Do Small Firm Lawyers Work Less than Big Firm Lawyers?

Students commonly assume that small firm lawyers work less hard than big firm lawyers. For example, when I ask students what they want to do after graduation, not atypically they will say “I want to work in a small firm.” Apparently to these students, it doesn’t matter to them what practice area or geography, just so long as the firm is small. It’s as if all of the downsides of big firms melt away when you remove some lawyers.

But the reality may be different. This article from NY Lawyer (free reg req’d) offers some explanations for why small firm lawyers may work harder than big firm lawyers to yield the same number of billable hours (basically, the article assumes that at big firms, you can overstate your time more easily–ethics of overbilling aside).

This article reinforces why it’s important to transcend the stereotypes about who works harder. Size of firm might have a rough correlation with the amount of hours worked by its attorneys, but the correlation is only rough, and every firm has its own unique corporate culture on this question. It could be a significant mistake to use firm size as a reliable proxy.