What Is a Law Firm? | Types, Structure, and Jobs
Washington College of Law
Master of Legal Studies
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What Is a Law Firm?
How Do Law Firms Work?
Types of Law Firms
Law Firms by Size
Solo Law Firms
Small Law Firms
Boutique Law Firms
Medium Law Firms
Large Law Firms
Law Firms by Practice Area
Law Firms by Legal Service
Litigation vs. Transactional Law Firms
Law Firm Hierarchy Structure
How to Join a Law Firm
FAQs About Law Firms
A full-service law firm provides legal assistance to a wide variety of clients and is equipped to handle all aspects of a case. For instance, a full-service personal injury firm can handle consultations, settlement talks and litigation proceedings in court. A full-service contract law firm can handle drafting reviews, negotiations and renegotiations. Specialized law firms may cover a specific service or niche.
Commonly, a person joins a law firm through an internship opportunity during college or as a paralegal assistant just after graduating with a master’s in legal studies or other legal degree. To be hired as an associate attorney or a managing partner at a law firm, you must first earn your Juris Doctor from law school and pass the bar exam.
A law firm partner is an attorney with partial ownership of the firm where they work. Law firm partners may perform the same types of duties as lower-level attorneys and be able to hire new associates. Managing partners or equity partners typically hold the highest distinction and often add their name to the firm’s name.
A large law firm can employ hundreds of professionals. Some of the largest firms in the country hire several thousand people and bring in annual profits totaling billions of dollars. Large, reputable law firms usually offer career training and advancement opportunities to employees.
Big law firms have a greater number of employees and may be full service while boutique firms have fewer employees and tend to be highly specialized in a particular type of law or service. Though the pay at big law firms may be hard to walk away from, some people prefer the freedom and flexibility of the boutique work environment. Boutique firms may give entrepreneurial-minded people the ability to assume more responsibility and directly engage with clients.
There are many paths within the legal field. We’ve created guides to help students explore all that is possible once they graduate. If you are working toward your J.D., you may wonder, “What Can You Do with a Law Degree?”
Or, as we explain in our “What Can You Do With a Master’s in Legal Studies?” guide, there are several jobs available to those who pursue this discipline and they don’t have to be a lawyer to work in a law firm.