What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

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What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:11 am

I'm heading to a NYC big law firm this summer, and I was wondering what practice areas fall outside of "support group" practice areas? M&A obviously does, but does something like Capital Markets also fit in that realm? Project Finance? BK? I'm looking to possibly make this thing a career, and I don't want to pigeonhole myself into a group that is heavily reliant on other groups for work (e.g. deal tax work). That's not something I want my counsel/partner prospects tied to in 10 years. I know liking big law, let alone becoming counsel/partner, is a long shot, but I want to start off in a group that will reward an entrepreneurial mid-level/sr. associate down the line if I make it that far.

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DoveBodyWash

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Re: What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby DoveBodyWash » Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:50 pm

Every practice in BigLaw relies on other groups to varying degrees. Are you looking for a practice that generally originates deals within BigLaw? Or a practice that will let you go off on your own later in life (the entrepreneurial comment throwing me off)?

If the former, it's entirely firm dependent. Real Estate at one firm might entail being M&A's lease review bitch but may bring in substantial work at another. If latter, then anything that regular Joes/Janes might need a lawyer for (and be able to pay for). Real estate, trust/estates, general litigation, etc...

If you're summering at your garden variety M&A-heavy/V5-whatever firm, then the groups with the higher volumes/margins are the ones you'll want to look at. In my experience, usually M&A, bankruptcy, capital markets, and finance (only at certain firms though). Groups like tax, real estate, exec comp, IP, enviro generally play supporting roles.

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Re: What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby jarofsoup » Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:53 pm

There is a concept of internal rain and getting internal referral work can help you make partner easier in support group x that has 5 associates rather than 70 in big practice group y.

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Re: What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby QContinuum » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:42 pm

DoveBodyWash wrote:If you're summering at your garden variety M&A-heavy/V5-whatever firm, then the groups with the higher volumes/margins are the ones you'll want to look at. In my experience, usually M&A, bankruptcy, capital markets, and finance (only at certain firms though). Groups like tax, real estate, exec comp, IP, enviro generally play supporting roles.

The corollary being that the "non-support groups" generally have substantially worse lifestyles than the "support groups," which tend to have a much more stable workflow. If you're tax or IP or exec comp, you're not going to be pulling all-nighters leading up to a deal closing because your part will be over pretty far in advance of the closing.

I also don't think it's necessarily easier to make partner in, say, M&A than in, say, tax. Sure, M&A will make more partners overall, but they also start out with a much bigger entering class.

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Re: What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:04 am

DoveBodyWash wrote: Are you looking for a practice that generally originates deals within BigLaw? Or a practice that will let you go off on your own later in life (the entrepreneurial comment throwing me off)?


I'm the OP. I mean a practice that will generally allow for origination from within the group. Sorry about using entrepreneurial. I meant it in the sense that you "control your destiny" to a higher degree with respect to long-term firm survivability and advancement. I'm not at a V5, but I am at very corporate heavy V20-50 that seems to mostly revolve around M&A/Capital Markets/Project Finance. Right now, I'm really strongly considering (1) Capital Markets and (2) Exec Comp/Employee Benefits as my two rotations. Thoughts? Any words of caution? I've heard Capital Markets does not weather economic downturn well, but I'm not crazy enough to want something countercyclical like BK that comes with its share of downsides.

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Re: What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby shock259 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:47 pm

It's tempting to think you can have some control in those areas, but the reality is that you will be chained to your clients. In a lot of ways, the support groups have more flexibility. If I send something to tax to review, they look in the next 3-4 days. If a client calls with a new deal and we are already bursting at the seams ... we're still going to take that that deal.

Also, I don't think long term surviability really is much different. At the end of the day, everyone is subject to the whims of clients. Whether you're the one with the "direct" relationship to the client or the support person. Say your client sells the arm of its business that exclusively used you for legal services - that is going to affect everyone equally and no one has any control over it.

I think you're overthinking this particular component a bit much. I would advise you to focus on an area that (a) you inherently find interesting, (b) you like the people in, and/or (c) that has exit options consistent with your long term goals.

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Re: What are the best biglaw practice groups for independence?

Postby QContinuum » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:06 am

shock259 wrote:It's tempting to think you can have some control in those areas, but the reality is that you will be chained to your clients. In a lot of ways, the support groups have more flexibility. If I send something to tax to review, they look in the next 3-4 days. If a client calls with a new deal and we are already bursting at the seams ... we're still going to take that that deal.

Also, I don't think long term surviability really is much different. At the end of the day, everyone is subject to the whims of clients. Whether you're the one with the "direct" relationship to the client or the support person. Say your client sells the arm of its business that exclusively used you for legal services - that is going to affect everyone equally and no one has any control over it.

I think you're overthinking this particular component a bit much. I would advise you to focus on an area that (a) you inherently find interesting, (b) you like the people in, and/or (c) that has exit options consistent with your long term goals.

The above is TCR. I mean, yes, in theory you could become the star M&A rainmaker at the firm, and thus the most indispensable/highly-compensated partner. You couldn't do that in a support practice. But the odds of making partner are already tiny, and the odds of becoming the rainmaker even slimmer. The vast majority of M&A partners are not going to be any more powerful than support practice partners.



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