Every lawyer gearing up to make a move is aware of the need for an updated résumé, but not all lawyers think to put together a list of representative matters, or “deal sheet” for the corporate lawyers. I’m going to call it a “deal sheet” for the purposes of the article.
You have no intention of ever switching jobs? Even so, I strongly urge you to keep a running list of matters you have worked on. Compiling a deal sheet is also a great way of taking stock of your experience and of seeing where your experience may be lacking.
Here are some tips to get your started:
1. Compile a deal sheet early and often. Don’t wait until you are thinking of switching jobs. It’s really not fun to pull an all-nighter just to draw up a deal sheet. And you certainly won’t remember the details of each matter as clearly years or even months later.
2. If you are very junior and have very little experience to show off, a deal sheet may be unnecessary. It would look funny to offer up a deal sheet listing only two or three deals in total. But you should still include these two or three deals as bullet points in your résumé itself. The more concretely you can show your experience, the better. Even if you include a separate deal sheet, consider adding several bullets to your résumé with one- or two-line summaries of your most high profile or most representative deals.
3. Especially for the junior associates, consider going the extra mile and including in your deal sheet not only a description of the matters you worked on but also a description of your specific role on each matter. This serves four purposes:
a. It gives a clearer picture of your experience—i.e., did you take first crack at the MD&A in that prospectus or were you the junior lawyer on Team Due Diligence?
b. It helps you remember what you did on the deal so interview prep is much easier.
c. At first glance it will appear as though you have more experience than perhaps you really do. Résumés should be concise. But deal sheets have no page limits. I am certainly not encouraging you to be anything but 100% accurate on your résumé and deal sheet. But if you have only worked on two high yield debt offerings and want to prove you are capable of running high yield deals in your next job, what better way than to show precisely the high level work you did undertake in those two deals?
d. It shows, if nothing else, that you are taking this job search process seriously and that you took the time to reflect on your experience and keep track of your experience in an organized fashion.
4. Be extremely careful not to include any confidential information in your deal sheet. How do you do this?
a. If the matter is public, you should be OK.
b. Firms are generally required to ask permission to list their clients publicly. But if your firm lists a deal on its external website, you can probably safely assume they have permission.
c. If you have any doubt at all whether a matter is confidential, or certainly for ongoing matters, include as much detail as possible but do not include the client’s name or any information that would allow someone to guess the client’s identity. For example, replace “HSBC” with “a foreign bank” or “Pfizer” with “a large pharmaceutical company.”
5. Subject to #3 above, include a note in each matter you list to explain any particularly interesting, uncommon or complicated legal issues that came up in the course of your work, how you suggested handling the issue, and ultimately how it was resolved. If it is too difficult to do this without divulging confidential information, maintain a second version of your deal sheet that includes this additional information. Don’t send this version to anyone, but use it to prepare for interviews.
6. What about deals that did not close? Again, subject to #3 above, include them if they add something to the substantive breadth of your experience. Just indicate the final status, for example, “(Transaction launched but was cancelled before pricing.)”
7. Organize your experience into logical categories separated by headings. For example, a litigator might list general commercial litigations, bankruptcy litigations, and arbitrations separately. A corporate lawyer might list M&A deals, capital markets offerings, and SEC reporting matters separately. A pure capital markets lawyer might take it one step further and list equity and debt offerings separately. Perhaps IPOs should have their own category. Or maybe it makes most sense to group deals where you represented the issuer under one heading and deals where you represented the underwriters under a different heading or sub-heading. The important thing is not which categories you choose, but that you organize your deal sheet logically and such that someone just skimming it in thirty seconds will nonetheless get a good sense of your experience.
8. Include the dates of each deal (month and year) to show how recent your experience in various sub-practice areas has been. Within each category on your deal sheet, it would be logical to list deals in descending chronological order.
9. Where you have worked on a number of nearly identical deals for the same client, do not be afraid to condense these transactions into one entry. Err on the side of being over-inclusive, but there’s no need to bore anyone to death.
10. Be fully prepared to talk intelligently about anything and everything you include in your deal sheet. If you cannot recall a. the basics of the deal structure; b. any particularly key issues that arose and how they were resolved; and c.any challenges you in particular faced during this deal and how you approached them,
be sure to brush up before your first interview. If you really were not involved in the substance of the deal (or at least a part of that deal, as you indicate on your deal sheet), delete it.
Now proofread, proofread, proofread…then proofread once again… and you should be good to go!