Litigation or Corporate

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 350822
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Litigation or Corporate

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 02, 2020 4:12 pm

Hi,

I am a rising 3L with a V20 offer and I have to decide my practice area this coming fall. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult for me to figure out if I like litigation or corporate during a shortened, virtual SA program (due to Covid-19).

I did find a lot of posts regarding this topic, but I was wondering if any of practicing attorneys here are willing to answer some of my questions:

(1) I am not that great at public speaking. In fact, I am pretty bad at it. Will this be a hindrance to being a litigator at a biglaw firm?

(2) Is litigation at biglaw firms really dying out?

(3) What kind of personality types do you usually see in litigation?

(4) Any general advice on choosing between litigation v. corporate?

Thank you.

User avatar
LHand1993

New
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:50 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by LHand1993 » Sat May 02, 2020 6:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hi,

I am a rising 3L with a V20 offer and I have to decide my practice area this coming fall. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult for me to figure out if I like litigation or corporate during a shortened, virtual SA program (due to Covid-19).

I did find a lot of posts regarding this topic, but I was wondering if any of practicing attorneys here are willing to answer some of my questions:

(1) I am not that great at public speaking. In fact, I am pretty bad at it. Will this be a hindrance to being a litigator at a biglaw firm?

(2) Is litigation at biglaw firms really dying out?

(3) What kind of personality types do you usually see in litigation?

(4) Any general advice on choosing between litigation v. corporate?

Thank you.
There's a recent article by David Lat on ATL about this very topic:

https://abovethelaw.com/2020/02/mammas- ... itigators/

RaceJudicata

Gold
Posts: 1824
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2015 2:51 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by RaceJudicata » Sat May 02, 2020 8:03 pm

writing skills are key for lit; public speaking doesn’t matter too much, and particularly not as a junior.

As a litigator, I think the *smart* move is to do corporate (exit opps). But I’d unquestionably pick litigation again. Corporate work - at least from my perspective - seems absolutely miserable.

ghostoftraynor

Bronze
Posts: 296
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:43 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by ghostoftraynor » Sat May 02, 2020 8:14 pm

Lit is generally better for people who are interested in the law.

Corp is generally better for people who want to make a high salary and move to a nice exit. There are certainly people passionate about corp, but think that is a small minority.

User avatar
Yea All Right

Silver
Posts: 565
Joined: Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:27 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Yea All Right » Sat May 02, 2020 9:09 pm

Corporate lawyer here. IMO, the tasks you do as a corporate lawyer (especially as a junior) can be quite inane and nothing you need to go to law school for, and combined with the more unpredictable schedule, it's harder for corporate lawyers to stomach staying in biglaw for a long time than it is for litigators. But maybe that's just me being bitter and thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. I do think it's pretty universally accepted that the exit options for corporate lawyers are much better.

To be a litigator, I believe it's important that you enjoy (or at least can tolerate) legal writing and case research. I don't like those things, which is why being a corporate lawyer is still better for me personally.

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


objctnyrhnr

Moderator
Posts: 1328
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:44 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by objctnyrhnr » Sat May 02, 2020 9:51 pm

Being a litigator is about actually enjoying much of your day to day but acknowledging that your next step will likely be relatively tougher.

Corporate is about maximizing your marketability for your next step, but also (typically) never really liking what you do that much.

To the extent you find passionate biglawyers, they’re typically litigators of some sort (but definitely not always!).

Also, from a lateraling perspective, corporate marketability can get very hot and very cold. By contrast, lit can get cool and lukewarm in my opinion but doesn’t swing nearly as far in either direction.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350822
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 02, 2020 10:05 pm

I’m a litigator. I have liked a lot of it. Most of my complaints are just biglaw in general. Anal people who care about stuff that doesn’t matter too much.

My first year was hell. But after that it really hasn’t been thaaattt bad. I get paid a lot and it’s not that terrible of a lifestyle most of the time. I’ve barely worked a weekend omg he last seven months.

With all that said, you have to like reading, writing, and research. I’m really good at writing which separates me and shields me from some of the bullshit.

If you can’t get good at that or don’t want to, lit may be hard. Oral argument doesn’t matter. You’ll do it once or twice until you’re a partner. And then you’ll just stumble through it and make excuses to the client like every other biglaw litigator.

In the end, litagation is a better biglaw lifestyle than corporate. You have better exit options with corporate. Pick your poison.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350822
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Anonymous User » Sun May 03, 2020 10:05 am

It honestly really is better to be a litigator as everyone has mentioned on this thread, but only if you enjoy the writing and research, as mentioned. Source: doing corporate big law work sucked but kept with it for the exit options and even with good options and $$$ now, don't really enjoy non-biglaw life either and would rather not be doing "legal" work. Don't have any friends who are gung-ho about having gone into biglaw or corporate law either (only classmates I know who love what they do are litigators).

objctnyrhnr

Moderator
Posts: 1328
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:44 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by objctnyrhnr » Sun May 03, 2020 10:21 am

But the other important thing to remember, here, is that a lot of people who do go into lit don’t enjoy it and/or don’t excel at it (usually but not always the two go hand in hand assuming one had the creds to get biglaw).

And that’s kind of the worst of both worlds because your exit options are more limited and you’re not enjoying your day to day and you might be nervous about getting pushed out which is an added stressor.

So the simple answer to your question is do litigation if you like litigation. If not, do corporate and keep your head on a swivel for opportunities.

“How do I know if I like litigation (at this stage)?” is a tougher question.

Want to continue reading?

Register for access!

Did I mention it was FREE ?


target_corp

New
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat May 02, 2020 8:49 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by target_corp » Sun May 03, 2020 10:35 am

Adding another corporate perspective:

1. It matters which type of "corporate" work we're talking about because there are material differences among, e.g., securities, finance, M&A, VC/startup/EGC, and even general corporate (in-house) work. You might like one but loathe another. One problem is that law students don't really know the difference and can get slotted into a sub-optimal group for them personally, leading to quicker burnout.

2. The work gets better/more interesting the more senior you become, but yes, the junior years are a slog. It's also harder to build the skills and position yourself to get the kind of experience you want (even for exit options, not just partnership) than people seem to think.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350822
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Anonymous User » Sun May 03, 2020 10:50 am

OP here.

I really appreciate all of your thoughtful responses.

So, it is my understanding that the core skills you develop/improve as a junior litigator are basically legal research & writing. What are some of the skills a junior corporate lawyer can obtain?

I am asking this because although I think I am decent at legal writing and pretty much enjoy researching cases on Westlaw, I am also interested in learning how business works. Therefore, I feel like I should base my decision on which path will better prepare me to become a well-rounded lawyer. Sorry if this sounds naive...I am just trying to get as many perspectives as possible before I make my final decision.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sun May 03, 2020 4:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350822
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Anonymous User » Sun May 03, 2020 11:31 am

Neither (if you're going to a DC office). Get into a regulatory practice.

attorney589753

New
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:42 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by attorney589753 » Sun May 03, 2020 2:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here.

I really appreciate all of your thoughtful responses.

So, it is my understanding that the core skill you develop/improve as a junior litigator are basically legal research & writing. What are some of the skills a junior corporate lawyer can obtain?

I am asking this because although I think I am decent at legal writing and pretty much enjoy researching cases on Westlaw, I am also interested in learning how business works. Therefore, I feel like I should base my decision on which path will better prepare me to become a well-rounded lawyer. Sorry if this sounds naive...I am just trying to get as many perspectives as possible before I make my final decision.
I agree with the earlier comment that there is a lot of variability in corporate groups. I've dabbled in three or so different corporate groups and finally ended up in one that made the most sense to me.

I think if you are more interested in "business" longterm, you should do corporate work. You end up much closer to the business folks and principals who are making decisions. Plus exit options are more business-like, as people have other mentioned.

Also -- and this depends on a lot on your corporate practice -- but some corporate lawyers spend a lot of time interfacing and quarterbacking with specialists. On an M&A deal for example, there might be health care issues and litigation issues that require you to go talk to those folks in your firm, get their understanding, repackage it for the client, etc. So depending on specialty you may get exposure to lots of areas of law. However, as a junior corporate associate (across most groups) you are reviewing a lot of contracts (legal due diligence) and drafting simple ancillary documents; takes some time to work up to doing more meaningful work.

I know I am coming across as a corporate fanboy here, but OP, it sounds like you should go check out the threads like "What's your typical day" and see what sounds most appealing. One big difference that resonates with me is timeline -- as a corporate attorney, your work is used immediately and deals may have timelines of weeks or months. So there is a quicker feedback loop and you are constantly working on new things.

Register now!

Resources to assist law school applicants, students & graduates.

It's still FREE!


User avatar
Wild Card

Silver
Posts: 839
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:48 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Wild Card » Sun May 03, 2020 5:23 pm

Don't agonize. Most likely, your firm will make your decision for you. And it will be corporate.

Hutz_and_Goodman

Gold
Posts: 1589
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:42 am

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun May 03, 2020 6:50 pm

I’m a 5th year litigator in big law and I enjoy my job and am interested in the writing/research work. My view is that it’s important to figure out what you want. If your ideal outcome is to be in house making $200k and working 40-50 hrs a week regardless of the work, then corporate is a better option no question. My experience is that very few corporate lawyers genuinely enjoy their work and currently litigation is busy and corporate is dead so while corporate is generally better for long term job prospects there may be corporate people who are cut loose from big law without a job and that could end up as a pretty bad situation with 30 million people unemployed.

TexasBigLaw

New
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 03, 2020 7:49 pm

Re: Litigation or Corporate

Post by TexasBigLaw » Mon May 04, 2020 2:10 am

Corporate midlevel here. I did a lot of litigation in law school and split my summer lit/corporate, and when I was going through recruitment I had a tough time choosing and spoke to a lot of people about the differences. I am very happy in corporate, which apparently makes me a minority here I guess.

I honestly think the work isn't all that different. The junior grunt work - doc review vs. diligence - is pretty similar. There's some research and writing for both (but corp research is not usually on Westlaw/Lexis - more on Edgar or just Google). The hours are similar - very ebb and flow. The partner work seems similar - advising clients, reviewing documents, strategic decisions, networking with GCs and CEOs to lay the foundation for when they need your services. I think where you might see the biggest difference is the senior associates. In corporate it's more focused on negotiating, conference calls with all the stakeholders, and drafting/revising agreements. My perception is that in lit it's more court appearances, motion practice, and analyzing research to set case strategy. I suspect that by the time you got to that level - if you get to that level - you would feel pretty confident doing either and would have built up the skills you need to do it well. And there would probably be things you loved about the job and things you disliked in both of them.

For me, I made my choice based on the people. The corporate group at my firm are fun, friendly, and laid back. The litigators at my firm are miserable. Even though both groups average the same number of hours, the people in lit look like how you expect BigLaw to look - hollow, overworked, and sad - while the people in my group seem to be much more happy and satisfied with their job. I know it's exactly the opposite at some other firms, so it's not the work that's to blame, it's really just group to group culture differences. I would encourage you to spend your summer trying to figure out the culture in each group - are people happy? Do they like who they work with? Do they feel their time is respected by the partners and seniors? Do they feel like they can take time off if they need it (and is the time off respected)? Do they feel like partnership is achievable? Is advancement based on merit or based on something else (boy's club, who you know, where you went to law school, etc)? Do partners invest in their growth? Do they feel like they have great exit opportunities if they want them? It's hard to get the truth on these in a summer program, but hopefully you can find one or two brutally honest people in each group who will spill (try and get them when they've had a few drinks). It's true that you could end up leaving your firm and so having chosen your group based on people won't matter anymore, but when I was going through OCI all of the people who seemed genuinely happy said that's what they did, so I did that and it worked well for me.

re: Skills that a corporate associate develops - Reviewing and analyzing contracts, managing teams of specialists, negotiating, and advising clients. I think corporate juniors get much more client interaction early on. At my firm our second and third years are regularly communicating with clients by phone and email, and even some first-years. I don't think our litigation associates interact with clients regularly until far later, although that may just be unique to my firm. But litigation associates get exposure to a lot of different areas of the law, whereas my work is pretty tightly limited to corporate/contract law, and we rely on specialists for anything outside of that. For the transactional specialists, their work is pretty limited to their areas as well.

I agree that the perception is that corporate lawyers have better in-house options, though I'm dubious whether this is actually true or whether it's just self-selection. Also agree that litigation weathers recessions a lot better than corporate, but if I was facing a firm layoff I would much rather be a corporate attorney as there are a lot of non-legal jobs that a corporate lawyer can transition to while litigators are usually stuck in law.

Get unlimited access to all forums and topics

Register now!

I'm pretty sure I told you it's FREE...


Post Reply Post Anonymous Reply  

Return to “Legal Employment”