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Law Firms

Law firms come in all shapes and sizes, but have many characteristics in common. They are for-profit associations of lawyers in the business of servicing the needs of their clients. They are typically organized as partnerships, with the partners receiving a share of the profits at the end of each fiscal year, and the associates receiving a salary.


Often, firms are described as large, mid- or medium-sized, or small. The way a firm is characterized depends on its location. For example, in New York City, many law firms have more than 500 attorneys, and sometimes more than 2,000 attorneys in their combined offices. In that type of market, a 200-attorney firm is considered “mid-size” and a 75-attorney firm is “small.” In contrast, in Indianapolis, IN, the largest firm has around 250 lawyers. A 100-attorney firm in that city is considered large, a 40-attorney firm is mid-size and a 10-attorney firm is small.


Large firms tend to represent large corporations, many of which have an international presence. Mid-size firms typically represent regional clients and their business mix includes corporations and individuals. Small firm practitioners sometimes maintain a general practice, handling a broad array of matters for individuals, and other times, focus on a particular area of practice. Firms that are especially known for concentrating on one area of practice, such as intellectual property or litigation, are called “boutique firms.”


Alumni interested in pursing private practice are encouraged to consult the following resources. 


Law Firm Practice Guide (for YLS version, please contact CDO at 203-432-1676 for login info)

NALP Directory of Legal Employers 

Chambers and Partners


National Association of Legal Search Consultants

Katherine Kimpel, JD '06 —Managing Partner, Sanford & Heisler, LLP
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