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Alex Orr, Pete Atlee, and Nick Duvall are corporate associates in the Washington, DC office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP.
What types of transactional work do you get to do in the DC office of a large law firm? How does it differ from a New York practice?
Alex: Gibson Dunn’s DC office, and the DC offices of a handful of other international firms, offer a broad range of transactional work, including both public company and private company M&A, joint venture work, securities offerings, and other major corporate transactional matters, like spin-offs. In DC, you often see a client-focused model, under which partner and associate teams represent a client in its M&A transactions, and also will support the rest of the client’s corporate needs, which might include securities offerings, corporate governance advice or other unique transactions.
Pete: I worked at another firm for five years in New York and London before coming to Gibson’s DC office, and in my experience, the transactional work available at Gibson’s DC office is on par with the work you would find in Gibson’s New York office or at other large New York firms, both in terms of variety and quality. I do a range of public company and private company M&A work and because of Gibson’s emphasis on training generalist lawyers, I also have the opportunity to choose to do capital markets, debt finance, and securities regulatory work to keep things interesting.
Nick: As a junior associate, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of transactional and general corporate matters out of Gibson’s DC office, and right now the majority of my practice is focused on investment fund formation. The staffing of our DC transactional matters differs from that in other New York practices because it generally consists of a fairly lean team of one or two partners, one senior associate and one junior associate. This results in a tremendous amount of direct feedback from partners and contact with clients.
Alex Orr, Pete Atlee, and Nick Duvall
Are there opportunities for cross-office work? Is cross-office staffing the norm?
Pete: Where you sit has become increasingly less important, and the quality of your work has become increasingly more important, in determining your ability to get interesting and challenging work, partly because technology has made cross-office staffing easier. I have been staffed on plenty of deals out of Gibson’s other offices. And I like being able to work across offices; it allows me to meet more people at the firm and do a larger variety of interesting work.
Alex: The majority of my work is generated out of the DC office, but I frequently work on capital markets matters with our New York office or M&A transactions with attorneys in our other domestic offices. In general, partners staff matters with attorneys with whom they are familiar from prior transactions, or with attorneys that have taken advantage of the free market system by reaching out to express interest in working on a particular matter. Gibson espouses a “one-firm” approach that encourages partners to involve both other partners and associates with relevant expertise, regardless of office.
Nick: I’ve worked on a number of cross-office matters, from M&A transactions in the oil and gas space sourced from our Houston office to public finance deals with two New York partners. Having those opportunities is a byproduct and advantage of a firm that has a global platform combined with a free market staffing model.
Is there a difference in lifestyle or culture between DC and NY practices / offices?
Nick: The biggest difference I’ve observed is work flow during the day. In our Washington, DC office, most attorneys start their day by 9 a.m. and there is generally not a constant drumbeat of emails late into the night. Culturally, New York tends to start later and work later.
Pete: I have found the firm culture at Gibson to be fairly consistent across offices, and I think the same is true for the lifestyle that associates are able to maintain at the firm. One main difference is when I lived in New York, I would almost always finish up my work before heading home. Since moving to Washington, DC, I tend to try to get home for dinner and my son’s bedtime and then come back online to finish up.
Alex: While typical business hours may vary slightly between offices, the culture remains remarkably consistent across the firm, most notably because of Gibson’s system-wide emphasis on collegiality (underpinned by the invisible hand of the “free market”).
Why did you choose to work in DC if you wanted to do transactional work? Why not go to the New York office?
Pete: As I mentioned above, I actually did start my legal career in New York. But prior to law school, I had worked in Washington, DC, and I attended Georgetown Law; so, I knew I liked Washington, DC, and my wife and I had always thought about moving back. We finally made the jump this past year for various reasons and fortunately, it’s possible to do good, interesting work in both places.
Nick: Having grown up in the Washington, DC-area, working in DC was certainly my preference coming out of law school. Nonetheless, I wanted to find a firm that provided the same training and breadth of work as I would find in New York, and was fortunate enough to receive that opportunity.
Alex: Like Nick, I grew up in the DC area and wanted to remain here long-term, but it was also important to me to practice in an environment where I could on work high-level transactional matters. Gibson Dunn’s DC office offered the ability to work on headline-making transactional work and also offered a unique, free-market system that allowed me to quickly steer my practice in the direction I desired.
Do you have any advice for someone considering a corporate practice outside of New York?
Alex: New-York-style practices outside of New York will often comprise a minority of the firms in a particular market and you’ll want to ensure that you are targeting the right list of firms. As a result, it’s important to research the practices, attorneys, and even industry rankings of the corporate groups in a particular market.
Pete: Most law firms in Washington, DC play up their litigation and regulatory practices; so, it can be tough to get a good read on which firms in the area have busy transactional practices that get a good variety of work. Do your research; ask tough questions at interviews; and, if possible, talk to your friends from law school before choosing a firm.
Nick: For someone in law school considering a corporate practice outside of New York, I would seek to understand how a typical transaction is staffed in the office for which you are interviewing, not only in terms of the number of associates on a deal, but also from where deals are primarily sourced within the firm. I would also try to get a sense of the level of day-to-day partner/associate interaction as well as the responsibilities afforded to junior associates.
This is a sponsored blog post from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. You can view Gibson Dunn's Vault profile here.
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