Why are lawyers leaving large firms?


Jun 14, 2016

The dire future of Big Law

By Meda Royall

A recent phenomenon in law has seen somewhat of an exodus of professionals leaving a life of large-scale law behind, in favour of a career in smaller scale operations. The changing demands and needs of professionals in the modern world can at times leave the old ways of doings things incapable of satisfying these new demands, and in the case of law, this is leading to a landscape that is undergoing massive change.

Developments in technology have, in more ways than one, made the industry many times more efficient, and the jobs of a lawyer can be said to be exceptionally less taxing as a result. This still isn’t enough to lure some lawyers away from a career choice in NewLaw/small firms, and if the increases in efficiency and reductions in workloads aren’t cutting it, then the perks on offer to a lawyer if they decide to take the leap downstream must be plateful — far outweighing those afforded by working in large, traditional firms.

So why exactly are these lawyers making such a seemingly drastic change, and for something that was once thought of as a downgrade?

The problems with Big Law

A lack of growth prospects for lawyers in the foreseeable future is a major reason for Big Law being increasingly looked upon as unfavourable. An environment not conducive to change often means an environment that remains stagnant in its progress; something that smaller/NewLaw firms aren’t afflicted with.

Massive workloads make it difficult for lawyers to focus on the things they love, the projects they would intentionally seek out, and the tasks they’d otherwise choose to do. Often times this workload leads to a burn out in the individual, and a loss of the fire that they once had — the passion that fueled their desire to put in quality work. This affects the firm’s overall stability and efficiency, which further leads to lawyers becoming detracted and disinterested in a big firm career.

A major reason for the big firm’s losses in importance and relevance, is purely down to the large size, which makes many people feel like just another cog in the wheel — never playing an integral role, and unable to make a real impact.

What gives smaller firms a competitive edge

Small and NewLaw firms are first and foremost, smaller, which to some may mean inferior, but to others, it means the presence of a whole host of possible benefits as well as advantages that prevail over working for large firms. Small size means small numbers, which can often times mean a tight-knit team that comes together to organise and plan, without the bureaucracy of a large corporate environment. A small team of individuals can easily come together to discuss important and key subjects, which can lead to a higher amount of efficiency and effectiveness in executing decisions, all of which occurs at a lower cost.

This efficiency is handy when changes need to be made to the operations — when the time calls for a quick assessment of an issue that has arisen, followed by a concise plan of action.

A change in consumer demands, or a new technology that disrupts the industry, where something as simple as a price change needs to be made, can mean the difference between staying competitive and being rendered obsolete if the adaption is made well after it should have been.

This ability to make quick adjustments to cater to the needs of clients is spearheading the competitive edge that smaller and NewLaw firms are experiencing, and large firms will need to adapt to the changing times if they are going to have any chance to regain their status as the premier flag bearers of the legal profession.


Meda Royall is passionate about law ….especially how it can help and make a difference to people’s lives when used smartly. She is Founder and CEO of Your Law Firm, Australia’s first legal practice franchise and her spare time is invested in family, the art, and entertainment world, human rights and poverty alleviation.

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