but also improve the quality of your client base and help you to build trust with new and existing ones.