Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

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Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:29 pm

I'm a midlevel in a major market looking for an in-house role (currently a corporate associate in biglaw). I've had some bites applying for in-house M&A roles, but I was curious about the lifestyle of in-house attorneys dealing with M&A transactions. Because of the nature of M&A, I suspect it's not 9 to 6 (even though in-house). On the other hand, you do have outside legal counsel as a resource. Does anyone know what the lifestyle is like? Trying to figure out how worth it such in-house roles are if you're giving up biglaw comp for lifestyle/flexibility reasons.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:26 pm

Bump. If no one has any personal experience, anecdotes, colleague experiences and general wild stories would also be appreciated

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby escape goat » Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:18 pm

Bump

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:24 pm

It's obviously role and company specific, but happy to offer a data point. I went in house as a third/fourth year biglaw corporate associate. We're a roll-up operation so have dozens of add-on acquisitions going on at any given time. Really love the job, the company and the work, though I will say that I've found I'm doing less drafting and technical legal work and more deal management, responding to issues lists prepared by outside counsel, putting out fires, keeping deals on track to close, etc. This isn't a huge drawback to me, but might be to some people.

With respect to hours, an average day is 9:30-7 with occasional late night emails during busier periods. Weekends are typically free, with a few emails here and there. In any case, I have much more control over my schedule and it's usually me opting to do late night or weekend work rather than someone insisting on it. We leverage outside counsel quite a bit and they definitely work longer and later, but more so because their other matters fill their days, not because our deals demand late night work.

If you can find the right position at the right company, I'd highly recommend in-house as an alternative to biglaw. Lifestyle is so much better, much more autonomy, one boss vs. a handful of demanding partners makes a huge difference, and there is something to say for growing with a company rather than doing one-off M&A transactions for a client and then not hearing much from them until the next liquidity event. By the way, the premise in the OP that you're giving up biglaw comp is not necessarily true - there are roles out there, mine included, that would match or beat biglaw comp - they're just tough to find. That said, in hindsight, even at reduced comp I would have made the jump from biglaw for the lifestyle improvements. I remember this weird transition period after leaving biglaw where it felt wrong if I wasn't either working or thinking about work at all times - it was so liberating when that feeling melted away - no more Sunday anxiety, no more guilt for spending an hour at the gym instead of an hour billing, no more apologizing to friends or family because I got caught up at work yet again. I'm very appreciative of my biglaw experience because I learned like crazy and it led to my current job, but at some point you just know it's time to move on. A good life and a good job shouldn't be mutually exclusive.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:46 pm

Ill provide another data point and a question to the last anon poster (which relates to comp).

I also went in house as a third/fourth year biglaw associate in M&A/Securities. My role is not M&A specific a(Assistant GC) but I would say 60% of my time (100% during certain weeks) is taken up by M&A because we are constantly looking to buy smaller companies or sell under performing assets. Typically I am either working on a small deal myself (typically across from a biglaw firm) or managing outside counsel. I still tend to work 8am-6:30 and not much later (some rare exceptions). I will work a couple hours maybe one Saturday a month, but that is about it.

The M&A deals I run, I do all things from drafting the initial agreement to building out closing document and everything in between (typically I don't do diligence as we have business people who will do that) and I enjoy it a lot since I run the deal on my own and at my own pace (if I can't get the PSA/APA done by about 7pm, I will just move it to the morning and since I am on the Company side no one can push me on it other than the GC and at this point he more or less defers to me on these matters).

Managing outside counsel I don't enjoy. I love that they are taking over the work so I am not overloaded, but keeping up with my deals and the intricacies of theirs can be difficult. I will have a call with them on business points and then let them run with it. I agree with the other anon, they work much later than me. Typically I will wake up to a turn of the document from midnight.

Compensation:
I am curious what kind of compensation the other anon has, but it is VERY hard to get biglaw comp (and keep up with biglaw comp). For e.g. when I left I started at 175k with 25% target bonus and 25% target equity - all in at about $275 with 401k match etc. I was at 210 (would be 220 after bump) + 50k bonus, so about the same. But shortly thereafter I would have been at 255+65k bonus - so $320 all in. My all in at the company is about the same. It seems salary moves up much more slowly in-house and this has been the case for the majority of my friends who made the jump as well. Also, getting equity that vests over a number of years is real money, but it sure doesn't feel as good those first couple years - cash is still king.

Work Life:
In at about 8:30 and out at about 6-6:30 is amazing. I check email from my phone at home but rarely break out my laptop. It is hard to put a value on that. I don't wake up to a deal that has blown up while I was asleep or have as much stress as I used to. Honestly, biggest struggle is the lower cash compensation...and I do still struggle with that!

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:48 pm

This is the first anon data point poster. You're absolutely right that it's difficult/rare to match biglaw comp in house. I oversimplified that. I think I got lucky in that the company has been doing really well, the legal team has been adding a lot of value and I was recruited out of biglaw to this position (vs. applying cold) so I'm able to point to biglaw comp data with a straight face when having comp discussions and say this is what I would be or could be making in biglaw right now. That has helped me keep base and bonus on track with biglaw. That plus equity has kept me at or above biglaw comp on any given year. But all that said, it sounds like you have a great setup and you're not far off on comp as is and the equity might close the gap when it vests.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby AdInfinitum » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:16 pm

Where do you typically find positions like these? I'm still too junior to actually apply to any of these positions yet, and not planning on leaving yet, but when I look at job postings (Glass Door, Goinhouse, etc.) it seems like almost all of them are positions handling commercial contracts with a Corporate Counsel title, and certainly not AGC.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:45 pm

@First anon: Are you at a startup or large company? My sense has been that F500 in-house positions generally don't even try to approach BigLaw compensation (maybe except Google, but then the (lack of) lifestyle there is supposedly also comparable to BigLaw).

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:42 pm

AdInfinitum wrote:Where do you typically find positions like these? I'm still too junior to actually apply to any of these positions yet, and not planning on leaving yet, but when I look at job postings (Glass Door, Goinhouse, etc.) it seems like almost all of them are positions handling commercial contracts with a Corporate Counsel title, and certainly not AGC.


I think you'd have better luck finding a good in-house position by leveraging client relationships and your legal network (law school classmates, firm colleagues who have moved on, etc.) rather than applying to a position on a job board. If you spend a handful of years at a firm working hard, producing solid work product, being responsive and keeping a positive attitude, before you know it you'll have a good reputation and network. It happens organically in my experience, I don't think there's a real need to proactively attend networking events or anything. That all sounds much softer than I intended, but honestly if you do all of that, you'll have much better opportunities when you start looking to make the move in house. I worked at a typical biglaw firm, not white-shoe or anything, and myself and a number of colleagues got poached to a variety of in-house roles, typically to existing firm clients.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:55 pm

This is the OP. Thank you to both data point posters--very, very helpful information.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:First anon: Are you at a startup or large company? My sense has been that F500 in-house positions generally don't even try to approach BigLaw compensation (maybe except Google, but then the (lack of) lifestyle there is supposedly also comparable to BigLaw).


I'm at a midsize private company, not F500 or even close really, with a small legal department. Sorry, not too helpful, wish I had a list of companies with high paying in-house gigs. My guess is that you're right on F500 positions though unless you get to GC/CLO levels of course - a startup or well-funded midsize company may be a better option for a midlevel associate making the jump.

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby RedPurpleBlue » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:35 pm

I'm curious. What do the structures of everyone's legal department look like? I know it'll vary company to company, but I'd be interested in learning yours. It can be incredibly difficult to understand the significance of job titles when looking at in-house gigs.

Is the following hierarchy typical?

General Counsel
Deputy General Counsel
Associate General Counsel
Assistant General Counsel
Senior Counsel
Counsel

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Re: Thoughts on In-House M&A Positions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:10 am

RedPurpleBlue wrote:I'm curious. What do the structures of everyone's legal department look like? I know it'll vary company to company, but I'd be interested in learning yours. It can be incredibly difficult to understand the significance of job titles when looking at in-house gigs.

Is the following hierarchy typical?

General Counsel
Deputy General Counsel
Associate General Counsel
Assistant General Counsel
Senior Counsel
Counsel


It really varies company to company. TYPICALLY I see it being GC - Deputy GC (if there is one) - AGC (whether Associate or Assistant, typically only one of those but usually they are the number 2 unless there is a Deputy position) - Counsel positions.



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