Litigation vs. Transactional?

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TatteredDignity
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Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby TatteredDignity » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:45 pm

I swear I did my best with the search function.

Can someone either give me a 10 second run-down of the generalities of each of these areas in big firm practice, or link me to the thread that I've somehow missed?

I tried to use the Chambers website, but it seems like there are so many "corporate" practice areas- M&A, securities, etc. I don't really know anything about all of that, but I don't want to rule those things out just because I don't have a finance degree.

I guess I'm mostly trying to figure out what happens at biglaw firms. And I suspect that the answer to this will probably vary based on whether we're talking about V5 or regional biglaw. There's just such a seemingly wide world of corporate practice areas out there, and it's all very confusing for me.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:52 pm

Bump

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby TatteredDignity » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Bump


lol, thanks for the help, bro.

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KeepitKind
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby KeepitKind » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:54 pm

http://www.chambers-associate.com/Practice-Area-Summaries

You should be glad they have a detailed account of the different practice areas for a transactional or litigation attorney. The summaries are very concise and basic. No one on here can give you a better explanation of the day-to-day activities within the practice group. If you actually want to know about different areas of law within a generic biglaw practice, then actually read the info.

Curious1
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Curious1 » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:54 pm

Very interested in this as well. I'm sure we (0Ls) eventually learn this but it would be nice to have a breakdown.

So biggest firms are divided into

Litigation and Corporate

Litigation includes...white collar crime? IP? Antitrust? other things?

Corporate includes...transaction? M&A? what else?

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby TatteredDignity » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:59 pm

KeepitKind wrote:http://www.chambers-associate.com/Practice-Area-Summaries

You should be glad they have a detailed account of the different practice areas for a transactional or litigation attorney. The summaries are very concise and basic. No one on here can give you a better explanation of the day-to-day activities within the practice group. If you actually want to know about different areas of law within a generic biglaw practice, then actually read the info.


That's really helpful, thanks. I had somehow googled my way to --LinkRemoved--

That was not the right chambers.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby TatteredDignity » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:00 pm

Curious1 wrote:Very interested in this as well. I'm sure we (0Ls) eventually learn this but it would be nice to have a breakdown.


I'm a 1L, and no one has told me yet. That's why I humbled myself before the wisdom of TLS.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:01 pm

Can anybody give a broad overview of the differences between transaction v. litigation?

Curious1
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Curious1 » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:02 pm

0LNewbie wrote:
Curious1 wrote:Very interested in this as well. I'm sure we (0Ls) eventually learn this but it would be nice to have a breakdown.


I'm a 1L, and no one has told me yet. That's why I humbled myself before the wisdom of TLS.


Ah, thought you were a 0L, and anyway classes just started! You have time.

Good luck!

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Can anybody give a broad overview of the differences between transaction v. litigation?


Litigation--involves courts.
Transactional--everything else.

Beyond that basic distinction I think you're better off just reading the Chambers guides.

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KeepitKind
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby KeepitKind » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:08 pm

caveat to the above poster: most litigators rarely (think less than once a year) end up in court.


Renzo
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Renzo » Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:42 pm

Litigation (obviously) is centered around resolving disputes that the parties are unable to settle themselves. It can be very contentious, with the sides using petty procedural tactics and trying to play games to frustrate one another. This makes some people crazy, and other people really enjoy it. It tends to be fairly predictable, in that things are scheduled, and you know when your depositions or filing deadlines are. Sometimes things come up, but less so than in a lot of corporate practices. Litigation is very hierarchical, in that there are one or two people who are in charge of the case, and they have a few lieutenants, who in turn manage a bunch of junior associates on small discreet tasks. There is a ton of legal research and writing as junior--it's pretty much your life. The payoff later is the ability to take/defend depositions and appear in court, and do other "real lawyer" stuff, but this takes a long time to get to.

Corporate work generally involves taking care of the details for people who have agreed to make a deal. While there is a little bit of angling for points, this is marginal. The clients want you to get a good deal, but they don't want you to scuttle a billion dollar deal haggling over some detail. The grunt work is a lot of due diligence (reading and summarizing contracts, etc.) and "drafting" documents, which really means using cntrl+f to change the names of parties in a precedent document. The upside of corporate work comes sooner, in the form of client contact. There tend to be so many moving parts that there will be minor points that, as a junior, you will have ownership of, and you will likely have a similarly junior counterpart to negotiate/coordinate with. It's less hierarchical, but a lot of corporate work can be extremely unpredictable--lots of sitting around until a deal comes in, and then it's 24/7 until it closes. Lawyers don't ever want to hold up a deal.

There are other areas, like tax and regulatory work, that sort of fit mostly into corporate work, but have their own little quirks.

dougroberts
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby dougroberts » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:02 am

And practice areas transcend litigation and transactional areas. For example, in IP, there's patent and trademark litigation (and other IP litigation). But there's also working on the licensing of IP, which is transactional. In employment law, you have discrimination lawsuits, for example, but you also have the transactional side of creating employee policies/manuals.

An above poster said that litigation = courts, and transactional is everything else. I agree, and I'll add that transactional stuff is what happens before and after a dispute, whereas litigation is handling the dispute. For example, transactional would be writing the contract, which was then breached (dispute/litigation), and then reaching a settlement (arguably in either category). Remember, not all lawyers are about disputes. Most work in facilitating a variety of deals, with nothing to do with adverse parties suing each other.

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Bronte
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Bronte » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:47 am

Big law firms provide a broad range of legal services to large private institutions (like industrial corporations and financial institutions) and, less commonly, governments and wealthy individuals. For the most part, only large institutions confront issues of the scale and complexity that require a large team of attorneys (and only large institutions can afford to pay for them). Large institutions encounter complex legal issues on a regular basis because their day-to-day activities are highly regulated and expose them to significant liability.

Litigation is dispute resolution, in or out of a court. Large institutions become ensnared in high dollar disputes on a regular basis. These disputes can be between the institution and another private institution, the government, an individual, or a group of individuals. An example of the type of litigation that a big law firm would be involved in is the lawsuit that the SEC settled today against Citigroup. The SEC sued Citi on a number counts, alleging that it unlawfully misled or defrauded investors by setting up a $1 billion mortgage investment that Citi knew would fail and then betting against that investment. The parties settled out of court for over $250 million dollars. The role of a big law firm in this case would be to assess the probability that the SEC would win in court, to draft and file the preliminary litigation documents (answer, motion to dismiss, etc.), to conduct discovery (the exchange and review of documents, like the emails associated with the disputed transaction), and eventually to negotiate the settlement offer and design and draft the settlement agreement.

Transactional work involves facilitating large business transactions, e.g., a business purchasing another business, a business selling stocks or bonds to the public, a business creating an investment fund, a business entering a long-term supply contract, etc. Transactions of this scale expose the counterparties to a great deal of financial and legal risk. If it turns out that the company a firm is buying is actually in breach of a contract to the tune of $500 million, the purchaser might lose its shirt. Or, if a company issuing stock fails to comply with the numerous disclosure requirements associated with public offerings, it could end up being liable to both the investors and the federal government. Thus, transactional attorneys advise their clients on large deals in an effort to help them achieve their business goals (usually saving or making a lot of money) while complying with the relevant laws and reducing exposure to liability going forward.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 20, 2011 9:12 pm

Renzo has given you a good overview of the basics.

The only thing in Renzo's post I'd like to slightly amend is the alleged predictability of litigation. While it is definitely true that when you're working on a long-term litigation, there are many deadlines that are known well in advance (court dates, deposition dates, that kind of thing), I'd still say that for junior associates the lifestyle is about as unpredictable as for corporate junior associates.

On the corporate side, a matter might suddenly come up and take over your life for the next several days, which is not something that happens very frequently in litigation. But on the litigation side, when you're a junior associate, it's generally the senior people who rule your life and make it just as unpredictable. If today the client asks for a memo to be ready by Friday next week, then the partner or senior associate managing the team can plan out his time in the coming week to make sure it will be done by next Friday and his or her life will be relatively predictable during that period. But getting it done by Friday may mean that the senior associate will want a first draft from the mid-level by Wednesday, which means that the mid-level will want the three required pieces of research by Monday, which means that the three junior associates who will each be taking one piece of the research hear on Friday afternoon that their research will be due on Monday morning. That's the kind of thing that makes litigation unpredictable: tasks broken up in smaller pieces and trickling down the chain of command with ever-shorter deadlines.

But to get back to the OP and talk a little more about substantive work: as a junior corporate associate, you do a lot of coordinating, checking agreements, circulating them to the client and other interested parties, aggregating and processing comments, circulating a next draft, etc. And a lot of 'diligence' (looking at documents to make sure there are no red flags) and some low-level managing (making sure all the necessary copies are wherever they need to be, coordinating with copy center, printers, etc.) As you get more senior, you get to manage larger parts of a deal (and larger deals): helping the client negotiate, know what provisions are important to include, etc.

In litigation, the junior-level 'grunt' work consists of document review (sifting through thousands of the client's documents in preparation for a discovery production or through thousands of the adversary's documents to learn the facts and find documents that help build the case). Also a lot of legal and factual research, occasional drafting of sections of a brief, and some low-level managing (legal assistants, preparing materials for witness preparation, etc.) Mid-level work might be a little more managerial and also more substantive (managing a document review, preparing first drafts of court documents, second-chairing depositions, perhaps eventually taking or defending some 'minor' depositions). A senior litigation associate manages the entire case, decides what needs to be done (as directed by a partner or not, depending on how hands-on the partner is), divides the work among the other team member, corresponds with the client and the other side, takes and defends depositions, and is responsible for the team's production of briefs and other filings for review and sign-off by the partner and the client.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Renzo » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Renzo has given you a good overview of the basics.

The only thing in Renzo's post I'd like to slightly amend is the alleged predictability of litigation.



I agree with everything you've said. And I didn't mean to imply that litigation was always predictable, only that it tends to be more so than some corporate work. Some regulatory work and some financial services work can be yet more predictable, although the hours are still universally long. And, as you mentioned, just because the work is predictable doesn't mean your boss will be.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby TatteredDignity » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:43 pm

The summaries that have been offered so far have been really helpful. Thanks!

It sounds like the grunt work for jr. associate in litigation is a little more... grunty. Is that right? Or are due diligence and doc review equally mind-numbing?

Next question. Is a lack of a business/finance type UG background going to put a ceiling on one's effectiveness on the corporate side? It's not that I think I don't have a mind for that stuff, I just didn't explore it in UG. Can that be compensated for both on the fly at the firm and with the corporate-type classes in LS?

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Renzo » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:54 pm

0LNewbie wrote:The summaries that have been offered so far have been really helpful. Thanks!

It sounds like the grunt work for jr. associate in litigation is a little more... grunty. Is that right? Or are due diligence and doc review equally mind-numbing?

Next question. Is a lack of a business/finance type UG background going to put a ceiling on one's effectiveness on the corporate side? It's not that I think I don't have a mind for that stuff, I just didn't explore it in UG. Can that be compensated for both on the fly at the firm and with the corporate-type classes in LS?


There are degrees of diligence and doc review, but the worst kinds of both can be pretty boring. I would focus more on which positives you'll enjoy more, rather than which negatives will suck worse.

As for business/finance, you can learn what you need through school, self teaching, and on the job learning. Lots and lots of corporate attorneys knew fuckall about business before they started.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:59 pm

The chambers link doesn't have a family law practice area. Is that a conglomeration of other areas? How would you all describe it in relation to some of the other areas listed?

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Renzo » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:08 am

Anonymous User wrote:The chambers link doesn't have a family law practice area. Is that a conglomeration of other areas? How would you all describe it in relation to some of the other areas listed?


Chambers is a biglaw guide, and family law is basically nonexistent at big firms (yes, there are a few small exceptions). It's generally like litigation; but small firm litigation, such as at your typical family law or plaintiff's tort firm is very different than what was described above. The litigating cases on flat-fee or contingency arrangements is a world apart from the blank-checkbook approach big firms generally use.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:35 pm

Renzo wrote:There are degrees of diligence and doc review, but the worst kinds of both can be pretty boring. I would focus more on which positives you'll enjoy more, rather than which negatives will suck worse.


Again, Renzo has it. It's not worth choosing a career track based on the worst parts of the first two, three years. Both litigators and corporators spend some mind-numbing hours looking at documents when they first join a firm. You will, too, and you will get through it. But what comes next, the substantive work, is what you will be doing for the rest of your legal career, so you had better enjoy that type of work.

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Re: Litigation vs. Transactional?

Postby 03121202698008 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:54 pm

It doesn't matter. As a 0L, you have no idea what kind of law will interest you. You will figure it out as you go, over your first and second summer, etc. In fact, firms don't really like you being sold. I told them all I wanted Lit but had no idea what kind. Most responded back thats the right kind of answer...they consider people deadset on nuclear energy law, etc as having made a rash decision without a true understanding and judge them accordingly.

How would you have any clue what you liked until you did it?




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