Some great information I found from Indiana Law's career section...Solo Law Practice
Solo practice offers the possibility of flexibility and independence. Some of the advantages are
the ability to be one's own boss; to set one's own working hours; and freedom from hierarchical structures which many feel interfere with legal practice. Solo practice has disadvantages as well:
the inability to rely on other attorneys to help with a heavy caseload; the restriction on free time when business is good or frustrated boredom when business is bad; and the lack of a support system such as is present in the hierarchical structure of a law firm. Many solo practitioners could easily be partners in prestigious firms but choose to practice law where they are the sole decision-makers. Solo practice attracts people who are self-starters, self-motivated, self-disciplined, and enjoy controlling their future.Solo practice is often difficult to enter directly from law school.
There are large start-up expenses and the need for enough clients to pay the bills until the practice can really get established and earn a reputation in the community. Since referrals from other lawyers are extremely important in most solo practices, most lawyers who go this route wait until they have some experience as an associate before venturing out on their own. This strategy gives the attorney the basic legal skills and familiarity with the business elements of law practice that are necessary in any practice, as well as the initial contacts necessary to survive. Some solo practitioners band together in what are called "space sharing arrangements".
In these situations, a group of solo practitioners will jointly take office space and share the costs of libraries, support staff, computer, word processing and photocopying equipment. Many find that this type of arrangement is very cost effective and combines some of the benefits of working in a small firm with the independence of being a solo practitioner. For the recent graduate considering a solo practice, affiliation with lawyers in a space sharing arrangement would be the most highly recommended route to go.The Small Firm
Small firms, generally defined as a firm of less than ten people, vary from large city to rural or suburban area and from general to specialized areas of practice. Most small firms engage in the general practice of law, but some firms, particularly in metropolitan areas, specialize in a particular practice area (some of these firms are formed by the defection of a segment, or even an entire specialty department from a larger established firm). These break-off firms who specialize in one or two areas are known as "boutiques".
The small-firm attorney may find him/herself specializing in a particular area after the first few years of practice, but may not be strictly limited to that area. A general practitioner must remain flexible and willing to learn. In comparison to a large firm, a smaller firm will have the greater number of individual and small business clients. Thus, the attorney in a smaller firm will have the opportunity to deal with more "human" problems, and to deal more with everyday issues.
Additionally, the small firm will typically be involved with the client in all phases of his or her business or personal dealings and will often be asked for advice even in areas outside the firm's expertise. In most smaller law firms, the ability to generate business or, at the very least, the potential to develop that ability is extremely important to the firm.
There are a wide variety of ways in which new associates are brought into the smaller firm. In some cases, an associate may start for an initial trial period. This may involve a small initial salary, with raises gained on merit, skill, personal potential, and/or firm resources. Some firms provide incentives for bringing business into the firm or a percentage of the collected total billings of the associate. Nationally, for the Class of 1994, graduates taking positions in small firms (2-10 attys) earned a median salary of $32,000 and a mean salary of $33,851. The above mentioned "boutique" firms will represent the people earning the higher end of the spectrum. It is important that students understand that small law firms are businesses. The concepts of "cash flow" and overhead are important ones for students interested in smaller firms to grasp.
Most smaller firms prefer to keep their set monthly expenses (overhead) as low as possible because the flow of money coming into the firm may be sporadic, especially if the firm is a litigation firm specializing in cases that are taken on contingency. It is very important that students have an understanding of the type of business that a firm has, what percent is hourly and what percent of revenue is based on percentage of settlements in cases in order to evaluate the salary offer being made.
The job search for smaller law firms can be a frustrating experience since most smaller firms have trouble projecting their needs. There is no good time to contact them - the decision to hire could be made at any time in the year. Although firm requirement concerning academic performance vary, the academic record is often given secondary importance to the overall competency and personality of the applicant. In evaluating various firms, remember that personality is extremely important. In a small work setting, it is essential that all parties get along; personality conflicts are one of the key causes of dissatisfaction at a smaller firm.
While some firms do let the Career Services Office know of available job openings, very few conduct on-campus interviews. The applicant needs to plan on an organized, targeted, letter writing and contact-making campaign to gather the majority of his/her leads. Small law firms tend to be very disorganized in their hiring process. Since they generally only hire every few years, they do not have an organized structure for hiring like larger firms. Most smaller firms are interested in people with some experience - judicial clerkship, prior practice or summer clerking/clinical experience. One of the best doors into a smaller firm is through a summer or part-time job. These firms tend to look to "hometown" students or students with ties to the area to fill these positions. These positions frequently lead to permanent positions at graduation time.
Full link: http://www.law.indiana.edu/careers/guides/career_options_private.shtml