Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

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Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 26, 2020 2:16 pm

I'm guessing this is mostly a thing at creditor's shops, but does anyone have insight? I'm looking to get started in bankruptcy lit, then gradually transition to either another lit group (i.e., corporate, securities, etc.), or just general commercial lit, with an eye towards eventually transition to bigfed.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by LBJ's Hair » Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:54 pm

Surely it would make more sense to just..start in general litigation...than do this roundabout thing? Not sure I understand your strategy. Are you a 2L/3L?

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:56 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:54 pm
Surely it would make more sense to just..start in general litigation...than do this roundabout thing? Not sure I understand your strategy. Are you a 2L/3L?
I am an incoming DE/SDNY bankruptcy clerk. Besides the obvious rationale attached to that, I actually do like BK (especially right now) and want to garner experience in it.

That said, I don't want to be pigeonholed, and want the option to broaden my practice into litigation generally. I'm sensitive to the counter-cyclical nature of BK, for one, and I like having varied work.

edit: I should note that I prioritize having interesting work over lucrative work. Of course, my preference is for areas where those features coincide, but I am fortunate enough to face relatively little economic pressure.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by 2013 » Sat Jun 27, 2020 9:58 am

I’ve always heard that this transition is pretty hard. I think that you probably need to start at Kirkland/Weil, then when you want to transition, you can go a few notches down on the V100 list. That seems to be the case for most transitions.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jun 27, 2020 12:18 pm

2013 wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 9:58 am
I’ve always heard that this transition is pretty hard. I think that you probably need to start at Kirkland/Weil, then when you want to transition, you can go a few notches down on the V100 list. That seems to be the case for most transitions.
That doesn't make a ton of sense to me, considering that Kirland/Weil are primarily debtor's shops and are thus less lit-forward than other groups.

I'm not saying this is wrong, necessarily, but it does not square with my understanding of the current scene.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by LBJ's Hair » Sat Jun 27, 2020 12:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:56 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:54 pm
Surely it would make more sense to just..start in general litigation...than do this roundabout thing? Not sure I understand your strategy. Are you a 2L/3L?
I am an incoming DE/SDNY bankruptcy clerk. Besides the obvious rationale attached to that, I actually do like BK (especially right now) and want to garner experience in it.

That said, I don't want to be pigeonholed, and want the option to broaden my practice into litigation generally. I'm sensitive to the counter-cyclical nature of BK, for one, and I like having varied work.

edit: I should note that I prioritize having interesting work over lucrative work. Of course, my preference is for areas where those features coincide, but I am fortunate enough to face relatively little economic pressure.
Got it, that makes more sense. I think you're right to focus on creditor work. More specifically, I'd look at creditor shops with healthy NY litigation practices that you can move over to. Some thoughts, nonexclusive--

I'd think PW, DPW, and (this may surprise) Quinn would be the most obvious targets -- traditional top creditor shops with large NY litigation practices as well. Quinn's is smaller than the other two, but run by an excellent Band 1 partner. And obviously their general lit is very strong. (I don't work there, just plugging it.)

Akin and Milbank have very strong creditor practices, don't know about their general litigation.

Gibson and S&C have two of the best (large law firm) general litigation practices in NY and are investing in bankruptcy, although not heavy hitters right now. Gibson took several Jones Day partners last year, S&C poached a top Cleary partner.

Kirkland and Weil, as you noted, are debtor-focused, so I get your concern about being siloed. But they do creditor work as well and frankly, are the largest BK practices in NY and I assume hire the most BK clerks by volume. So... you should apply. Kirkland has a robust general lit NY practice (I think -- someone correct if mistaken) to move to. Dunno about Weil.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:04 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 12:56 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:56 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:54 pm
Surely it would make more sense to just..start in general litigation...than do this roundabout thing? Not sure I understand your strategy. Are you a 2L/3L?
I am an incoming DE/SDNY bankruptcy clerk. Besides the obvious rationale attached to that, I actually do like BK (especially right now) and want to garner experience in it.

That said, I don't want to be pigeonholed, and want the option to broaden my practice into litigation generally. I'm sensitive to the counter-cyclical nature of BK, for one, and I like having varied work.

edit: I should note that I prioritize having interesting work over lucrative work. Of course, my preference is for areas where those features coincide, but I am fortunate enough to face relatively little economic pressure.
Got it, that makes more sense. I think you're right to focus on creditor work, and more specifically, creditor shops with healthy NY litigation practices that you can move over to transition to. Some thoughts --

I'd think PW, DPW, and (this may surprise) Quinn would be the most obvious targets -- traditional top creditor shops with large NY litigation practices as well. Quinn's is smaller than the other two, but run by an excellent Band 1 partner. And obviously their general lit is very strong.

Akin and Milbank have very strong creditor practices, but I don't know much about general litigation

Gibson and S&C have two of the best (large law firm) litigation practices in NY and are investing in bankruptcy. Gibson took several Jones Day partners last year, S&C took Cleary's top guy.

Kirkland and Weil, as you noted, are debtor-focused, so I get your concern about being siloed. But they do creditor work as well and frankly, are the largest BK practices in NY and I assume hire the most BK clerks by volume, so...like it or not, you're gonna apply. Kirkland has a pretty robust general lit NY practice (I think -- someone correct if mistaken) to move to. Dunno about Weil.
Thanks, this is more consistent with my understanding. And yes, I'm going to be applying all over the place, unless I get recruited off of some spectacular offer. QE is probably ideal; I imagine that would open the most doors further down the line in general lit, either at QE or as a lateral. The massively above market clerkship bonus doesn't hurt, either.

I believe Weil has a solid lit practice in NY, but I worry (as I do with Kirland) about intrafirm mobility. I think they key players you mentioned are where I need to focus my efforts.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jun 27, 2020 9:22 pm

Anecdotal, but a friend from law school (2016) started in bankruptcy at Akin and transitioned to their general lit group 2 years in.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by ConfusedNYer » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:53 pm

Was going to make a post similar to LBJ's Hair, but their post was much more detailed. I know at some of the firms listed general lit associates are being drawn into bk work, and that will likely continue for a little while if the economy continues to recover slowly and uncertainly. That may allow you to "blend in" with a crowd of associates doing bk work who are really general lit associates and tag along as they transition back to litigation down the road. At least that seems like the best case scenario.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:26 pm

Weil/KE associate.

I don't really get the notion that creditor groups get more lit experience. As a debtor associate, you draft a lot of motions. Many of these are form, but not always. And, you often have to draft an accompanying reply and declaration, research a ton of issues, be involved in discovery, and speak in court. You will not be doing depositions or true doc review, but you will do a lot of the other litigation type workstreams.

It is very rare you see a creditor counsel associate speak in court. And, many top shops are setup to be more corporate type roles than litigation.

Just not following what litigation creditor counsel is doing that debtor is not. Any litigation any creditor files, you have to respond to. And, you have to respond to all the other creditors. As creditor counsel, your focus is much more narrow.

Committee counsel is different. Their role is largely to litigate until they can extract a few extra cents. Small shops where their "bankruptcy" group is really just bankruptcy lit, are also different. But, if you are talking top firm, non-committee rep, its just not true that creditors are doing more litigation type work. And, anecdotally, I've seen people in various class years switch to litigation (switching to non-bk corp work is probably more common, but not by a wide margin).

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by LBJ's Hair » Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:26 pm

Just not following what litigation creditor counsel is doing that debtor is not. Any litigation any creditor files, you have to respond to. And, you have to respond to all the other creditors. As creditor counsel, your focus is much more narrow.
Think the argument generally is not that creditor counsel is doing cool stuff that debtor doesn't get to touch.

It's that the debtor is doing some tedious stuff, in addition to all the cool stuff, that creditor doesn't have to touch.

So, addition by subtraction.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:06 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:05 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:26 pm

Just not following what litigation creditor counsel is doing that debtor is not. Any litigation any creditor files, you have to respond to. And, you have to respond to all the other creditors. As creditor counsel, your focus is much more narrow.
Think the argument generally is not that creditor counsel is doing cool stuff that debtor doesn't get to touch.

It's that the debtor is doing some tedious stuff, in addition to all the cool stuff, that creditor doesn't have to touch.

So, addition by subtraction.
OP here, this is essentially my thinking. I suspect that at the debtor's shops, there is a substantial likelihood that I get siloed into purely transactional work even if I want to litigate. Whereas by targeting specific groups that are known for aggressively litigating (I don't know, but I assume QE for example fits this description) I can virtually guarantee that I'll end up doing at least some of the work I'm oriented towards.

My approach is always informed by the notion that a firm will place me according to its needs, with little regard for mine. So I want to maximize the alignment between our respective needs.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 05, 2020 5:40 pm

I am in a similar position (seeking general comm lit) except currently doing restructuring and restructuring lit.

I think there is and will continue to be a significant uptick of insolvency disputes until 2023 at least (this will not be over next year, sadly - likely worse than GFC to some extent as affects whole economy, not just FS), and as people say above general lit associates will be pulled in for support, as M&A guys are also being pulled in for general restructuring support, particularly special sits. RS lit experience will, I think, be viewed positively.

In my case, I think I'll need the gift of the gab (as you do anyway at interview). I will sell myself as a general litigator with a focus (because of the market) on restructuring disputes at the present time. I would time a lateral move strategically, say 2022 when the market is still bad and where there is still high demand within general lit groups for people with some restructuring expertise. It depends on your seniority too - but if you're in the 2-5 year range, that's attractive as you're knowledgeable, profitable and not too expensive.

Some people of course will disagree.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:27 pm

Anon at band 1 credit side firm (Akin, PW, DPW, Milbank). Our BK group does its own motion practice on points of BK law (e.g. equitable subordination, adequate protection, automatic stay, bk jurisdiction) and lit helps out with doc review / non-bk law / witness stuff related to that. (there are often are few to none.) If there's a traditional litigation matter and it's in a BK court for whatever reason, our lit group handles that (e.g. mass tort, insurance, patent infringement). My $.02 is that both sides do plenty of "bankruptcy litigation" but only debtors do a bunch of "litigation in bankruptcy" and that's where you will get value-add lit skills like doc review, depos, etc. I know of a few people who switch-hit but vast majority of bk people hand off "litigation in bankruptcy" to lit partners w/ bankruptcy lit practices for that.

QE is the exception that comes to mind:I remember chatting with a QE BK associate who was bitching about drafting discovery motions. I would never do that.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:27 pm
Anon at band 1 credit side firm (Akin, PW, DPW, Milbank). Our BK group does its own motion practice and oral argument on points of BK law (e.g. equitable subordination, adequate protection, automatic stay, bk jurisdiction) and lit helps out with doc review / depos related to that. If there's a traditional litigation matter and it's in a BK court for whatever reason, our lit group handles that (e.g. mass tort, insurance, patent infringement). My $.02 is that both sides do plenty of "bankruptcy litigation" but only debtors do a bunch of "litigation in bankruptcy" and that's where you will get value-add lit skills like doc review, depos, etc. I know of a few people who switch-hit but vast majority of bk people hand off to lit partners w/ bankruptcy lit practices for that.

QE is the exception that comes to mind: remember chatting with a QE BK associate who was bitching about drafting discovery motions. I would never do that.
Thanks for the heads up. Should I target Kirland/Weil/QE then? It's pretty important to me that I have the option of moving into lit (or even better, an AIII clerkship in a competitive district).

It also occurs to me that I'm overthinking this initial step, and that the moves I make after getting in the door are what really matter. But I just don't know.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 12, 2020 10:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:46 pm
Thanks for the heads up. Should I target Kirland/Weil/QE then? It's pretty important to me that I have the option of moving into lit (or even better, an AIII clerkship in a competitive district).

It also occurs to me that I'm overthinking this initial step, and that the moves I make after getting in the door are what really matter. But I just don't know.
Anon above: would definitely target QE. Otherwise, I have no insight about how debtor-side firms work viz. how they handle "litigation in bankruptcy." I would think that simply not doing the wealth of bullshit work that debtor juniors have to do would free you up to do more of that. (Anyone who thinks that drafting, like, 9019s or first-days is substantive lit experience boggles my mind. It's pretty much pure form drafting, imo.)

I think the real move would be to aggressively position your experience as a BK clerk as making you a good liaison between bankruptcy and lit for "litigation in bankruptcy" matters. Bankruptcy jurisdiction / procedure comes to mind as something that neither group has a great handle on. Becoming expert in that will make you invaluable, and I promise you nobody else will be racing for those assignments. (BK sees that as "procedure" and thus litigation, lit sees that as "bankruptcy law" and thus BK.) Similarly, there's a real chance that your lit department might rep an insurance company or contract counterparty in somebody else's bankruptcy but BK won't get involved at all -- you might be able to get pulled on with your jurisdiction / procedure experience. Nobody particularly loves lien challenges/battles, either, but getting familiar with them during your clerkship might be helpful. (Lit people see them as boring transactional stuff, bankruptcy people tend to see it a state / federal law issue that lit should deal with.)

To be clear, even for non-UCC creditors, you will be doing a good deal of substantive legal research / drafting because you are responding to / preparing for UCC challenges to everything. (Sometimes these challenges are by-rote and bullshit and you can churn them, but at least reasonably often they require real effort in response.) You also might, depending on your position in the cap stack, be preparing to object to DIP financings, 363 sales, make-wholes, etc that are backed by more senior secured creditors. (I've been involved in preparing fraudulent transfer attacks when representing creditors who were neither UCC nor fully secured.) More often than not, bankruptcy is a war between various creditor constituencies, rather than between creditors and debtors.

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Re: Best bankruptcy groups for transition to general litigation

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:15 pm

The above is pretty off base. Nobody is claiming first days or other routine motions are substantive litigation experience.

A lot of litigation in bankruptcy is with small players. A landlord, vendor, contract counterparty, employee, governmental agency seeks some kind of relief or objects to something and the debtor has to deal with it. Creditor groups generally have basically zero involvement with stuff like that (which perhaps explains why creditor counsels are seemingly oblivious to the fact that the debtors are litigating a lot more than they are). And of course, the debtor is usually the sole one responding to the UCC's fireworks (if the UCC files a request for standing to pursue a claim, it is always the debtor that responds).

Even things that directly impact an applicable creditor, the debtors still generally lead the charge. If, for instance, someone objects to the DIP, it is the debtor filing their reply. The DIP lender often will file a joinder, but 99% of the time they rely on the debtor to carry the torch.

It is true that debtor juniors deal with a lot of nonsense that other reps don't include. But, it just not true that creditor reps are as a rule more lit focused. For UCC and other out of money creditors, certainly sometimes. Often, their only leverage is nuisance value. But, for DIP lender/in the money secured/and fulcrom creditors, it is generally more of a deal based practice. To the extent litigation arises, you generally let the debtors handle.

To the main question, agree Quinn is probably the best for someone who is primarily interested in litigation. Their bankruptcy group is really a bankruptcy lit group. Which, outside of the main players, is probably the norm (outside top shops plenty of bankruptcy groups are largely focused on preference lit, etc). Outside of Quinn, UCC counsel or groups that regularly represent out of money creditor groups. Groups that primarily represent senior creditors/DIP lenders, probably do the least lit.

Definitely reasons to chose a creditor-focused practice over a debtor one. But, the notion that debtor groups are just chugging along filing schedules and statements while creditor groups are actively engaged in litigation is just bizarre.

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