The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Ting S. Chen, Partner—Corporate Department
Ting S. Chen is a partner in Cravath’s Corporate department. Her practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and activism and takeover defense. Ting received an A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard University in 2003, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2006. Ting joined Cravath in 2006 and became a partner in 2014.
Ting has been recognized for her work in mergers and acquisitions by the 2017 and 2018 editions of The Legal 500 and the 2016 through 2019 editions of IFLR1000. In 2019, she was included in Crain’s New York Business’ list of “Notable Women in Law.” In 2017 and 2018, Ting was named a “Next Generation Lawyer” in the media and entertainment arena by The Legal 500, and in 2016, she was recommended for her transactional work in the technology industry by The Legal 500. In 2015, Ting was named a “Rising Star” by Law360, recognizing her as one of eight outstanding merger and acquisition lawyers in the nation under the age of 40.
Ting, who was born in Taipei, Taiwan, resides in New York City with her husband, Ken, and two children.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
My practice focuses on representing companies across a diverse set of industries as buyers, sellers, investors, and partners in every kind of M&A transaction, including public and private buy-sides and sell-sides, spinoffs, carve-out divestitures, and joint ventures. I also advise companies on corporate governance and activist and takeover defense matters.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent companies spanning a variety of industries, includ-ing consumer goods, biotech, insurance, retail, media, and more. Recently, a substantial amount of my deal flow has been in the tech space.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Some of my recent deals include representing British American Tobacco in its $97 billion merger with Reynolds American; Kraft in the spinoff of its $30 billion North American grocery business and the $3.7 billion sale of its frozen pizza business to Nestlé; InterMune in its $8.9 billion sale to Roche; DreamWorks Animation in its $4.1 billion sale to Comcast; Starbucks in its commercial arrangement with Oprah Winfrey to launch Oprah Chai; The Washington Post Company in the sale of its newspaper publishing businesses to Jeff Bezos; and OneBeacon Insurance and White Mountains Insurance in the $1.7 billion sale of OneBeacon Insurance to Intact Financial.
How did you choose this practice area?
I was brought up through Cravath’s rotation system—here, corporate associates work with a small group of partners in a specific practice area for a period of time before “rotating” to a new group and practice area. Thus, I worked extensively on leveraged finance and capital markets transactions—in addition to M&A deals—as an associate. While there is no question that my financing and capital markets experience has been invaluable to my M&A practice, in the end, I was most drawn to M&A. I was fortunate that Cravath has a steady stream of complex, high-profile transactions, and so I was always incredibly busy on multiple interesting matters. I found the M&A practice dynamic, challenging, and very rewarding.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
My day-to-day schedule varies significantly. I think what M&A lawyers do can be distilled down to developing an understanding of their clients’ businesses and objectives and strategizing, negotiating, navigating issues, and structuring solutions to allow their clients to best achieve those goals—in practice, this translates into a lot of reviewing, drafting, and participating in conference calls and meetings.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Because M&A involves navigating a wide-ranging set of issues, I would recommend getting broad experience across different types of corporate transactions. In terms of law school course work, corporations law and securities regulation are good building blocks for any corporate transactional practice. It is also important to stay on top of the court decisions in our space—our practice is constantly evolving and informed by new case law—as well as broader market trends and industry developments.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Our clients consistently come to us with their biggest and most complicated deals, and it is incredibly gratifying to help them carry out successful, transformative transactions. I also like that, because every M&A deal involves different players, positions, and objectives, there is considerable room to be creative in our practice.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
Sometimes law students have this impression—perhaps from movies about corporate raiders in the ’80s—that our practice area is dominated by table pounders. In fact, there are many highly effective M&A practitioners who do not fit this mold.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
One of the reasons I enjoy practicing at Cravath so much is that, from your first day as an associate, our firm is oriented around building collaboration. If I want to draw on the particular expertise of one of my colleagues or get a new perspective for a client, I can—and often do—tap into a remarkable bench of talent and experience. Having access to the insights of people like Christine Varney, one of the nation’s foremost antitrust experts; Judge Katherine Forrest, who just returned to Cravath from the bench; and Dave Kappos, who is widely recognized as a world leader on intellectual property law, is indispensable. This culture creates not only a fantastic place to practice law, but also gets the best results for our clients.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?
At Cravath, our associates are given a great deal of responsibility early on in their careers, and our summer program is designed to provide summer associates with an experience that mirrors that of a first-year associate. We treat summer associates as
a core part of a deal team, responsible for tasks expected of our first-year associates. The focus for junior associates is
getting comfortable with managing the deal process and reviewing and revising agreements. I believe this early responsibility, coupled with Cravath’s culture of collaboration and investment in training associates, makes for a tremendous experience for someone who is starting his or her legal career.