I'm a junior associate in the bankruptcy group at a big firm.
My primary responsibility is drafting--motions, replies to objections, deal documents, PowerPoint presentations (a lot of PowerPoint presentations), charts, memos, summaries, letters to other law firms, emails. A typical document that a junior restructuring associate might draft, for example, is a motion to approve a debtor-in-possession or "DIP" loan--a loan incurred by a company in bankruptcy at the beginning of the case to finance operations and restructuring costs.
In my practice group, a junior lawyer typically takes primary drafting responsibility for a document from beginning to end. This can be interesting and exciting, and it can be incredibly painful, often at the same time. At big firms, documents are drafted by committee and at multiple levels.
It might start with a series of phone calls with the client and senior lawyers. After the calls, a (sometimes vague) concept of the deliverable emerges. Then I start drafting. This initial draft has significant if subtle influence. Although the document may change dramatically by the time it's filed, executed, or otherwise finished, its initial structure almost always shapes the discussion and the final product.
Then I send the first draft to a senior associate or a partner. He or she reviews it and provides "comments" (read: revisions)--in track changes, in the body of an email, over the phone, scribbled on the document, or in some combination. There are often many iterations of this process.
When I get the green light, I send it to a broader group of partners and associates on the matter. This is when it can get painful, if it hasn't already. Comments can come like an avalanche--often conflicting comments. Managing this process can be delicate and even political. It's one of the harder parts of the job--and, again, there are many iterations.
Then I send it to the client. Some clients have a light touch; others are very hands on. Incorporating client comments can be even more delicate than incorporating internal comments. Overruling a comment from an important person at the client can result in blowback, so you try to give yourself cover by flagging significant issues to someone more senior at the firm.
For important documents, depending on the situation, the next step is often to send the document to professionals at other firms. Lenders counsel, for example, will have a lot of input into a DIP motion. And in most major corporate bankruptcies, the lawyers for significant creditor groups also get input.
Finalization tends to be the most stressful phase. Although the entire drafting process might take a day or a month, there is almost always immense time pressure due to real or imagined deadlines. Comments often keep coming down to the wire. As you're preparing to file or otherwise finalize a document, your focus shifts to avoiding a cataclysmic fuckup. Typos and such are bad, but what you're really trying to avoid is a substantive error that causes a serious issue. Although people will tell you that junior associates aren't in a position to make a truly devastating error, in reality, as the primary drafters of critical documents, they're often in the best position to do so.
Afterward, I have a drink.
Outside of drafting, I spend a lot of time helping to coordinate the case. I travel to hearings and provide support for the team. I'm on the phone and sending emails to lawyers in our other practice groups, to our bankers and consultants, to the creditors' professionals, and to the client. I'm usually handling these tasks while drafting one or more documents. Juggling is a critical skill.
There are also more mundane tasks, although much less so than in other practice groups. We almost never do doc review or due diligence--I never have. But, for example, because a debtor's professional fees have to be approved by the court through an elaborate process, junior bankruptcy lawyers can spend a ton of time on "fee applications" and related work that is profoundly tedious. And because bankruptcy "law" is based as much on custom as it is on written law, one grueling responsibility of junior associates is to work with paralegals to dig through documents for "precedents"--examples of things happening in bankruptcy that don't make it into published opinions.
Overall, the work is good if you like business and finance, but the hours and the stress are incredible.