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Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, 2023 Edition

Published: Jun 14, 2023

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I often say that if I had known more about the different areas of law as a law student, I might still be practicing law. While I’m happy with the path my career has taken, I believe that law students deserve greater insight into the actual practice of law and all the different practice areas than law school classes can provide. Knowing what each practice area entails is an essential component to choosing your desired practice, and understanding the difference between what a practice looks like at one firm versus another and what career paths are available for different practices are crucial for both law students and for laterals trying to decide where to take their career.

This is where our annual Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas shines. The 2023 edition of Practice Perspectives, published this month, features in-depth Q&As with 140-plus attorneys from 54 top-ranked law firms, providing insight into the realities of practice across 24 major practice areas. You can also find the Q&As on the Practice Area pages of our website. Questions cover types of matters and clients, career paths, typical tasks, suggested training, and more. We’ve done the work of interviewing these attorneys, so you have the information—whether you’re a law student, narrowing down your target areas, or a lateral, focusing on skill development or looking for your next “work home”— to help guide your choices and build your dream legal career.

Here's a sneak peek inside the General Corporate section of the 2023 Practice Perspectives guide.

Question: What types of cases/deals do you work on?

William Curtin, Sidley Austin LLP: Most of my cases involve representing various constituents in chapter 11 bankruptcy cases in jurisdictions throughout the United States, as well as out-of-court restructurings. For example, I’m currently representing clients in bankruptcy cases pending in New York, Delaware, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Amy Wollensack, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP: I represent private equity sponsors like Mubadala Capital, Paine Schwartz Partners, ICV Partners, Mill Rock Capital, and other private equity funds and strategic clients such as Adtalem, Aptar, True, and other companies.

Kimberly Spoerri, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP: I have really enjoyed the variety of transactions and the range of clients I have been fortunate to work with in my practice. I have worked on a number of minority investments both on the buy side and the sell side. I have worked on acquisitions of companies ranging from small biotechs to large public companies. I have worked on the buy side and sell side of acquisitions of family businesses. I find it incredibly interesting to spend part of the day advising a large public company on a sale and then, later in the same day, advise a smaller family-owned company on its first capital raise from an outside investor.

Vanessa Jackson, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP: I work on a variety of transactions related to acquisition financings, including both strategic acquisitions and private equity-led leveraged buyouts. In addition, I work on investment-grade credit facilities, both in the context of acquisitions and working capital facilities, as well as on restructuring-related financings for distressed companies. It is an incredibly interesting and complex area of the law, and I value the opportunity to work on such a variety of financings that address the needs of clients in various industries.

Davin Laskin, Kirkland & Ellis: I have had the opportunity to work on M&A deals with private equity firms, both to acquire other companies or their assets, or to sell or spin off companies in their portfolio. Having the opportunity to work on both the buy and sell side of deals as a junior attorney really helps to build a birds-eye view of how transactions work and to become familiar with the various tasks and responsibilities of each side. I've also worked on matters with the debt finance group to ensure financing of M&A deals. 

Steven R. Burwell, Proskauer Rose LLP: While I enjoy working on a wide range of deals, my practice has been weighted towards equity capital markets transactions, which include initial public offerings, follow-on/secondary offerings, convertible deals, block trades, and transactions for Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs).

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Best of luck finding the practice area that makes the BigLaw hours bearable! If you have questions about the Practice Perspectives guide, Vault’s Summer Resource Center, our other guides, or anything else, contact the Vault Law team or our Senior Law Editor, Carter Isham, at cisham@vault.com.

You may have free access to Vault’s guides through your law school. Check with your career services office for more information.

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