What Is It Like to Practice Corporate Law?
Published: Mar 02, 2021
Skilled in negotiating and dealmaking, corporate lawyers advise clients on transactional matters—from M&A to financings to securities to technology transactions, and more. But what does a typical day look like for a lawyer practicing corporate law? In Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, lawyers from top-ranked general corporate law practices shared their experiences working in this area of law. Read on and take a dive into their days.
Kimberly R . Spoerri, Partner: There is no typical day in M&A, but there are typical activities that tend to make up my days. I spend a lot of time reviewing agreements and negotiating them with opposing counsel. I’m often on the phone with clients, or colleagues, or other advisors on a transaction (e.g., financial advisors or accountants), either catching up on general deal process or discussing specific points or strategy. While an M&A lawyer is essentially leading the M&A transaction at the firm, there are a number of other lawyers who play very important roles on any given transaction. In any deal, the most important issues may be related to intellectual property, employment, or tax matters (or all three!), and so working hand-in-glove with our colleagues in those areas is key to ensuring that our client gets the best outcome in a transaction. One of the great things about practicing M&A is that the M&A team often has a bird’s-eye view of the whole transaction—you know what’s going on at the client, what’s going on internally with colleagues outside the M&A team, what the other advisors are doing, and what opposing counsel is up to. This means that you end up spending a lot of time coordinating among those various groups.
Kevin Lehpamer: It may sound cliché, but there really is no typical “day in the life.” My day usually involves a series of negotiations, client meetings, conference calls, and typically at least one issue I didn’t see coming the day before. I’m usually working to navigate a series of thorny commercial and legal issues to help my client find resolution and accomplish a goal.
David J. Perkins, Partner: I have very few “typical” days, and my schedule is highly variable, but most involve some mix of conference calls, meetings, and time spent drafting and reviewing documents produced by my team. I spend a lot of time talking with my clients about strategy and creative solutions to whatever issues we are facing, and then my job becomes convincing the other side that our solutions work and carefully drafting the transaction documents to make sure the deal functions as intended. I also spend a considerable amount of time each day training and providing feedback to our associates. This day-to-day training is more of the “on-the-job” variety and consists primarily of meeting with associates to review an agreement or other document that they have recently drafted, or sometimes discussing a conference call or meeting with clients or opposing counsel to highlight which techniques worked and which did not. We provide our associates with formal reviews and feedback on an annual basis, but this informal daily feedback is really where associates learn their craft and become better lawyers—it is one of the most important things I do each day. We typically do not hire partners or associates laterally, so the future strength of our firm is built on a daily basis by investing our time in developing and training our associates.
Vanessa Jackson, Partner: Every day is different, and, frankly, that’s one of my favorite aspects of the finance practice area. I spend time advising clients and answering questions from clients, associates, and partner colleagues about existing deals or discussing possibilities relating to structuring new deals. Lending transactions and the practice of law in the finance area are ever evolving, so it’s important to be fully up to speed on market trends to ensure that our clients are familiar with and taking advantage of the latest technology.
Outside of working with clients, I spend a great deal of time with the associates in our group, both leading trainings and discussing their work product on any given transaction. The teaching aspect of my role is one my favorite parts of my job—it’s amazing to see a junior lawyer develop confidence and take ownership of a transaction. Finally, I am heavily invested in the firm’s business development activities, which range from client lunches and events to speaking at our group’s annual symposium focused on current and developing trends in the investment grade financing space.
Maggie White, Partner: My typical day varies quite a bit based on what projects I have going on at any given time. The deals at Gunderson tend to be on shorter timeframes, but we generally have a large number of transactions that are ongoing at the same time. On any given day, I may talk to four or five entrepreneurs or founders, interact with a couple of venture capital fund clients with respect to their ongoing investments, attend board meetings where I advise executives and board members with respect to strategic decisions, and work with others within Gunderson on the same. I interface with clients in various ways, making sure that they’re getting solid legal advice and also guiding them with respect to various business issues.
Vanessa Smith, Associate: My typical day consists of a blend of company- and investor-side representation. I work on transactions, whether those are venture financings or M&A, as well as general corporate governance, and I advise clients on their day-to- day inquiries (e.g., Can you help pull together a term sheet for a Series C Preferred Stock financing? What is the best approach to issuing equity to the founding team? How will this investment change the voting structure in the company?). Otherwise, every day is different. That is what makes this work so exciting—there is always a new problem to solve.
Graham Robinson, Partner: Most of my day is divided between talking with clients and investment bankers on the telephone and meeting with my fellow team members at Skadden. Much of our work involves interacting with boards of directors. For example, if we are representing a public company considering a takeover proposal, our principal job is helping the company’s board of directors make the best possible decisions. How should we respond? Do we want to say “no”? If we are open to a sale, should we ask for more money? Should we approach other potential buyers? How do we keep employees comfortable with rumors they may hear? These are all questions that do not come up regularly for directors, so they need guidance from outside advisors who are specialized in these transactions and can help them think through the issues.
Click here to read more insights from these lawyers about their corporate law practices as well as Q&As from more than 100 lawyers across 24 other practice areas. (If you are a law student, you may have free access to the Practice Perspectives guide through your law school—check with your career services office for your login.)