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Advantage of using a large law firm vs. a smaller firm or a private practice?

I want to understand the difference between using a large law firm vs. a small firm vs. a private practice when it comes to developing a relationship with an attorney for a handful of ongoing legal matters (such as complex estate planning, taxes, community property docs, etc).

There are listings of "best firms" via a few sources (US News, Forbes, Vault, etc) which give me the impression that larger firms (or "best firms") hire "top tier" attorneys. I would imagine this is why hourly rates can be between $250 - 500 (Associate vs. Partner rate).

But, what IS the advantage (if there is one) in using a large firm OR "best firm" vs. a smaller firm, a solo attorney, etc? More resources? "Top" attorneys?

Also, is there a big difference between working with an Associate vs. a Partner?

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