You have made the decision to pursue a career in litigation support. You have the task of convincing a hiring manager that you have what it takes. You have the ambition and desire. Your background may include technical skills or it may include experience in the legal industry or it may not include either of these.
The question you keep asking yourself is whether you are better off beginning your litigation support career within a law firm or for a service provider. Your decision may be leaning towards one or the other based on your background or your contacts in the industry. But what if you have no idea which is the better choice for you?
As you can imagine, since I began this mentoring website, this topic has come up more often than it had in the past. There are some differing opinions. I think the perspectives of the differing opinions are based on their (1) different exposures, (2) different learning environments, (3) different successes and failures and (4) different focuses.
My background as a Litigation Support Manager is primarily on the law firm side. I spent about 18 months on the service provider side in a hiring manager role. Since I did most of my hiring on the law firm side and I know more about that perspective on the successes and failures of hiring entry-level candidates, I decided to reach out to a friend and fellow mentor who “grew up” in the litigation support industry on the service provider side.
Shawn Huston is a smart guy and he articulates well. He answered my question and shared his thoughts. Ironically, even though his perspective is from the service provider side and mine is from the law firm side, we have similar points of view on this topic.
Below are some of the points we raised during our discussion.
1) The law firm side can be more structured whereas the service provider side can be chaotic.
2) The law firm side provides more experience interacting with legal teams at your firm whereas the service provider side can offer you a different level of exposure, but with many legal teams at many firms.
3) We both agree that it is more difficult to go from a service provider to a law firm, than it is to go from a law firm to a service provider.
4) Some law firm hiring managers treat experience “from the service provider side only” (with no law firm experience) as a negative. They don't value the experience gained with a service provider as much as they value law firm experience.
5) The service provider side can provide more exposure to a variety of tools and there seems to be more of an opportunity on the service provider side to move from one position to another and try out different roles.
I believe there is no right answer to this question. I believe there are pros and cons to both options. I also believe that it can depend, to a degree, on the skill sets you bring to the entry-level position.
Shawn and I were thinking that this topic might be perfect for a future Litigation Support Guru Webinar. The discussion would focus on the Pros and Cons of law firm and service provider positions. I would appreciate it if you could participate in the poll below to let us know what you think.
If you began your litigation support career on the law firm side or the service provider side and you would like to share your point of view, please add a comment below.
UPDATE: In a Litigation Support Guru podcast episode, Shawn and I compared the differences and similarities between law firms and service providers.