Thoughts on Project Development? Forum

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Bigballer

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Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Bigballer » Mon Apr 08, 2024 1:35 pm

Considering Project Dev over M&A at my firm. Both top groups but will get more experience etc. early on with PD. PD group is also entirely energy based and obviously a much smaller group. Any advice would be appreciated. Trying to weigh options in terms of Partnership, exits if partnership doesn’t work out, etc.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2024 7:08 pm

You should strongly consider project finance. Energy project finance is a high growth area.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2024 11:53 pm

That’s a major draw for sure. Not to try to read the tea leaves, but would you have any concerns leaning so heavily into an energy practice? I’m only a junior so would need it to stay hot for some time.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Apr 12, 2024 2:15 pm

I would not worry about that at all as a junior. If anybody would need to worry about that it would be the senior people who have built entire careers in this area, and they are not losing a lot of sleep about it.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Apr 15, 2024 3:24 am

Any concern if the group is is the project dev arm of the project finance practice. How niche of a space would I be getting into?

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Yardbird

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Yardbird » Tue Apr 16, 2024 3:29 pm

Project dev has extremely good exit options compared to most niche practices. Especially in the energy space. Project finance will not get you the same exit options. M&A will give you the broadest set of exit options.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 16, 2024 4:06 pm

What kind exits are we talking about re project dev, in terms of comp etc? Not a goal but nice to think of the backstop.

Also is project dev a big group at most firms? In other words, what would my options look like to lateral into partnership if it didn’t work out where I’m at.

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Yardbird

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Yardbird » Wed Apr 17, 2024 4:59 am

For energy development companies, you’re looking at entry level corporate counsel (usually $150-180K w 20-25% bonus), senior counsel ($200-240K w 20-25%), AGC ($200-300K w 20-50%), and GC ($250-400K w 50-100%) as exit options. I haven’t included fringe benefits or equity in the above, just straight cash comp. These aren’t hard numbers, it really depends on the candidate and the company, and where the comp lands in the range also depends on size of the company, if it’s PE backed (usually lower end base with higher bonus) or strategic (higher end base with lower bonus), and how many lawyers are in the group.

There are a lot of development jobs in the energy space at developers - renewables is the hot thing right now, so experience with solar, wind and BESS development is a huge plus right now, and there are plenty of jobs hiring. Hydrogen too though it’s newer. But natural gas and carbon capture development is also up there. LNG is very niche and not as many opportunities. Oilfield development is probably not what you want to aim for. M&A folks with energy experience can get these jobs too, but development experience is going to be more attractive.

Depends on the firm and city. If you’re in Houston (and to a lesser extent Dallas), the development groups at law firms can be fairly big. Outside of those two cities, I’d expect the groups to be much smaller within the non-Texas office but you’d probably be interacting with the Texas offices (or main energy office) a bit.

Most should assume they won’t get partnership anywhere, since statically that will be the case for 99.99% of people. A lot of folks don’t truly understand how much of your life you need to give up to make partner, and now most firms won’t even make you equity, they all do non equity now so you’re still grinding at basically the same rate.

You should pick a group because (1) the people are easy to work with, support you in your efforts and appreciate your hard work and understand the need for a work/life balance, (2) the group has a good steady flow of work (not up and down ideally), (3) the potential exit options from the group to in house, (4) the potential exit options from the group to less busy law firms, and (5) the potential for partnership. Note what is first and last in this list.

If you’re truly gunning for partnership, take a good hard look at your firm, its size, the size of the group, the number of *equity* partners in the group, the number of *non equity* partners in the group, the ages of those partners, the number of associates more senior than you, the attrition rate, and try and think whether the firm really needs more equity partners than they currently have in the group. The answer for most groups is a resounding no, which means even if you stuck it out and were good partner material, you likely wouldn’t get equity unless an equity partner retires or leaves.

Also, not many realize this but the partner title can actually make an in house search harder (unless you’ve been a partner for many years) because you’re greatly limited in what positions you can apply for and you’re up against folks who typically have law firm and in house experience while all you have is firm experience.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Bigballer » Wed Apr 17, 2024 5:52 pm

Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for and the write up is very much appreciated. Still don’t know what to do lol but this helps a lot.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 13, 2024 2:47 pm

Are there any options to go business side down the road from project dev? Potentially with carry at a PE shop or anything like that and do those roles exist outside of TX?

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2024 3:24 pm

How does partner comp compare to other more traditional corp groups? Thinking capital markets, m&a, etc

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Wed May 15, 2024 8:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 15, 2024 3:24 pm
How does partner comp compare to other more traditional corp groups? Thinking capital markets, m&a, etc
Depends on how your firm handles comp and a bunch of other firm-specific things (e.g. does "M&A" include a lot of sell-side pubco deals or is it mainly eight-figure PE rollups with tight billing standards)

But anyway partner comp will be best in the practice area you are actually good at [generating business for], especially because you need to massively discount partner comp for the odds you become and remain an equity partner.

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Yardbird

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Yardbird » Fri May 17, 2024 3:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 13, 2024 2:47 pm
Are there any options to go business side down the road from project dev? Potentially with carry at a PE shop or anything like that and do those roles exist outside of TX?
Yes it’s not rare from what I have seen, but usually from more senior legal positions. those who do usually transition into a corporate development role. Some transition from a GC/CLO role to COO/CEO. From any of those if you wanted to go to a PE shop you could definitely try, but a dev position is very different than what someone at a PE shop does.

Most are in TX but there are some roles in other areas (regional utilities, regional IPPs, etc).

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Durant123 » Sat May 18, 2024 3:47 pm

Yardbird wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2024 4:59 am
For energy development companies, you’re looking at entry level corporate counsel (usually $150-180K w 20-25% bonus), senior counsel ($200-240K w 20-25%), AGC ($200-300K w 20-50%), and GC ($250-400K w 50-100%) as exit options. I haven’t included fringe benefits or equity in the above, just straight cash comp. These aren’t hard numbers, it really depends on the candidate and the company, and where the comp lands in the range also depends on size of the company, if it’s PE backed (usually lower end base with higher bonus) or strategic (higher end base with lower bonus), and how many lawyers are in the group.

There are a lot of development jobs in the energy space at developers - renewables is the hot thing right now, so experience with solar, wind and BESS development is a huge plus right now, and there are plenty of jobs hiring. Hydrogen too though it’s newer. But natural gas and carbon capture development is also up there. LNG is very niche and not as many opportunities. Oilfield development is probably not what you want to aim for. M&A folks with energy experience can get these jobs too, but development experience is going to be more attractive.

Depends on the firm and city. If you’re in Houston (and to a lesser extent Dallas), the development groups at law firms can be fairly big. Outside of those two cities, I’d expect the groups to be much smaller within the non-Texas office but you’d probably be interacting with the Texas offices (or main energy office) a bit.

Most should assume they won’t get partnership anywhere, since statically that will be the case for 99.99% of people. A lot of folks don’t truly understand how much of your life you need to give up to make partner, and now most firms won’t even make you equity, they all do non equity now so you’re still grinding at basically the same rate.

You should pick a group because (1) the people are easy to work with, support you in your efforts and appreciate your hard work and understand the need for a work/life balance, (2) the group has a good steady flow of work (not up and down ideally), (3) the potential exit options from the group to in house, (4) the potential exit options from the group to less busy law firms, and (5) the potential for partnership. Note what is first and last in this list.

If you’re truly gunning for partnership, take a good hard look at your firm, its size, the size of the group, the number of *equity* partners in the group, the number of *non equity* partners in the group, the ages of those partners, the number of associates more senior than you, the attrition rate, and try and think whether the firm really needs more equity partners than they currently have in the group. The answer for most groups is a resounding no, which means even if you stuck it out and were good partner material, you likely wouldn’t get equity unless an equity partner retires or leaves.

Also, not many realize this but the partner title can actually make an in house search harder (unless you’ve been a partner for many years) because you’re greatly limited in what positions you can apply for and you’re up against folks who typically have law firm and in house experience while all you have is firm experience.
As someone currently in-house at a renewable player with a biglaw project finance practice background, this is pretty spot on. Comp has been trending on the higher end of those ranges for folks with the relevant experience. I’d say project finance experience leads to higher salaries than development work. Being closer to the money leads to higher pay kind of thing.

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun May 19, 2024 1:15 am

What’s your opinion on joining a project dev group vs. something more general, as someone who has lived it (though from the finance side)? Thinking in terms of outlook, partnership, lifestyle, power within the firm, comp, etc

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Re: Thoughts on Project Development?

Post by existentialcrisis » Mon May 20, 2024 10:18 am

This is just such a classic TLS law student thread.

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