Best BigLaw Practice Area

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Anonymous User
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Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:57 pm

What is the best practice area in a V100 firm? I am intentionally leaving this open-ended ... (consider salary, work/life balance, type of work, intellectual challenge, etc.)

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Julio_El_Chavo
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Julio_El_Chavo » Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:33 pm

the kind that gets you clients and portability

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Kohinoor
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Kohinoor » Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:43 pm

Tax.

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TTH
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby TTH » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:00 pm

Kohinoor wrote:Tax.


I've heard this, too. A partner who spoke at our school said that the tax guys didn't have to work nearly as much as people in other practice groups because their utilization rate is so high. No clue is this true or not.

For folks who don't have an accounting background and/or don't want to get an LLM in Tax (and while we're at it, can't take the patent bar), what other practice groups do you find especially attractive?

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ZXCVBNM
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby ZXCVBNM » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:03 pm

depends on firm and people in each practice group

showNprove
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby showNprove » Tue Feb 15, 2011 5:22 pm

Depends on what you want. If you want the best opportunity to bring money into the firm and to make partner, then Corporate/M&A. If you want the easiest life style and are fine with Of Counsel being your promotional ceiling, then Trusts and Estates.

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thesealocust
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby thesealocust » Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:11 pm

TTH wrote:
Kohinoor wrote:Tax.


I've heard this, too. A partner who spoke at our school said that the tax guys didn't have to work nearly as much as people in other practice groups because their utilization rate is so high. No clue is this true or not.

For folks who don't have an accounting background and/or don't want to get an LLM in Tax (and while we're at it, can't take the patent bar), what other practice groups do you find especially attractive?


You definitely do not need an accounting background to do tax, nor do you need an LLM. It is common to get an LLM AFTER you have a tax job because there's utility there, but entry level hiring out of tax LLM programs is still small. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this out there.

Tax questions that lawyers (esp. big firm lawyers) handle are very lawyerly - it's interpreting The Code, the regs, the cases, the IRS guidance, etc. and doing line-drawing / structuring problems with transactions. The accountants and the accountant firms are the ones who add up dollars and cents.

You may still find tax practice boring, but I'd say tax has a hell of a lot more to do with civ pro than it does to accounting in terms of what the day-to-day would be like.

I haven't worked for a firm so I can't speak to 'best' - but here are my impressions from research and doing recruiting:

* Regulatory / lobbying work: This work tends to favor relevant work experience and creates exit opportunities to relevant government sectors. Very DC focused. Hours have a lot to do with the legislative calendar and agency hours - which means likely long but not infinite. Any crisis that is going to happen on the watch of a federal regulator will by definition be slower moving than a hard-charging deal.

* Litigation: This exists everywhere and is done in almost every firm. Hours can be brutal because the man power firm practice throws at it, but those hours are often predictable. Motions are due when motions are due, a client won't call you at 3 p.m. and demand the opening statements be delivered by close of business the next day.

* Transactional / general corporate practice: Infamously the least predictable, with plenty of time sinks hours wise just like litigation. A major X-factor here seems to be whether or not you have banking clients, who will be working longer hours and earning a lot of their profit by being able to act not just quickly but immediately.

* Tax: In the corporate context, this will be advising on deals. You'll be on the same deals as the people in the corporate department, but you'll be consulted about specifics rather than being the ring leader, so the odds of having to put out fires seems diminished. One tax attorney I spoke with mentioned that the pivotal importance helped: If the bank, the firms, and the investors want the deal done Monday, and the Tax attorney says "it can't be done until Tuesday" then it can't be done until Tuesday. That's an exaggeration of course, and they're certainly expected to work hard / quickly, but in my covnersations and experience the reputation for being slightly less brutal is well deserved.

* IP: I know little, except that some firms have transactional IP groups that are functionally quite similar to tax groups.

* Trusts / estates / rich people work: Infamously less intensive hours wise, but also tends to only be a tiny handful of attorneys at any given firm. I know little about this but consensus is the hours suck less.

Lit / corp at any given firm are likely to be much, much larger than any other section.

Keep in mind that the value of associates in big firms comes from billing, which means we're talking about varying degrees of shitty life style not "good vs. bad." An M&A associate at Wachtell is likely to be a sad panda almost all of the time, but an estate planning attorney at a big firm in Alabama isn't going to be clocking out to golf at 3pm.

Edit: Here's a wonderful link - http://www.chambers-associate.com/Pract ... -Summaries

Keep in mind that geography and client list are integral to determining what practice areas will actually be in demand. Appellate work may seem like the cat's meow, but almost nobody does it, almost nobody is willing to pay for it, and the people hired to do it tend to have comical LS / post-LS credentials. You've got to evaluate practice area choices in terms of what the market will bear and what skills you have. Corp/lit associates are pretty fungible, after that you'll have to handicap your chances at actually getting into your area of choice even if you get into the firm of your choice. The same may apply to subspecialties; the difference between private equity M&A work and corporate finance work might or might not be important to you, but if your firm has 3 guys on one and 30 on the other your ability to even make the choice will be quite limited.

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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:33 pm

OP.

Agree about tax being a solid practice area. From what I understand, there are a lot of niche tax practices, especially in the big firms (e.g., tax controversy, transactional tax, wealth planning/T&E).

Two questions for those with knowledge of tax practice (or simply just interested in law firm practices):

1. If given the option of doing tax controversy or T&E at a V100, which would you choose?

2. I have seen several posts about T&E lawyers making less than other types of lawyers. Do you think this holds true at most V100 firms (i.e., at some firms, could you see a T&E practice being big rainmakers)? Or is it simply a nature of the beast -- the partners bringing in Fortune 500 corporations are going to be making more than the partners bringing in $100 million grandmas?

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thesealocust
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby thesealocust » Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP.

Agree about tax being a solid practice area. From what I understand, there are a lot of niche tax practices, especially in the big firms (e.g., tax controversy, transactional tax, wealth planning/T&E).

Two questions for those with knowledge of tax practice (or simply just interested in law firm practices):

1. If given the option of doing tax controversy or T&E at a V100, which would you choose?

2. I have seen several posts about T&E lawyers making less than other types of lawyers. Do you think this holds true at most V100 firms (i.e., at some firms, could you see a T&E practice being big rainmakers)? Or is it simply a nature of the beast -- the partners bringing in Fortune 500 corporations are going to be making more than the partners bringing in $100 million grandmas?


1. If you want to do either, there's a decent chance there are small specialty firms you should be looking at that aren't in the V100. Caplin & Drysdale is a great example - big law in everything but # of attorneys, amazing at tax controversy. There are many more firms like this (but they are all small and specialized to the point that getting a job there is much less simple - though not necessarily harder - than just landing any old enormous V100). As for which is 'better' or which would be 'chosen' that really depends on how you feel about the people / your odds of actually getting the job. My guess is that given the size of most T&E departments your average firm doesn't even really need to take 1 associate/year into that practice area.

2. This is objectively false for big law associates. Partner and bonus compensation are trickier: both are sometimes lockstep and sometimes 'merit' based (hours billed for associates, draw / clients brought in / black magic for partners). Bonus considerations are at the margin and partnership odds are negligible, so for the most part this point shouldn't be a major consideration for planning a career while being a law student.

smittytron3k
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby smittytron3k » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:44 pm

i've heard good things about bankruptcy practice, most of which resemble the factors that weigh in favor of tax practice

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gbpackerbacker
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby gbpackerbacker » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:46 pm

NYC.

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A'nold
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby A'nold » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:46 pm

smittytron3k wrote:i've heard good things about bankruptcy practice, most of which resemble the factors that weigh in favor of tax practice


I might be going this direction.

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dr123
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby dr123 » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:49 pm

If I wanted to go BigLaw I'd aim for Crowley Fleck. High pay + low COL = baller status

Renzo
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Renzo » Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:28 pm

dr123 wrote:If I wanted to go BigLaw I'd aim for Crowley Fleck. High pay + low COL = baller status

100 attorneys spread across seven offices stretches the "big" in biglaw pretty thin.

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dr123
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby dr123 » Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:29 pm

Renzo wrote:
dr123 wrote:If I wanted to go BigLaw I'd aim for Crowley Fleck. High pay + low COL = baller status

100 attorneys spread across seven offices stretches the "big" in biglaw pretty thin.


eh I guess so, they still pay 100k +

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OGR3
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby OGR3 » Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:38 pm

Given recent conversations I've had with practicing lawyers, government relations is both expanding and relatively cushy. That said, they've stressed the importance of either working as a congressional staffer or in a federal agency for a couple years before attempting to get such a job (both in terms of connections and gaining the best experience).

adude
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby adude » Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:24 am

thesealocust wrote:
TTH wrote:
Kohinoor wrote:Tax.


I've heard this, too. A partner who spoke at our school said that the tax guys didn't have to work nearly as much as people in other practice groups because their utilization rate is so high. No clue is this true or not.

For folks who don't have an accounting background and/or don't want to get an LLM in Tax (and while we're at it, can't take the patent bar), what other practice groups do you find especially attractive?


You definitely do not need an accounting background to do tax, nor do you need an LLM. It is common to get an LLM AFTER you have a tax job because there's utility there, but entry level hiring out of tax LLM programs is still small. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this out there.

Tax questions that lawyers (esp. big firm lawyers) handle are very lawyerly - it's interpreting The Code, the regs, the cases, the IRS guidance, etc. and doing line-drawing / structuring problems with transactions. The accountants and the accountant firms are the ones who add up dollars and cents.

You may still find tax practice boring, but I'd say tax has a hell of a lot more to do with civ pro than it does to accounting in terms of what the day-to-day would be like.

I haven't worked for a firm so I can't speak to 'best' - but here are my impressions from research and doing recruiting:

* Regulatory / lobbying work: This work tends to favor relevant work experience and creates exit opportunities to relevant government sectors. Very DC focused. Hours have a lot to do with the legislative calendar and agency hours - which means likely long but not infinite. Any crisis that is going to happen on the watch of a federal regulator will by definition be slower moving than a hard-charging deal.

* Litigation: This exists everywhere and is done in almost every firm. Hours can be brutal because the man power firm practice throws at it, but those hours are often predictable. Motions are due when motions are due, a client won't call you at 3 p.m. and demand the opening statements be delivered by close of business the next day.

* Transactional / general corporate practice: Infamously the least predictable, with plenty of time sinks hours wise just like litigation. A major X-factor here seems to be whether or not you have banking clients, who will be working longer hours and earning a lot of their profit by being able to act not just quickly but immediately.

* Tax: In the corporate context, this will be advising on deals. You'll be on the same deals as the people in the corporate department, but you'll be consulted about specifics rather than being the ring leader, so the odds of having to put out fires seems diminished. One tax attorney I spoke with mentioned that the pivotal importance helped: If the bank, the firms, and the investors want the deal done Monday, and the Tax attorney says "it can't be done until Tuesday" then it can't be done until Tuesday. That's an exaggeration of course, and they're certainly expected to work hard / quickly, but in my covnersations and experience the reputation for being slightly less brutal is well deserved.

* IP: I know little, except that some firms have transactional IP groups that are functionally quite similar to tax groups.

* Trusts / estates / rich people work: Infamously less intensive hours wise, but also tends to only be a tiny handful of attorneys at any given firm. I know little about this but consensus is the hours suck less.

Lit / corp at any given firm are likely to be much, much larger than any other section.

Keep in mind that the value of associates in big firms comes from billing, which means we're talking about varying degrees of shitty life style not "good vs. bad." An M&A associate at Wachtell is likely to be a sad panda almost all of the time, but an estate planning attorney at a big firm in Alabama isn't going to be clocking out to golf at 3pm.

Edit: Here's a wonderful link - http://www.chambers-associate.com/Pract ... -Summaries

Keep in mind that geography and client list are integral to determining what practice areas will actually be in demand. Appellate work may seem like the cat's meow, but almost nobody does it, almost nobody is willing to pay for it, and the people hired to do it tend to have comical LS / post-LS credentials. You've got to evaluate practice area choices in terms of what the market will bear and what skills you have. Corp/lit associates are pretty fungible, after that you'll have to handicap your chances at actually getting into your area of choice even if you get into the firm of your choice. The same may apply to subspecialties; the difference between private equity M&A work and corporate finance work might or might not be important to you, but if your firm has 3 guys on one and 30 on the other your ability to even make the choice will be quite limited.


thesealocaust at it again with an epic post that is relevant to my interests. thank you sir

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:31 am

+1 on tax being boring. But that makes me all the more impressed with good tax lawyers. Oh, and they're usually boring as hell too.

clashjones87
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby clashjones87 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:33 am

I know this is old, but I've been looking at Crowley Fleck and this is the only post on all of TLS that mentions it.

Any idea what compensation is at CF?

J. D.
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby J. D. » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:49 am

thesealocust wrote:
* Litigation: This exists everywhere and is done in almost every firm. Hours can be brutal because the man power firm practice throws at it, but those hours are often predictable. Motions are due when motions are due, a client won't call you at 3 p.m. and demand the opening statements be delivered by close of business the next day.

* Transactional / general corporate practice: Infamously the least predictable, with plenty of time sinks hours wise just like litigation. A major X-factor here seems to be whether or not you have banking clients, who will be working longer hours and earning a lot of their profit by being able to act not just quickly but immediately.

I do not know enough about the other areas you noted, but those two above are hotdamn right!

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Anastasia Dee Dualla
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Anastasia Dee Dualla » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:54 am

Employee Benefits.

mr.hands
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby mr.hands » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:06 am

J. D. wrote:
thesealocust wrote:
* Litigation: This exists everywhere and is done in almost every firm. Hours can be brutal because the man power firm practice throws at it, but those hours are often predictable. Motions are due when motions are due, a client won't call you at 3 p.m. and demand the opening statements be delivered by close of business the next day.

* Transactional / general corporate practice: Infamously the least predictable, with plenty of time sinks hours wise just like litigation. A major X-factor here seems to be whether or not you have banking clients, who will be working longer hours and earning a lot of their profit by being able to act not just quickly but immediately.

I do not know enough about the other areas you noted, but those two above are hotdamn right!


So corporate/transactional work in Charlotte is probably a nightmare?

Anonymous User
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Re: Best BigLaw Practice Area

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:48 am

I'd say corporate/M&A. First few years are rough, but the work is interesting for the most part and this area gives you a broad education. You are highly marketable to go in-house and possibly make a switch to the business side down the road after a couple of years in-house. In both firms and in-house departments, M&A guys are generally high up on the totem pole as far as lawyers go. They bring in highly profitable, big dollar deals (for firms), or help close deals that boost revenue/EBITDA which results in bigger bonuses for execs of the business (for in-house).

If you do tax or T&E, you are probably stuck at a firm for life. For tax, you might be able to go in-house, and for T&E you might be able to work for wealth management firms/banks...but these types of positions are not as plentiful.

I went into big law with my eyes wide open. I was interested in corporate and knew I probably wouldn't be able to go all the way to partner based upon my lifestyle goals long term. I went for m&a because I knew it would provide a lot of exit options. I haven't made a jump yet, but it seems like a fair number of options will be available.

Think about what you will actually enjoy practicing. Don't do tax or T&E because you think the lifestyle is easier. If you don't like a code-based area of law, you will hate tax. You will likely be supporting other groups and somewhat subject to the whims of the partners for whom you may work (i.e., you are at the beck and call of the partner running the M&A deal if you do tax work that supports transactions, even if you are a partner of 20+ years). T&E always seemed a bit repetitive to me, but it could be an outsider's bias.




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