Estate Planning at Big Law

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Anonymous User
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Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:18 pm

I am interested in estate planning/wealth management at V100. I noticed a lot of big firms have cut their estate planning groups, though there are still several V100 firms with decent estate practices. A few questions to throw out there:

- Are there any lifestyle benefits to choosing estate planning versus, say, litigation or corporate, at big law?

- Any advice on whether this is a good career choice (i.e., good long term prospects)?

- Is it competitive to get a job at big law doing estate planning?

Thanks in advance.

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FlanAl
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby FlanAl » Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:26 pm

wanted to tag this since i'm interested as well

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HugerThanSoup
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby HugerThanSoup » Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:32 pm

Life at a V100 will be stressful and time-consuming regardless of what practice area you choose. Generally speaking, however, Trusts and Estates (or whatever the specific firm calls it) is a better option for attorneys seeking so-called "work-life balance" because the practice is less susceptible to sudden demands for time.

An M&A attorney, for example, might be called in on a last-minute deal. They have no choice in the matter; plans will be cancelled and demanding spouses will be upset. Estate planning attorneys, by comparison, often know when they will be busy and when they will not, and can make plans accordingly. Moreover, more of the work can be done remotely than with other practice areas.

Having working in a Trusts and Estates department, I can tell you that it's not an "easy" practice area. It's difficult work, the departments are very small, competition to enter the department is fierce (given its appeal and its small size), and errors are more sharply felt (individuals are more adverse to transaction-specific economic loss than companies, even if the losses are relatively small, because they can't spread the loss across other transactions).

Give NALP a search for more information on the V100 firms: --LinkRemoved--. Query "estates" and "trusts" under <<Practice Areas>>.

ruski
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby ruski » Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:35 pm

i was interested in this practice group as well a while back, and after speaking to various attornies in this practice group i came to the same conclusions as stated above. the life balance in t&a is much better than in corporate and lit. one guy described his job as being a therapist for rich people. however, i was also told it is a really hard practice group to get into. i would imagine because these groups are smaller and people don't tend to leave them, there are fewer openings, unlike litigation or m&a where turnover is high and workload is intense

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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:54 pm

Does anyone know if the PPP in a trust and estate practice is more/less/same as partners in lit/corp at the same V100 firm?

My guess would be less, based on the fact some V100 firms have cut their T&E practice. Just curious.

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HugerThanSoup
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby HugerThanSoup » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone know if the PPP in a trust and estate practice is more/less/same as partners in lit/corp at the same V100 firm?

My guess would be less, based on the fact some V100 firms have cut their T&E practice. Just curious.


This depends entirely upon the firm. Some firms pay "all" partners the same amount; others base it on incoming revenues. A highly successful T&E could potentially bring in more than a struggling litigator. It all depends on the firm and the partners.

Anonymous User
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:04 pm

HugerThanSoup wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone know if the PPP in a trust and estate practice is more/less/same as partners in lit/corp at the same V100 firm?

My guess would be less, based on the fact some V100 firms have cut their T&E practice. Just curious.


This depends entirely upon the firm. Some firms pay "all" partners the same amount; others base it on incoming revenues. A highly successful T&E could potentially bring in more than a struggling litigator. It all depends on the firm and the partners.



Thanks. I heard that partners in some niche fields (e.g., environmental) get substantially less than those in corp/lit. I definitely see how it depends on the firm. I just didn't know if T&E partners were considered black sheep of the law firm or rainmakers or just somewhere in between.

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HugerThanSoup
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby HugerThanSoup » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
HugerThanSoup wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone know if the PPP in a trust and estate practice is more/less/same as partners in lit/corp at the same V100 firm?

My guess would be less, based on the fact some V100 firms have cut their T&E practice. Just curious.


This depends entirely upon the firm. Some firms pay "all" partners the same amount; others base it on incoming revenues. A highly successful T&E could potentially bring in more than a struggling litigator. It all depends on the firm and the partners.



Thanks. I heard that partners in some niche fields (e.g., environmental) get substantially less than those in corp/lit. I definitely see how it depends on the firm. I just didn't know if T&E partners were considered black sheep of the law firm or rainmakers or just somewhere in between.


Generally, I think that your intuition is correct. I know that some firms will designate their environmental attorneys as "special counsel," "practice area specialists," or some variation thereof. That way, they aren't designated as partners and thus don't share pro rata in the equity of the firm. But even among partners, I would think that a large number of firms pay their T&E partners less, on average, than their corporate and litigation partners (either by design or by circumstance).

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Zarathustraspoke
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Zarathustraspoke » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:33 pm

I work in the Trust and Estates department at a V100 firm in NYC and am seriously considering it once I graduate Law School. Much like what the posters above said the work/life deal is much easier to balance since hours are predictable. However, these attorney's do work long hours just like any other attorney-- its just that they do it with more predictability. In terms of the work itself it does seem pretty demanding and leaves little room for error. The younger associates here pretty much come from T1 schools with 1 or 2 coming from T20 so, personally, it gives me hope being that I will almost certainly not be admitted to a t14. All in all the attorney's here seem very happy with what they are doing. In fact, now that I think of it, one of the associates told me at our Christmas party that T&E is one of the better fields to get into (note: I believe this to be subjective-- it also depends on many other things like flexibility and life style changes)

Anonymous User
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:54 pm

I have an interest in T&E and interviewed with some of the larger firms. From the interviews, I got the impression that big firms are phasing out this department because T&E clients won't pay big firm billing rates. I was told that the small firms are growing more in this area. Personally, I wound up accepting a SA position at a boutique that focuses on tax and T&E.

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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have an interest in T&E and interviewed with some of the larger firms. From the interviews, I got the impression that big firms are phasing out this department because T&E clients won't pay big firm billing rates. I was told that the small firms are growing more in this area. Personally, I wound up accepting a SA position at a boutique that focuses on tax and T&E.


There's certainly some truth to that. So long as T&E documents "work," there's no value added by having a more expensive lawyer. Your T&E clients are also highly sophisticated and playing with their money as opposed to a corporate budget, so they may very well not want to pay for what's really unnecessary work or overbilled work. They'll read bills and knock them down.

The practice area certainly has work but it's not at all one where you can just churn hours or arbitrarily jack rates. There's no real parallel to a large complex litigation or massive M&A deal or massive, complex restructuring. If firms want a high hourly rate profit center, they're not going to find it in the T&E department. Hence, allow attrition in or do not expand the T&E department. As a secondary issue - T&E business is very hard to make into institutional clients. The primary value a T&E lawyer adds once they are competent is that their client likes them and trusts them and is comfortable with them. They may be a tax guru but there are plenty of tax guru estate lawyers in most large cities to handle the number of estates that have really large tax and dynasty and transfer issues. Keep in mind that there are only about 100,000 ultra-high net worth individuals/heads of families worldwide and most people with less than that range of assets have much lower stakes, much less need of exotic services, and much lower tolerance for large, "unnecessary" planning bills.

So it really is down to the lawyer's level of service and comfort. Hence, hard to make into an institutional client and dangerous to bill "too much."
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

imchuckbass58
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby imchuckbass58 » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:21 pm

My understanding is that there are two sides of T&E practice - the planning part, and the litigation/dispute part. I imagine T&E lawyers can do both, but I imagine the practice is very different - former is advisory whereas the latter is very adversarial (probably even more so than regular litigation).

Also, it's generally very hard to make partner as a T&E lawyer (even harder than litigators or transactional attorneys). The practice group brings in very little revenue, and there's very little demand for people who bill high rates. At most biglaw firms, you will see 1 or 2 T&E partners in the entire firm supported by 10-15 perma-associates/counsel. This isn't necessarily bad - it's a much more stable lifestyle as people have pointed out. But if you have grand ambitions, it might not be the best practice area to get into.

EDIT: Here is what the practice area guide they gave us says:

-The goal is to efficiently transfer wealth between generations and within families.
-Similar to tax practice, this is a complex, statutory practice. The law evolves very
quickly and there is a wide variety of authority, including case law, revenue
rulings, statutes, etc.
-This is mostly a non-adversarial practice.
-The day-to-day work involves drafting of estate plans and sub-documents,
counseling clients, and administering estates both in and out of court.
-This practice does not have many deadlines.
-This practice is most commonly found in boutiques, although most big firms have
a small group. It’s a service practice and it can be difficult to make partner.
-The reward is helping the rich preserve their wealth.
-People who fail in this practice sometimes have problems discussing the complex
law in plain English, don’t like the complexity, or get pigeon-holed into one small
section of the practice, which can be boring.
-This can be a tough practice to break into. It can sometimes be class-oriented (it
helps if you know a lot of rich people). Interested students should spend a summer
doing T&E and take appropriate classes or have a financial background.

Anonymous User
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:24 pm

imchuckbass58 wrote:My understanding is that there are two sides of T&E practice - the planning part, and the litigation/dispute part. I imagine T&E lawyers can do both, but I imagine the practice is very different - former is advisory whereas the latter is very adversarial (probably even more so than regular litigation).


A tightly-knit, traditional family is not prone to launching will contests for a number of reasons.

A controversy in T&E is very messy family law with business-level money at stake. IOW, nuclear warfare.

2LLLL
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby 2LLLL » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:29 pm

I'm going to be an SA this summer at a 35 attorney firm that does a lot of T&E, and a lot of estate litigation. I know that not only do they represent parties seeking to enforce/not enforce a will, but one of the partners is frequently the executor of estates and the litigation partners represent him when he is sued in that role. I'm very excited to learn more about this area, it seems really interesting and the focus on representing individuals in times of need really gets to what I went to law school for.

I agree with some of the above posters that T&E is a practice that will probably be phased out of BigLaw to smaller firms.

audreyrichard
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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby audreyrichard » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:15 am

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Re: Estate Planning at Big Law

Postby JordanHill » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:00 am

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