Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for doing this. As someone going through recruiting, I’m finding it really hard to understand if there’s a difference in quality amongst firms that are close in the rankings but are generally considered to be in different “tiers” (for lack of a better word). For example, I’m currently very interested in doing corporate work, likely M&A and will be looking at many of what would be considered the top firms. Would you say that there is a difference in quality of work, and exit options, between Skadden/DPW/STB and Latham/Kirkland/Weil? If there’s even a difference, is it significant enough to pick a firm from the first group over the second group if you liked the people at a firm in the second group more?
There's a big difference between firms, though it's really hard to discern going into OCI. The quality of work and the exit options do change. It's really hard to voice that succinctly, though, so please bear with me (and feel free to ask follow-ups).Clients/type of work:
Latham, Kirkland and Weil have private equity-focused practices. It's these PE firms that drive not just M&A but the finance groups (borrower-side finance work for PE firms and their portfolio companies), funds groups, even capital markets (generally more issuer-side work for these companies) - it really trickles down. Simpson does its fair share, too, but it's generally a bit broader: the finance groups will represent JPM et al. as the agent in financing transactions, there's a chunk of public company work (including a public company corporate governance group), and so on.
What private equity means is that you're just not learning the public company side of things (which is fine, but something to be aware of). You can still pitch yourself for a variety of great jobs, though, and you'll do your fair share of deals in any of these places. It's also nice to work from the companies' perspective sometimes rather than a big bank's, unless you're looking to move in-house at a place like that (I'm not). You might do more buy-side work generally on the M&A front, though plenty of your deals will die. Private M&A is its own skillset and it'll make you a good lawyer.
Big-ticket sell-side work is often concentrated toward WLRK, DPW, CS&M, Skadden, S&C, etc. That's not for prestige reasons but because they've largely kept themselves out of the private equity space, such that they can pitch themselves to these non-serial acquirors looking to sell themselves at the end of their life cycle. If you look at Wachtell or Cravath, though, there's a reason they get picked to represent the seller in these mega-mergers. Personal note - it's not fun to work on a mega deal. They can last well over a year and it's mostly getting bogged down by little things.
I do think some firms give you more chances than others to prove yourself early. Some might disagree but I think the best training is taking on a lot of responsibility. Sometimes that's not up to you, though generally seniors are happy to pawn off work to the extent they think they can trust you with it (I'm sure that goes for any firm). If you exit the firm, people will want to know you're able to run deals (or as close to it as is reasonable for your year).Culture:
I don't really want to get into this much because it's so hard to put words to (and I haven't worked anywhere other than my current firm), but different places have different cultures. That said, it's almost impossible to know what that culture is before you start, and don't stereotype firms too much. Meeting one nice partner doesn't mean everyone's nice. Maybe the Capital Markets group is super chill and mentorly but M&A is a hostile shitshow. That said, if you meet a bunch of people in a group during your summer later on, that's as good a reason as any to want to continue to do work in that group.
When I picked my firm, the lockstep vs. free market distinction mattered to me, and I picked lockstep. I get BOTH SIDES of it now, but I don't regret which part of the spectrum I decided on. If the Kirkland/Gibson/free market thing appeals to you, it can certainly work, it just isn't my thing personally.Other:
Work/assignment stuff matters. Some firms will slot you into a group at the end of the summer, and if you're fixated on a certain group I guess there's a risk (though you should be somewhat open if you don't have some background in whatever field). Schulte and Skadden do that off the top of my head. Do second looks after you get offers to try to talk to more people - they'll feed you lunch again and you can request to talk to anybody you'd like (e.g., "Can you connect me with three female associates in Corporate who are raising young children?" or "Can I talk to junior funds associates?").
Wild Card wrote:What is the gpa cutoff for your firm and its peers?
At my law school, it was roughly top 40%. If you passed that barrier, you had a good a shot as anyone else. There's no designated cut-off, though.