Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

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Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 13, 2019 7:33 pm

Hi all. Incoming SA here.

Basically, I have no clue what I want to do career wise. I am no longer interested in the field that brought me to law school (at least not for a very long time). During my 1L SA, I enjoyed both litigation and transactional work, but nothing really stood out to me as “this is what I want to do.” I am doing rotations this summer and have a few groups in mind, but are there any practice groups that are just way more brutal than others that I should avoid? I’ve heard M&A and bankruptcy. I’m really open to exploring any practice area, so I think for me it will come down to 1) the work/life balance that the practice area allows for and 2) the people and culture of the group.

Thanks for any and all thoughts.

JohnnieSockran

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby JohnnieSockran » Mon May 13, 2019 8:13 pm

M&A is up there for the worst, but the tradeoff is that you have the most exit options if you want out of biglaw after 3 years.

icansortofmath

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby icansortofmath » Tue May 14, 2019 10:10 pm

It really depends. M&A/Bankruptcy is feast-famine (recently a lot more feast) and some people like that. (the famine periods = 2pm golf)

Some people prefer more stable 9-7 (9-5 even in some offices I've heard...) hours of something like exec comp with predictable busy seasons.

I personally prefer the first one but YMMV.

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2019 12:22 am

Bankruptcy at specific firms

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2019 12:57 am

Bankruptcy and M&A without a doubt. For what it’s worth, in bankruptcy, and I don’t think my friends in M&A really have much of a different experience in terms of lifestyle.

Aptitude

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Aptitude » Wed May 15, 2019 3:48 am

Anonymous User wrote:I’ve heard M&A and bankruptcy. I’m really open to exploring any practice area, so I think for me it will come down to 1) the work/life balance that the practice area allows for and 2) the people and culture of the group.

Thanks for any and all thoughts.


If you're into work life balance, you should look into your firm's estate law planning department. Estate law planning has few real actual hard deadlines unlike in many other practices. So, there are rarely ever fires you have to put out.

I know some EP attorneys at big law firms trying to make partner that work 7 days a week, but that's because they're trying to exceed their billable requirements and impress so it's more by choice. Unlike in litigation though, there is a lot of stuff you can't necessarily bill on, and what you can/can't bill on will depend on the firm, and where you practice. So you want to ask around to make sure, but estate law planning is generally known as offering more work-life balance.

It's relatively cush, if you don't mind having to kiss a lot of ass. Some firms will want you to get an LLM, so you should keep that in mind. It's also not the biggest revenue driver for a lot of large firms - so departments will tend to be small. There's also a lot of competition within the field, and in my opinion, is not a field I see growing by a lot in the upcoming years. A lot of accounting/financial firms offer estate and wealth management firms offer estate law planning services too, there's just competition all around, unless you have some type of specific expertise in accounting or tax.

I have friends (8 figure estates) who's families used estate law planning attorneys from very small firms. A lot of people I know, especially the younger ones, don't really see the value in spending a lot in estate law planning even if they have valuable estates and could easily afford it. I know some pretty financially well off people that used legalzoom or got their E.P documents drafted for like $500.

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2019 10:01 am

Real estate finance is pretty rough.

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Elston Gunn

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Elston Gunn » Wed May 15, 2019 10:29 am

Good rules of thumb are that deal-focused and international practice areas will be worse. For instance, CFIUS is an underratedly awful practice if your firm does that because it involves deals and the fire drills happen at like 8pm China time.

On the other hand, practices that involve a lot of counseling will have better lifestyles (though as you get higher up/become partner or counsel they often include tons of travel because you need a constant stream of new clients since so many of your matters are small). Niche practices (regulatory, benefits, tax) may on the whole be better, but it really comes down to whether in practice the work your firm does is more deal (or investigation, in certain regulatory practices) focused or more counseling. Because being a deal-focused tax or benefits lawyer can be awful too.

Lit is generally in the middle, I’d say. Fewer unexpected fire drills, but always tons of work in a busy practice. Exit options are also more competitive/narrower than from most corporate practices.

Aptitude

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby Aptitude » Wed May 15, 2019 12:32 pm

Elston Gunn wrote:
On the other hand, practices that involve a lot of counseling will have better lifestyles (though as you get higher up/become partner or counsel they often include tons of travel because you need a constant stream of new clients since so many of your matters are small).


Yeah, I was shocked by how many partners in estate law planning have to work Saturdays or at nights, because they're giving seminars as a way to bring in new clients. They'll have to travel to different cities, or even states to get their name out there. Some attorneys use to be against it, but the field is so competitive, I feel like there's multiple seminars every week given big firms, small firms, solos, wealth management companies etc.

Looks like such a chore.

icansortofmath

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby icansortofmath » Wed May 15, 2019 12:36 pm

It is a chore but some people enjoy their expenses paid trips. Plenty of estate planning lawyers just stick to their geographic area and barely travel.

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby AdequateProtection » Wed May 15, 2019 3:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Bankruptcy and M&A without a doubt. For what it’s worth, in bankruptcy, and I don’t think my friends in M&A really have much of a different experience in terms of lifestyle.


I wouldn't say bankruptcy is always one of the worst. It depends on the type of bankruptcy work.

If you do more transactional stuff (distressed deals and the like) the experience will be similar to M&A. But I've found bk litigation is less hectic and more predictable since things get calendared in advance and there are set deadlines. With a better sense of what's coming down the pike, you can plan your life accordingly.

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby jagpaw » Wed May 15, 2019 3:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
AdequateProtection wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Bankruptcy and M&A without a doubt. For what it’s worth, in bankruptcy, and I don’t think my friends in M&A really have much of a different experience in terms of lifestyle.


I wouldn't say bankruptcy is always one of the worst. It depends on the type of bankruptcy work.

If you do more transactional stuff (distressed deals and the like) the experience will be similar to M&A. But I've found bk litigation is less hectic and more predictable since things get calendared in advance and there are set deadlines. With a better sense of what's coming down the pike, you can plan your life accordingly.


Thanks. What are hours generally like in a litigation focused restructuring group (and what are some examples of firms with this type of practice)?



Thanks. What are hours generally like in a litigation focused restructuring group (and what are some examples of firms with this type of practice)?

AdequateProtection

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby AdequateProtection » Wed May 15, 2019 4:48 pm

jagpaw wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
AdequateProtection wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Bankruptcy and M&A without a doubt. For what it’s worth, in bankruptcy, and I don’t think my friends in M&A really have much of a different experience in terms of lifestyle.


I wouldn't say bankruptcy is always one of the worst. It depends on the type of bankruptcy work.

If you do more transactional stuff (distressed deals and the like) the experience will be similar to M&A. But I've found bk litigation is less hectic and more predictable since things get calendared in advance and there are set deadlines. With a better sense of what's coming down the pike, you can plan your life accordingly.


Thanks. What are hours generally like in a litigation focused restructuring group (and what are some examples of firms with this type of practice)?


It's hard to make generalizations regarding hour expectations at different firms. It can vary significantly depending on the size of the group, partner demands, the market, the case load, etc. I can only speak to my experience.

Partners in my office split almost 50-50 between bankruptcy lit and distressed deal work. I work for partners whose main clients are funds and other investors that buy and sell assets, distressed debt, bankruptcy claims, etc. I also work for a partners who primarily represent creditors (mostly bondholders and indenture trustees) in bankruptcy cases. Total hours worked in a given period is similar regardless of who I'm working for, but the difference is predictability.

In lit, you know you have x number of days to file a motion then x more days to file a response and that the hearing is scheduled for x date. It's busy, but at least you know what's coming. Deal-focused work is unpredictable. You get more of a corporate associate's experience, where things may be slow all day then a late afternoon email or call means you're working all night/weekend. As one poster mentioned, which one you prefer depends on your personality.

I'm still very junior (class of 2017), and I don't know which firms do a higher percentage of bk litigation versus distressed deal work. Maybe another poster could help. I've personally worked on bk lit matters involving Gibson Dunn, WilmerHale, Brown Rudnick, King and Spalding, Quinn Emmanuel. I should also mention firms differ in their philosophies regarding how much litigating bankruptcy attorneys do. Some firms are quick to call in "real litigators" to do bankruptcy litigation.

CHEESEISLYFE

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Re: Practice areas that are the least “lifestyle” friendly?

Postby CHEESEISLYFE » Thu May 16, 2019 5:23 pm

Hours depend on practice area as well as firm, time of year, team capacity etc.

Often this cycle happens:
1. Firms put all their time headhunting some partners who join, bring some work and they never think about the junior/associate support who is actually going to be doing it all. And so:
2. Whilst the associates are stretched to breaking point pulling 5ams everyday, the partners have a chat to talent and say....hmmm these guys have been doing 300 hour months, maybe we should get a junior in to take some of the weight off. And so:
3. Talent recruit the junior(s) but they've taken so long getting it together that the big deals have all been done or are finishing up and the newbies can't have any useful input. They then have nothing to do.

As a generalisation, M&A has terrible hours. Lev finance has bad hours. High yield is terrible. I'd say you're probably more likely to have worse hours in corporate than lev fin etc. but not by much, maybe 15%. But you have significantly better exits than other transactional areas, so generally the trade-off is worth it.
Anything regulatory is a good thing to get into imo. Much better hours and good exits. You can that on the white collar lit side or in broader tech or funds reg practices. Firms have broader or narrower reg teams, depends on where you go.



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