Choosing a practice area is a pivotal decision as you launch your legal career, shaping the nature of the work, the legal skills you develop, your network and your long-term career opportunities. It is also a very personal choice based on your career goals. For young lawyers who are seeking a dynamic and collaborative practice with immediate opportunities for client-facing work, investment management—also known as private funds—may be an ideal fit.
Private funds lawyers advise investment firms on the structuring, formation and regulation of all types of private investment funds. They help clients form funds tailored to specific business goals, assist in the fundraising process and negotiate the terms on which investors contribute their money to a fund. Lawyers in this area develop long-term relationships with clients, such as private equity firms, assisting with any legal or business issues that arise for the fund in the course of business—making the practice similar to an in-house role. They also advise the investment manager, founder or investment professional on business terms. Given the strategic nature of the role, this is great training for a young lawyer seeking to work on both the legal and business side.
As an associate, I quickly felt at home in the private funds space. Paul, Weiss works with some of the world’s largest, most prominent investment firms, so, from the start, I worked on important matters. And partners at the firm were dedicated to providing the training I needed to take the lead and develop strong relationships with clients. Practicing in the Private Funds Group at Paul, Weiss has been simultaneously supportive and challenging—exactly what I needed to catapult my legal career early on.
Read on for more reasons why private funds is a great practice area to launch your legal career.
Private funds offers significant career opportunities for young lawyers.
Private funds is an emerging area that is particularly well suited to young lawyers who want to hit the ground running. Because the area is still evolving, it is not yet overcrowded, giving lawyers an opportunity to stand out and take on responsibility at an early stage. Moreover, the nature of the practice allows lawyers to work with investment firms during the entire lifetime of the fund, growing with it from initial launch to closing; private funds lawyers also work closely with fund managers, growing with them as they start their investment management firms, raise their funds and hire investment professionals. The practice provides a launching pad to establish yourself quickly and leverage opportunities for a long career.
At Paul, Weiss, private funds associates are fully integrated into the team and take on a range of responsibilities. They have regular facetime with the firm’s high-profile clients and have latitude to pursue opportunities for client relationship development. As an associate, I was encouraged to work with clients to develop creative solutions to their most important problems.
For example, I once received a call from a client asking how we could convert one fund to another strategy on a tight timeline in order to take advantage of a fast-moving market trend. With the support and advice of the firm’s deeply experienced private funds partners, I worked with the client to help find a creative solution to quickly transform the fund type, giving them a business advantage over competitors and creating a seamless experience for investors. This is one of many examples in which, as a Paul, Weiss associate, I was given the tools to succeed and the chance to shine, working on a tough but rewarding matter alongside the client.
Paul, Weiss funds associates have space to take initiative while also receiving ample support from our uniquely tight-knit group—including through regular group meals and mentorship relationships. The firm is committed to continuing to grow this practice and is dedicated to fostering the careers of funds associates.
Funds lawyers develop skills similar to those of in-house counsel.
The private funds industry is relationship driven. The length of a typical legal fundraise process is 12 to 18 months, providing a built-in platform to grow relationships over time. Managing a fund on an ongoing basis requires constant communication with the client, which paves the way for you to become a knowledgeable advisor.
Since funds lawyers work with the fund from its formation and have these long-term relationships, they are often the best resources to assist with legal issues that arise in the general course of business—everything from acquisitions and asset management to compliance and dispute resolution, and more. In many ways, practicing funds at Paul, Weiss is akin to being an “outsourced in-house counsel,” an invaluable experience for young lawyers.
Private funds is a multidimensional, business-minded practice.
Practicing in the funds area brings opportunities to grow not only as a lawyer but also as a business person. Similar to an extension of a client’s investor relations team, associates help to shape the business strategy of the fundraise, target key investors and find ways to differentiate from competitors. There is a lot of game theory-like strategy in what we do.
From the moment I joined the private funds team at Paul, Weiss, I played an active role in our clients’ business strategies and execution. Early on, I learned everything, from how to use the appropriate tone in an investor email to why funds are essential to a client’s business and how to marry timelines and market opportunity, among myriad other skills.
Additionally, with Paul, Weiss’s diverse group of clients, I gained valuable experience across all major asset classes in the marketplace, including private equity, the bread and butter of our group’s work.
My experience with a range of funds, everything from growth equity to venture capital to credit funds, helped me develop an understanding of industry trends and provide strategic advice to senior- and junior-level businesspeople at multibillion-dollar investment firms and start-ups alike.
Collaboration with other practices is integral to the practice and valuable for career growth.
In addressing ongoing issues for the fund, lawyers in this space often collaborate with other practice groups, which is important for professional growth.
As a private funds lawyer at Paul, Weiss, I frequently work with lawyers from other practice groups to close the knowledge gap, come up with solutions and get a deal done—including lawyers from the tax, M&A, finance, litigation and regulatory areas. These types of collaboration offer great opportunities to learn how other practices operate and contribute to the formation of a fund. Cross-practice work is also an organic way to build connections with colleagues, create new client relationships and pave a path towards partnership.
In the private funds area, there are opportunities for deep relationships.
One of the many benefits of working so closely with firm partners and clients is that there are multiple opportunities for mentorship—inside and outside the firm.
At Paul, Weiss, training and mentorship are top priorities. In addition to various training and mentorship programs, junior team members in the Funds Group spend one day per month at our clients’ offices, helping foster the relationships that build a bridge toward their longer-term goals. Many former private funds lawyers now serve as general counsel at our clients’ firms, a testament to the high quality of training and mentorship that Paul, Weiss provides.
In addition, given the integral role that Paul, Weiss funds lawyers play in our clients’ day-to-day businesses, clients are often invested in associates’ training and growth. For example, while I was an associate, I participated in a secondment with one of Paul, Weiss’s clients, working in-house in an investor relations-focused role. This experience provided fresh insight into investor priorities and allowed me to create a stronger, more collegial relationship with the client.
I’ve also benefitted from the deep relationships I’ve formed with my peers at clients, with whom I’ve advanced in parallel. We’ve tackled high-stakes, complex issues together, learned from each other and grown more experienced in tandem.
Practicing private funds at Paul, Weiss gave me space as an associate to grow as a leader, with professional support and exposure to major private equity funds; I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling legal career path. If you’re seeking a multi-faceted, relationship-driven, business-focused practice, private funds will provide the legal and business skills, learning and mentorship opportunities, and collaborative relationships you need to excel.
Victoria Forrester is a partner in the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. A member of the Private Funds Group, Vicky focuses her practice on the formation and operation of a variety of private investment funds, including private equity funds, distressed and credit funds and venture capital funds, among many others. She also advises fund managers on all aspects of the business of alternative asset management, including regulatory issues, management company “upper tier” arrangements and secondary transactions, among others. In 2022, Vicky was named a “Rising Star” in fund formation by Law360.