Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What I Wanted in my Third (and Final) Law Firm

When I left my second big law firm earlier this year, I decided to try law firm life one more time.

I wanted to narrow my practice. Although lots of folks in the middle and smaller markets try, I do not accept the premise that one person can be an expert at emerging company/venture capital, securities and M&A work. It's wishful thinking at best. Of the three subspecialties, I enjoy M&A the most, so M&A it was.

I wanted to work for acquisitive clients. My prior experience includes a trove of sell-side work. This work is enjoyable at the junior level because diligence and disclosure schedules are, by their nature, more challenging on the sell side. Once an associate graduates from diligence and schedules to drafting definitive agreements, I think she needs to accelerate learning by increasing the number of deals that cross her desk over time. I hoped to accomplish this by pivoting into buy-side work, where you're more likely to find clients that do multiple deals per year.

I wanted the support of specialists. It's not enough to say I was looking for an M&A only corporate practice. To do M&A work well, corporate lawyers need the support of quality specialists.

I wanted to join a group led by partners still in the growth phase of their respective careers. My prior experience includes considerable amounts of time spent serving clients for partners who had one foot out the door. While you would think this type of partner could be great to learn from--they have a wealth of experience to share and are more willing to let associates take the reigns--it usually didn't turn out that way.

I wanted an associate stack that would lend itself to opportunity. I graduated from law school in the wake of the recession. Before my first day of work as a lawyer, a first-year associate in the group I was about to join visited partners in my group to make the case for rescinding my offer because that associate felt there wasn't enough work in the group to support another associate. (That's just the tip of the iceberg.)  By joining a group as the only associate in my class year (or as the only associate in a number of adjacent class years), I hoped to remove the distractions that arise when associates are playing game of thrones.

I wanted a no asshole policy.

If there's anyone reading this post that has made a lateral move (good or bad), what were the attributes on your lateral move wish list?