Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

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Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:50 am

Rising mid-level looking to lateral to a California firm from V10 NY corporate/capital markets. Which firms would you the label the best for providing a springboard to tech/retail in-house positions within a year or two?

Any of the firms also offer slightly better hours or work/life balance than the typical corp practice in v10 NY?

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby soft blue » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:12 am

I worked at a tech co in the bay area in legal before going to law school and a lot of our lawyers followed this path. Two q's to think about: what stage company (are you thinking 20, 200, 2000? Series B, Series D, IPO?) and what kind of position are you going for (GC? In house corporate work?)

If you want bigger + in house corporate, look to the typical large SF firms: WSGR, MoFo.

If you want smaller + more general GC, look at the silicon valley firms that do startup work: Cooley, Fenwick come to mind. Avoid actual in-SF offices. Anecdotally these places had better quality of life than SF firms but it was more "wear what you want, work from home, free beer in the office" than "bill 1800 hours."

It's really easy to get jobs if you have relevant regulatory "expertise" -- fintech really needs people with banking charter knowledge, e.g. -- very helpful if you have or can get that.

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:16 pm

soft blue wrote:I worked at a tech co in the bay area in legal before going to law school and a lot of our lawyers followed this path. Two q's to think about: what stage company (are you thinking 20, 200, 2000? Series B, Series D, IPO?) and what kind of position are you going for (GC? In house corporate work?)

If you want bigger + in house corporate, look to the typical large SF firms: WSGR, MoFo.

If you want smaller + more general GC, look at the silicon valley firms that do startup work: Cooley, Fenwick come to mind. Avoid actual in-SF offices. Anecdotally these places had better quality of life than SF firms but it was more "wear what you want, work from home, free beer in the office" than "bill 1800 hours."

It's really easy to get jobs if you have relevant regulatory "expertise" -- fintech really needs people with banking charter knowledge, e.g. -- very helpful if you have or can get that.


OP here - Thanks for this, very helpful!

In regards to company stage, no big preferences, and I figure I can make a move a few years down the road if I develop a preference after I've gained some in-house experience.

What is it about the in-SF offices that make you say to avoid them? Looking at housing, it looks a lot more affordable in actual SF vs the rest of the Bay Area/Silicon Valley, so would almost be more convenient to live and work right in SF.

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby soft blue » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:In regards to company stage, no big preferences, and I figure I can make a move a few years down the road if I develop a preference after I've gained some in-house experience.


I suggest you think for a while on this. There's a large difference in terms of experience/culture/comp between working at a profitable + stable tech company compared to something on a Series B that may or may not exist in 2 years. I'm also not so sure how easy it is to lateral between the two worlds, given you're doing very different things in each. (You'll be a general GC with likely no legal support at a startup, constantly putting out fires, negotiating leases, managing corporate records, etc whereas at, say, Oracle you might have a very traditional corporate law role in a large department with established processes. Oracle doesn't care that you can review marketing materials for compliance or do basic labor law stuff; a startup doesn't care that you've successfully managed three bond issues and a credit facility.)

Anonymous User wrote:What is it about the in-SF offices that make you say to avoid them? Looking at housing, it looks a lot more affordable in actual SF vs the rest of the Bay Area/Silicon Valley, so would almost be more convenient to live and work right in SF.


I would avoid in-SF offices if you want to work with very early stage companies. The SF offices typically serve established companies with the usual corporate needs (M&A, serious regulatory work, cap markets, etc) while the Silicon Valley offices serve the very young startups that have more niche needs and tend to have a very ... unique ... culture that looks down in old guys in suits, which is what they think the SF lawyers are. Even in firms that have offices in both (eg Orrick) I'd pick the office in SV if I wanted startup work. (This might be changing, startups are apparently starting to move into SF a little more--but, by and large, it's San Jose / SV still. I'd definitely target those offices if that was your goal.)

Additionally, SV offices are seen as less appealing--anecdotally--than SF, so headcount is lower + your associates are likely lower quality, so I'd think it's easier to stand out.

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 2:57 pm

CA senior associate here. Go to any of Cooley, WSGR, Gunderson, MoFo, Fenwick, Orrick, Goodwin and you'll be in great shape (although that is the order I would look at). The other big vault firms with offices would also be fine (K&E, Latham, STB blah blah blah).

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby RedGiant » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:58 am

^^^ TCR above.

1) Do not call California, "Cali". It's not done. Similarly, do not ever call SF "San Fran." Also not done.

2) Agree with poster who says you really need to investigate what type of in-house environment you want, and it does depend largely on stage. Read blog posts by "The Lawyer Whisperer" to get a better sense of this. To help you understand, if a company is too early stage, they don't need in-house counsel. If a company is later stage, you may be part of a small or larger law department. If you want to work in a smaller law dept, be prepared to deal with the following: corporate governance, corporate transactions, commercial work (procurement and customer contracts), employment, real estate, IP management, immigration. Get as broad of exposure as you can--watch all the PLIs/read as much PLC practice notes as you can. Your company can't afford to call somewhere for a second opinion. It's _VERY_ different than working in a firm where you just pick up the phone to call a specialist. In a larger law department, you will be specialized, for better or for worse, and that may also hamper your ability to become a GC one day, because you're too specialized (stupid double edged swords!).

3) LOLS to SF being cheaper than the Peninsula. It's not. Avg 1-BR is ~$3500 in SF right now, but you can survive in SF without a car in a way you can't in many parts of the Valley. SF used to be significantly cheaper than NYC. That's no longer the case unless you want to live in parts of SF that are so far away from everything that it's as if you don't live in the City at all.

4) If you truly want to go in house at a more tech-y company, stick to historical/Valley tech firms who have decent-sized offices (WSGR, Cooley, Fenwick, Gunderson, Goodwin, Latham). These firms often place mid- senior-associates at clients, and frankly, smaller offices of other firms or firms who do less private company work will have less connections that help get you the job.

Best of luck!!! You got this.

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:55 am

OP here -

Thanks all for your thoughts. It sounds like I have some thinking to do, but heavily leaning towards going for a more established company, but not something so large I will get siloed into doing the same thing everyday (a concern I've heard about places Like Amazon, etc.). Looks like Cooley, Fenwick and WSGR might all be good options from what I've heard here and elsewhere.

In terms of housing costs, looking to purchase within 6 months to a year of getting to California. When I do any housing searches (sale not rent), I'm able to find a fair number of small houses/condos in SF (various spots in the city, some of which I've been told are nice areas) for under $1mm, but I can't seem to find anything in SV for under $1.5mm. Given the comments here, as well as what I've seen on Reddit and elsewhere, this seems to be counter to people's opinions, so curious if I'm missing something or if there are a lot of fake listings in SF, or what's going on. Any thoughts would be welcome. Worried about committing to an area only to find out 6 months after getting there that I won't be able to afford to purchase.

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby soft blue » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:15 am

Anonymous User wrote:OP here -
In terms of housing costs, looking to purchase within 6 months to a year of getting to California. When I do any housing searches (sale not rent), I'm able to find a fair number of small houses/condos in SF (various spots in the city, some of which I've been told are nice areas) for under $1mm, but I can't seem to find anything in SV for under $1.5mm. Given the comments here, as well as what I've seen on Reddit and elsewhere, this seems to be counter to people's opinions, so curious if I'm missing something or if there are a lot of fake listings in SF, or what's going on. Any thoughts would be welcome. Worried about committing to an area only to find out 6 months after getting there that I won't be able to afford to purchase.


When I lived in SF (til 2018) it was not uncommon for houses to sell in cash for 10-20% above listing (from my colleagues who were looking). Maybe similar in Palo Alto or Cupertino, maybe not, I don't know.

It's easy to analogize to NY: if you're looking in Astoria, you can get cheaper places than if you're looking in Montclair -- but the bang/buck in Montclair (sq ft, taxes) is better. (It's also like NY in that SF is a varied city -- living in the Sunset is nothing like living in Russian Hill is nothing like Pacific Heights is nothing like Noe Valley is nothing like the Mission.)

A nagging question, too, is what you think will happen to the tech market. My friends there seem to think that the tech bubble will fall hard soon with e.g. SoftBank no longer throwing money at everything, FB/Google antitrust fears re: acquisitions, an expected credit crunch, etc. SB50/zoning stuff that's in the pipe now will likely also have a major impact in the bay area.

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby RedGiant » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here -

Thanks all for your thoughts. It sounds like I have some thinking to do, but heavily leaning towards going for a more established company, but not something so large I will get siloed into doing the same thing everyday (a concern I've heard about places Like Amazon, etc.). Looks like Cooley, Fenwick and WSGR might all be good options from what I've heard here and elsewhere.

In terms of housing costs, looking to purchase within 6 months to a year of getting to California. When I do any housing searches (sale not rent), I'm able to find a fair number of small houses/condos in SF (various spots in the city, some of which I've been told are nice areas) for under $1mm, but I can't seem to find anything in SV for under $1.5mm. Given the comments here, as well as what I've seen on Reddit and elsewhere, this seems to be counter to people's opinions, so curious if I'm missing something or if there are a lot of fake listings in SF, or what's going on. Any thoughts would be welcome. Worried about committing to an area only to find out 6 months after getting there that I won't be able to afford to purchase.


You need to figure out where you want to work firm-wise, and then where you think you might go in-house. Bay Area commutes are insane. If you're working down the Peninsula, there are only a few neighborhoods you want to live in, in SF, or else you will tack another 30-45-hr if you are trying to leave for work at a "regular" time. Know that many Peninsula firms are used to people logging in early and then coming in later, to miss traffic.

There are places on the peninsula that are under $1MM--Foster City, parts of San Mateo. If youre looking further down-Valley (unclear why you would--it's hotter and farther from the City) it gets more expensive the closer you are to good school districts. Which circles us back to SF. The school district is abysmal. So this is no problem if you're not looking to have kids anytime soon, but it's a real hindrance to wanting to buy.

I would def wait to buy until you see where you want to go in-house/where you end up working at a firm (sounds like that's the plan, but...traffic is no joke).

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Re: Best Cali firms for springboard to tech/retail in-house

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:CA senior associate here. Go to any of Cooley, WSGR, Gunderson, MoFo, Fenwick, Orrick, Goodwin and you'll be in great shape (although that is the order I would look at). The other big vault firms with offices would also be fine (K&E, Latham, STB blah blah blah).


OP here - Considering looking at Cooley, WSGR, Fenwick and Orrick. In particular, I've heard that culutre/life balance can be a little better at Fenwick and Orrick, but still have strong exit options. Any thoughts on that or the reason for the rankings you gave above?



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