Law firm vs Startup – By Rachel Sanguinetti

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If you haven’t already guessed from the title, today’s post is all about comparing my experience of working in a law firm to that of working in a start up business. So who am I? I am a law graduate from the class of 2017, who has taken time out to gain some commercial experience before heading back to university to do my masters. I feel it is important to note however that this plan is still subject to change.

– So why commercial experience? My philosophy is that in order to advise the client, you need to be able to understand the client and what better way to do so than working for a business?

– So why a startup? Because they come with the steepest learning curve and it’s where I felt I was most likely to grow and develop in a relatively short amount of time.

– So what is my background? Without giving you a long winded run down of my CV; I’ve worked as a waitress, a youth worker, an intern in a law firm and also as a volunteer in a family court. I          pretty much decided after the latter that a career in family law was not for me, but that is a story for another time.

So that’s a bit about me, now moving swiftly on to the topic of this article – a comparison of life in a law firm to that of a startup.

I think that I have been extremely fortunate when it comes to the places that I’ve worked. I haven’t had many bad experiences, horrible bosses, or massive mess ups (touch wood). With that being said, there is a stark contrast between working in a startup and working in a law firm.

For starters, baring in mind that I worked in an international firm, the most obvious difference between the two is the size; each comes with its pros and cons and as it stands I don’t yet have a preference. What I will say is that working in a company of a smaller size you really get to know everybody and build friendships, which gives the organisation a real family feeling. The sense of genuine care and support this builds is invaluable.

The startup world hands down beats the law firm world when it comes to diversity within the office demographic. When I say diversity this includes, race, gender and so on. For example: the office ratio of men to women at ihateironing is 3:4, finding that sort of ratio in most businesses is almost unheard of. That’s definitely one for team startup.

Another contrast is the idea of structure versus hierarchy and there is most certainly a difference. The difference is in the connotation and subsequent mindset that each of these two words create. With the former, commonly found in law firms, it can sometimes make those further up the hierarchy appear unapproachable. Diversely, the latter makes it easy to know who to direct what level of query or issue to, while allowing you to feel like it’s okay to ask questions. While there is a clear structure, which is helpful when it comes down to prioritising my tasks, the sense of hierarchy doesn’t really exist for me at ihateironing and I really like that.

This may come as a surprise to many but my workload so far has been on an equal footing, if not more with a swing towards team startup. Not a day goes by when my to-do list is not filled and I am not greeted by a host of emails in my inbox first thing in the morning. To be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way. No two days are the same and I have a range of long and short projects.  The work is equally as challenging as the law firm, if not more so. For all those who are new to the start up world do not despair; I also frequently find myself googling things I don’t understand. I am pretty sure that I learn at least three new business terms a week. That is one thing that both of these experiences have in common, the constant learning experience. This for me that is what keeps the job exciting.

On my first day at ihateironing I headed to an investors meeting alongside the CEO – how’s that for responsibility?! In all seriousness, team startup also takes this round. There is definitely more opportunity for responsibility at a junior level in a startup than in a law firm, but I suppose that was a given.

Finally, now comes the awkward topic that no-one really wants to discuss – the working relationship one has with their supervisor. I am extremely fortunate here to have an amazing boss, who is incredibly approachable. I am the type of person that likes to know that support is always available but hates being hovered over.  I am extremely grateful that Matt has understood this from the outset and has given me the space and independence to grow and develop. With that being said, he and everyone else on the team is always there for guidance and support should I need it.

To conclude, it’s still early days here and as it stands the jury is still out on whether I prefer working in a startup to working in a law firm. What I can tell you is that I really like what I am doing and the people I work with and that feeling is irreplaceable.

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