Let's talk about practice areas

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Anonymous User
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Let's talk about practice areas

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:08 pm

As a rising 2L, who has only taken sparse non-doctrinal courses, I could use some education on certain practice areas - all of them, in fact, with the obvious exceptions. I'm sure there are others in the same boat and I hope that those of you who have had SA positions or other experience can help us out. What does it mean when a firm is doing:


Antitrust - does this mean structuring deals to avoid violations, defending corporations, both, something else? What sort of expertise is involved in it?

Banking and Finance - Similar question: is this bond issuance? Loan arrangements? Contracts? Or litigation relating to it? Or both, or something else?

Corporate - is this a catch-all that includes most of the others, or is it something else entirely?

Energy and Projects - Deals? Compliance? Litigation? Environmental?

Environment - Same question about compliance vs. litigation/defense, or both, or perhaps something else.

Healthcare - insurance? Malpractice defense? Compliance? What do people mean when they say this?

Intellectual Property - I think I get this generally; I assume it means patent protection, litigation etc. and some defense. Is there more?

Litigation - is this a catch-all? I assume it is. Perhaps with the addition of appellate?

Real Estate - is there much more to this than drawing up the deals and the financing, etc?

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romothesavior
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby romothesavior » Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:30 pm

For almost every firm I interviewed with, they didn't seem to care what I was really interested in. I just sold litigation pretty hard, because that's what I want to do. A lot of people told me that you just need to decide between transactional/litigation, and then things sort themselves out from there. Hell, for interview purposes you don't even really need to say one or the other. With maybe a few exceptions, I think being too specific in interviews can hurt you absent a compelling reason for wanting to do X. For the average K-JDer, coming into some big law firm interivew and saying, "I want to do ______" is bound to lead to a skeptical question of "Psh, why? How do you know?" So I think it is better to be more general, but I'm sure others will disagree.

As to what you've got listed here, I think you've sorta got the gist as far as I can tell. Within almost any of these areas, there will be sub-areas. For example, within environmental or energy, you'll have a litigation component, and a regulatory compliance component. Same with labor and employment, same with healthcare. Basically anything that deals with big statutory scheme will have a litigation component, as well as compliance/advisory component, and lawyers tend to do one or the other. I don't know a lot about the transactional side, but when I hear corporate I usually think of M&A and related business dealings generally.

Disclosure: I'm a 3L, so what the hell do I know?

LawIdiot86
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby LawIdiot86 » Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:As a rising 2L, who has only taken sparse non-doctrinal courses, I could use some education on certain practice areas - all of them, in fact, with the obvious exceptions. I'm sure there are others in the same boat and I hope that those of you who have had SA positions or other experience can help us out. What does it mean when a firm is doing:


Antitrust - does this mean structuring deals to avoid violations, defending corporations, both, something else? What sort of expertise is involved in it?

Banking and Finance - Similar question: is this bond issuance? Loan arrangements? Contracts? Or litigation relating to it? Or both, or something else?

Corporate - is this a catch-all that includes most of the others, or is it something else entirely?

Energy and Projects - Deals? Compliance? Litigation? Environmental?

Environment - Same question about compliance vs. litigation/defense, or both, or perhaps something else.

Healthcare - insurance? Malpractice defense? Compliance? What do people mean when they say this?

Intellectual Property - I think I get this generally; I assume it means patent protection, litigation etc. and some defense. Is there more?

Litigation - is this a catch-all? I assume it is. Perhaps with the addition of appellate?

Real Estate - is there much more to this than drawing up the deals and the financing, etc?


The answer here is: It depends on the firm. The majority of firm offices will say "litigation or corporate?" If you are going to a DC office, they might say "litigation, corporate, or regulatory/policy?" If the firm/office has a known specialty, it might be looking for that. Incidentally, antitrust can go either corporate (HSR) or litigation and is significantly more difficult to get into then you might imagine. Antitrust practices love econ undergrad majors. Also, banking and finance can split many many ways, so you will need to carefully research a firm if they are recruiting for a practice called that. Depending on the firm it can mean servicing banks as cross corp-lit industry sector, doing their compliance work as regulatory practice, doing fund formation as an IM practice, or just serve as a fancy name for a securitization or corporate practice.

Anonymous User
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Antitrust - does this mean structuring deals to avoid violations, defending corporations, both, something else? What sort of expertise is involved in it?

Can be either or both. Some firms have a separate antitrust department, some lump it in with litigation or corporate, and I think that there may even be some that have separate departments for corp. antitrust and lit. antitrust. Antitrust lawyers get involved in some deals when the deal is negotiated, to think through the anti-competitive implications and to prevent or minimize regulatory scrutiny. They may also get involved once regulatory agencies have already expressed their interest in a particular transaction or behavior, at which point they may be litigators.

Anonymous User wrote:Corporate - is this a catch-all that includes most of the others, or is it something else entirely?

Many firms roughly divide their work into "litigation" and "corporate." At many firms, these departments will be subdivided further (M&A, capital markets, etc. falling under corporate; white-collar defense, real-estate litigation, etc. under litigation), but some just have the two large departments. Tax is often a third group, although I think there may be firms that put tax under corporate, too. Essentially corporate can be anything that does not involve litigation (yet) and is more or less synonymous with "transactional."

Anonymous User wrote: Environment - Same question about compliance vs. litigation/defense, or both, or perhaps something else.

I think this may depend on the firm. Where I work, the environmental group is in corporate and takes care of the environmental issues of transactions. I don't think they have a substantial separate client base; they mostly work on transactions that are handled primarily by other corporate groups, such as M&A. But there are obviously also environmental lawsuits, so there must be firms that have environmental litigation practices.

Anonymous User wrote: Healthcare - insurance? Malpractice defense? Compliance? What do people mean when they say this?

"Compliance" is a catch-all term for all kinds of regulatory law. People who work in pure regulatory groups may be somewhat separated from both litigation and corporate, depending on the firm. They could be involved in compliance work connected to transactions (so again, working as a sort of service group for other corporate teams handling transactions) or they may be handling their own projects, for example when a client decides that it needs to update its internal policies with respect to preventing bribery (FCPA compliance), environmental policies, employment policies, etc.

I have no knowledge about healthcare or insurance law. Malpractice defense can be all sorts of things, including medical malpractice and legal malpractice. Very different.

Anonymous User wrote:Intellectual Property - I think I get this generally; I assume it means patent protection, litigation etc. and some defense. Is there more?

There's a lot. Patents ("hard IP"), and copyright and trademarks ("soft IP") all have their own laws and regulations and are to some extent their own practice areas. Some firms may have all three types of IP, some may do only one, or none. Even for just patents, firms do widely differing work. Patent prosecution (= applying for patents and convincing the patent office to grant them) is often done at different firms than patent litigation (suing alleged infringers or defending infringement suits). And then there's the field of licensing, which is rather transactional. (One party owns a patent or copyright, the other party wants to use it. The parties negotiate licensing fees and conditions.)

Anonymous User wrote:Litigation - is this a catch-all? I assume it is. Perhaps with the addition of appellate?

Yes, catch-all. Few firms bother to specify "appellate," as most large firms do litigation at all levels. Although there are of course some firms who specialize in particular kinds of appeals.

Anonymous User wrote:Real Estate - is there much more to this than drawing up the deals and the financing, etc?

Sometimes they also get involved in businessy aspects of commercial real estate projects -- advising on how it will be managed after the acquisition, negotiating all the related contracts (with suppliers, management, employees, etc.), but that will again depend on the firm and the particular lawyers.

Anonymous User
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Antitrust - does this mean structuring deals to avoid violations, defending corporations, both, something else? What sort of expertise is involved in it?

Can be either or both. Some firms have a separate antitrust department, some lump it in with litigation or corporate, and I think that there may even be some that have separate departments for corp. antitrust and lit. antitrust. Antitrust lawyers get involved in some deals when the deal is negotiated, to think through the anti-competitive implications and to prevent or minimize regulatory scrutiny. They may also get involved once regulatory agencies have already expressed their interest in a particular transaction or behavior, at which point they may be litigators.

Anonymous User wrote:Corporate - is this a catch-all that includes most of the others, or is it something else entirely?

Many firms roughly divide their work into "litigation" and "corporate." At many firms, these departments will be subdivided further (M&A, capital markets, etc. falling under corporate; white-collar defense, real-estate litigation, etc. under litigation), but some just have the two large departments. Tax is often a third group, although I think there may be firms that put tax under corporate, too. Essentially corporate can be anything that does not involve litigation (yet) and is more or less synonymous with "transactional."

Anonymous User wrote: Environment - Same question about compliance vs. litigation/defense, or both, or perhaps something else.

I think this may depend on the firm. Where I work, the environmental group is in corporate and takes care of the environmental issues of transactions. I don't think they have a substantial separate client base; they mostly work on transactions that are handled primarily by other corporate groups, such as M&A. But there are obviously also environmental lawsuits, so there must be firms that have environmental litigation practices.

Anonymous User wrote: Healthcare - insurance? Malpractice defense? Compliance? What do people mean when they say this?

"Compliance" is a catch-all term for all kinds of regulatory law. People who work in pure regulatory groups may be somewhat separated from both litigation and corporate, depending on the firm. They could be involved in compliance work connected to transactions (so again, working as a sort of service group for other corporate teams handling transactions) or they may be handling their own projects, for example when a client decides that it needs to update its internal policies with respect to preventing bribery (FCPA compliance), environmental policies, employment policies, etc.

I have no knowledge about healthcare or insurance law. Malpractice defense can be all sorts of things, including medical malpractice and legal malpractice. Very different.

Anonymous User wrote:Intellectual Property - I think I get this generally; I assume it means patent protection, litigation etc. and some defense. Is there more?

There's a lot. Patents ("hard IP"), and copyright and trademarks ("soft IP") all have their own laws and regulations and are to some extent their own practice areas. Some firms may have all three types of IP, some may do only one, or none. Even for just patents, firms do widely differing work. Patent prosecution (= applying for patents and convincing the patent office to grant them) is often done at different firms than patent litigation (suing alleged infringers or defending infringement suits). And then there's the field of licensing, which is rather transactional. (One party owns a patent or copyright, the other party wants to use it. The parties negotiate licensing fees and conditions.)

Anonymous User wrote:Litigation - is this a catch-all? I assume it is. Perhaps with the addition of appellate?

Yes, catch-all. Few firms bother to specify "appellate," as most large firms do litigation at all levels. Although there are of course some firms who specialize in particular kinds of appeals.

Anonymous User wrote:Real Estate - is there much more to this than drawing up the deals and the financing, etc?

Sometimes they also get involved in businessy aspects of commercial real estate projects -- advising on how it will be managed after the acquisition, negotiating all the related contracts (with suppliers, management, employees, etc.), but that will again depend on the firm and the particular lawyers.

OP here. Great post, thanks. Regarding what firms want to know when they interview, it's not that I feel desperate to have a super narrow focus, it's more that knowing what a particular firm does will help me talk more intelligently about why I want to be there.

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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Great post, thanks. Regarding what firms want to know when they interview, it's not that I feel desperate to have a super narrow focus, it's more that knowing what a particular firm does will help me talk more intelligently about why I want to be there.


I'm the poster of that long post above. What you're doing makes sense. It's only when you start to do some legal work and start to talk with friends who work in different departments, different firms, etc., that you slowly start to get a sense of what different practice groups are and what people in the various groups actually do.

And even knowing what the focus and goals are of a group doesn't mean that you know what it would be like to actually work in the group. You can sort of guess that a tax lawyer will be reading a lot of tax code and a regulatory lawyer will be reading regulations, but it's only when you've been around for a while that you know, e.g., which practice areas are document intensive (which means that they are potentially annoying fields for junior associates who have to review the documents, but fine for mid-levels on up), which areas tend to require a lot of legal research, which areas, by contrast, don't have much 'law' at all and involve more negotiations.

And there are so many other things that influence your life at a firm. Once you start getting to know whatever firm you end up with, you slowly learn which practice areas involve enormous teams (because there's just so much work to do on any deal or case) so that as a junior associate you may feel like a little cog, and which areas tend to have smaller teams where everyone knows every in and out of the matter.

This is not helpful at all, but if I had to apply for a job now, I would go about it entirely differently than I did when I did OCI four years ago (although I still might have ended up at the same place, as I was lucky to find a place that suits me), but I can't give any recommendations, because before you actually work at one of these firms and learn how they work and learn about your own preferences, you don't -- you CAN'T -- really know yet what to look for.

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AZN MegaPoaster
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby AZN MegaPoaster » Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:40 pm

romothesavior wrote:For almost every firm I interviewed with, they didn't seem to care what I was really interested in. I just sold litigation pretty hard, because that's what I want to do. A lot of people told me that you just need to decide between transactional/litigation, and then things sort themselves out from there. Hell, for interview purposes you don't even really need to say one or the other. With maybe a few exceptions, I think being too specific in interviews can hurt you absent a compelling reason for wanting to do X. For the average K-JDer, coming into some big law firm interivew and saying, "I want to do ______" is bound to lead to a skeptical question of "Psh, why? How do you know?" So I think it is better to be more general, but I'm sure others will disagree.

As to what you've got listed here, I think you've sorta got the gist as far as I can tell. Within almost any of these areas, there will be sub-areas. For example, within environmental or energy, you'll have a litigation component, and a regulatory compliance component. Same with labor and employment, same with healthcare. Basically anything that deals with big statutory scheme will have a litigation component, as well as compliance/advisory component, and lawyers tend to do one or the other. I don't know a lot about the transactional side, but when I hear corporate I usually think of M&A and related business dealings generally.

Disclosure: I'm a 3L, so what the hell do I know?


Sorry for the stupid question, but: what does K-JD stand for?

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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:44 pm

AZN MegaPoaster wrote:Sorry for the stupid question, but: what does K-JD stand for?


Straight-through student with no work experience. K-18 - college - law school.

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romothesavior
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby romothesavior » Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:44 pm

AZN MegaPoaster wrote:Sorry for the stupid question, but: what does K-JD stand for?

Kindergarten-law school.

elm84dr
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby elm84dr » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:18 pm

Some one provided a link to practice area explanations and personality types in another thread. I am trying to find it and cannot.

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thesealocust
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Re: Let's talk about practice areas

Postby thesealocust » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:36 pm

Practice area summaries: http://www.chambers-associate.com/Artic ... aSummaries

In addition, you can use a firm's lawyer search / NALP forms to often figure out the breakdown of lawyers within the firm.

As an example, Davis Polk in NYC has twice as many capital markets corporate associates as M&A corporate associates. It also has twice as many corporate associates as litigators. It has an "environmental" practice but it's literally like 2 lawyers.

When you can get info like that, it can help avoid a costly mistake. Declaring a passionate interest in an environmental practice only to discover the firm has 1 environmental partner, 0 associates, and 0 need for an environmental summer is a painful way to shoot yourself in the foot.

Another example: Hogan DC has a legitimate corporate practice, but many DC firms either have none or really only barely have one.




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