9/9/21 - Insights
Is a Small Litigation Firm Right for You?
As law firm hiring season shifts into high gear, top students are faced with a plethora of choices. In addition to the traditional on-campus interviews (or their Zoom equivalents) by big-law recruiting departments, a growing number of small litigation firms are offering competitive packages—including top-tier salaries and benefits—to prospective summers and first-years. Hiring partner Adam Dinnell of Houston-based Schiffer Hicks Johnson talks candidly about the pros and cons of small-firm life.
What’s the biggest misconception law students have about small firms?
That they are second-best in some way. Our partners come from leading schools like Yale and University of Chicago, top firms like King & Spalding, and government positions like my ten years at the DOJ. We chose Schiffer Hicks Johnson because we wanted to do great work on bet-the-company cases without a lot of bureaucratic nonsense, not because we couldn’t get jobs anywhere else. We’d stack our complex cases and client list next to any big firm.
Describe your ideal candidate.
We look for motivated, ambitious students and junior associates with exceptional academic backgrounds, strong communications skills, and a real desire to be trial lawyers. Diverse backgrounds and experiences are also important to us.
Do you have a summer class?
We had five summers in 2021, including students from Georgetown, Tulane, and University of Texas. We made offers to all five. For 2022, we’d like to increase class size slightly but keep a hands-on, personal feel. Unlike larger firms, our growth model is not based on attrition. We are looking for colleagues who will grow with us and help build a successful future.
There must be a downside.
I’m glad you asked that. The hardest part about working for a small firm is also the best part: You get a lot of responsibility very quickly. You’ll be attending depositions, preparing oral arguments, and helping build case strategy from day one. Some people thrive on that pressure while others would rather sit in a back office and push papers.
Final question: what about salaries?
We’re paying our first-years top dollar – similar to the big firms in New York and LA. By the way, that money goes a heck of a lot further in Houston.
Sign me up! Or have I missed the deadline?