Career progression at big firms

Is career progression harder at big firms because you're one of many or does it not matter if you're good enough? What have your experiences been?

in house or law firm?

If its the latter "progressing" is simply a matter of time - run your hamster wheel until you are the only survivor and you will make partner - its like highlander on that front.

In house is a weird political thing - you have to be good, be seen to be good, and well positioned to strike if something does come up - its about acquiring territory, minions and reputation so when a head count for the next grade does come up you are in the frame to make a play for it.

There is a level where there is no where else to go and you are just waiting for the MD to retire or move on or get fired then its a 6/7 man death fight for role and if you dont make it you will be made redundant 8 months later when the person who does get it settles old scores and removes potential alternatives/rivals. 

My experience is that it's easier to get noticed and to have access to the decision makers in a smaller firm.  Still scarred by the EY appraisal process where you weren't allowed to speak and were assessed by a panel who didn't know on the basis of a presentation delivered by one of your team.  Made any kind of promotion a fantastical political exercise.

My experience is that it's easier to get noticed and to have access to the decision makers in a smaller firm.  Still scarred by the EY appraisal process where you weren't allowed to speak and were assessed by a panel who didn't know on the basis of a presentation delivered by one of your team.  Made any kind of promotion a fantastical political exercise.

Ultimately LB it depends on 

How good you are 

What work there is 

Firms strategic plans

Whether the team is top heavy 

Whether it is your 'turn' 

What work you bring in 

Whether they like you 

And many other things 

So there is no hard and fast rule. Most city firms looking at partnership 10-15 pqe in reality. Might be less in some cases and more in others.

Current firm laid out the career path it sees for me, I'm on track for promotion at 1PQE and have the head of department backing me as a sponsor which is rare - team of c.300 FEs.

Dilemma is I have the chance to go to a bigger firm but don't think I'll be recognised the same way but there are slightly bigger deals and clients (perhaps with less support) and potentially better training

300 FEs in one department and you are going to a bigger firm?

Are there many bigger than that? Must give a headcount of 3k-5k?

Is the alternative firm more profitable? 

Because if you want to be a partner size of deal isn’t relevant if they’re not making any more money doing it. 

Sails - i had heard that about EY - loads of bullshit box ticking divorced from your actual performance.

At my bank its a case of collating feedback from all your stakeholders and bunging it to your line manager who chats it through with their line manager - its good, as if you do well you all look good and get rewarded for it.

couldnt deal with some panel who didnt know me assessing my performance.  

If you are good you shine no matter where you are - even in the MC there are good associates and those just coasting. 

Usually after appraisals our team meeting would involve a discussion about changing your mentor as people felt they'd been marked down because of their mentor's presentation to the panel.  They also used distribution curves so that only a limited number of people could be given a top mark in any year.

Gah I hated that “Solicitor / associate” distinction. Totally meaningless. I always just called myself an associate anyway. The Law Society website calls everybody who is a non member an associate solicitor.

There is if someone is looking to transfer to another firm that still employs the solicitor-associate distinction.

There's others in my team who are 5PQE and still at solicitor level. Ordinarily you get promoted at 3pqe or 2pqe if you're good hence my hesitation to leave if I'm being offered it at 1pqe.

"Risk of getting lost amongst the many?"

Tbh I don't know the firm but any firm with that many fee earners in one department is probably seeing lots of churn and comings and goings.

If you can survive 10 years you will probably be up for partner by default. They must be making 5-10 partners a year.

Title being meaningless comments are not helpful. Title change brings pay rise, further responsibility, opportunity to do better work etc. 

I guess the point is that you need to compare the that with wherever you might go, if you think you might want to leave.  For many firms, "associate" will just mean someone who has qualified so in that respect the promotion won't have value when judged by that standard, unless you can say that its the equivalent of being promoted to senior/managing associate at 1PQE.

If you're at a firm where you like the work and you do have that level of backing, I'd stick with it for the moment regardless.

"Title change brings pay rise, further responsibility, opportunity to do better work etc."

Not usually tbf. There was a thread on here about moving to SA/MA/LA or whatever firms call it these days and there was a concensus that all it meant was more stress.

Probably easier at big firms as it's a very defined process, every year an extra PQE until deathmatch for partnership. Intermediate titles like senior or managing associate are pretty automatic. 

Id stay where you are to see if this fast track means anything. If senior people know who you are, that's valuable goodwill which you have no guarantee of replicating elsewhere. Still plenty of time to pie them off if they don't follow through.

Oh and congratulations! It's an achievement to get senior sponsorship in a large form this early in your career.