The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Jenna E. Levine—Partner, M&A

Jenna E. Levine is a Partner in Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz’s Corporate Department. She focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and capital markets transactions. Jenna received a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 2001. She completed a J.D. in 2008 at Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, received the Paul R. Hays Prize in Civil Procedure and served as online editor of the Columbia Law Review. Prior to attending law school, Jenna worked as an associate at an investment banking firm.

Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.

My practice involves mergers and acquisitions (including public company transactions, private company acquisitions, and asset sales/carveouts), spin-offs, corporate governance matters and securities work. At any given time I am usually involved in a mix of different types of matters in a variety of industries. Much of my work is transaction-based, but an equally important part of my practice is working closely with clients on an ongoing basis to advise on shareholder relations, strategic considerations and other important questions that arise as they operate their businesses.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent public companies in a range of industries (including energy, technology, financial services, healthcare, retail and consumer products, and industrial services, among others). My clients have included Analog Devices, CONSOL Energy, Sysco Corporation, Freeport-McMoRan, AbbVie, Saks, Atlas Energy, Heartland Payments, Interoil, Activision Blizzard, AMB Property Corporation, Sotheby’s, Energizer, MCG Capital Corporation, KKR Financial Holdings, Brink’s, Ally Financial and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs, proxy contests and other corporate governance matters, and securities transactions. Matters that I have been involved with include representing Analog Devices in its acquisition of Linear Technology, Interoil in its proposed acquisition by Oil Search and its acquisition by ExxonMobil following a topping bid, Saks in its acquisition by Hudson’s Bay, a special committee of the board of Activision Blizzard in Activision’s repurchase of shares from Vivendi, CONSOL Energy and CNX Resources in their separation into two publicly traded companies, Energizer Holdings in the spin-off of its personal care division, AbbVie in its acquisition of Pharmacyclics, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority in a debt exchange offer, KKR Financial Holdings in its acquisition by KKR, Cardinal Health in its formation of a joint venture with CVS Caremark, and Vulcan Materials in its response to the unsolicited acquisition offer by Martin Marietta.

How did you decide to practice in your area?

I was relatively sure that I wanted to pursue corporate law when I started law school, because I enjoy negotiating, working with a team and problem solving. I spent my 2L summer at Wachtell Lipton, working on corporate matters but also doing a rotation in the litigation department to make sure I was exploring my options. I enjoyed that experience, but overall my summer confirmed my expectations that corporate law was the best fit for me. I particularly liked that the corporate practice at Wachtell was so broad, and I wouldn’t have to choose a narrow area to focus on before I’d had the chance to try things out. The variety in my practice is one of the things that keeps it interesting, and I always feel like I get to challenge myself with new skills and questions.

What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?

I don’t really have a typical day or week, which is one of the reasons I enjoy my work as much as I do. The way I spend my time varies depending on what stage my matters are in, but one constant is that I spend much of my day on the phone, either working with clients to learn about their objectives and challenges and strategizing ways to address them, or negotiating with counsel for a transaction counterparty. I also do a lot of drafting transaction documents and working with other attorneys on our team to evaluate strategic options, corporate law or securities law questions, or structuring considerations with respect to corporate matters in various stages of development.

What is the best thing about your practice area?

Getting to build relationships with my clients and work collaboratively with them to achieve their most important goals and address their biggest challenges is very fulfilling. Our clients trust us with complex challenges every day, and I take that responsibility very seriously. It is rewarding to get to see the results of my work, and the nature of the situations I encounter in my practice means that I never get bored.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

The most interesting matters I work on are also often the most challenging—clients come to us with matters where there often isn’t a clear path forward or where, for whatever reason, the standard way of doing things won’t work. This requires a lot of creativity and a firm understanding of the rules we’re operating within so we can devise a solution that works and that meets the client’s needs.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Attorneys who succeed in the corporate practice have a wide variety of backgrounds and skills before they join the firm. Personally, I think it is always helpful to have some work experience before law school if possible—it helps to ease the transition to working at a firm and lets you focus more on the substance of your work. It is also helpful to have taken one or more corporate law classes, even though you’ll do most of your learning on the job. Strong writing skills, people skills and public speaking skills are also important.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?

I think some people believe that negotiations and M&A involve a lot of screaming and confrontation, and that is really rarely the case (although it happens sometimes). I think people would be surprised at how respectful and collegial most people can be while still forcefully advocating for their client’s interests.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?

The corporate practice at Wachtell Lipton is structured differently in a number of ways—we have a low partner to associate ratio, and take a lot of pride in making sure that even our most junior lawyers develop a broad-based skill set and get real client exposure. My practice has looked very different at different times since I joined the firm—I started here during the financial crisis, and initially spent a lot of my time working on transactions to help clients manage their liabilities and weather the difficult economy. During other periods, I’ve found myself focusing on proxy contests, or spin-offs, or public M&A, because those are the types of transactions my clients are pursuing in those periods.

What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?

I have young children, and when I’m not working I prioritize spending time with my family. I try to be really thoughtful about how I organize my life so I can make the most of the free time that I have, including planning for quality time with my kids in the mornings before work and using my evenings efficiently. I’ve also learned to embrace the ebbs and flows of my practice—the period right before a signing may be all-consuming, but it may be followed by a slower stretch while other things ramp up, and the way I use my evenings and weekends may vary on the same cycle. For me, flexibility is key.