Practice Area - Advice Needed

My niece is approaching qualification and she is struggling to decide whether to qualify into a group that does mainly structured finance/derivatives work. Good firm and well-regarded team in general, but she is concerned that the area is not a growth area per se (and maybe slowly in decline) and clients are constantly squeezing on fees etc. I think she genuinely likes the work though which is making the decision difficult for her. 

My advice would be to go with your heart and do something you find interesting (as interesting as law gets...) Not a finance lawyer myself so some thoughts on the practice area and what would you do would be lovely. 

Very cyclical with limited exit opportunities (other than to banks). Also extremely long hours and demanding clients. 

High demand at the moment as it’s a hard area to get people to qualify into so if she actually likes it it might be a good area to have a go at partnership in 

It is pretty brutal at even the senior end, but actually quite interesting if you are not doing "straight" cmbs or rmbs and actually building new structures.  Could be proper fckd post brexit.  What are her other choices?0

Her other choice is probably a general corporate gig (both areas are well-regarded in the market so a fortunate situation to be). 

And thanks for the response thus far. Appreciate it is not an easy question to ask to real life - go up to a finance lawyer and ask 'so, how shit is your area actually?' 

I would go with general corporate tbh particularly if there's a healthy PE and/or commercial element

It's never a bad thing in law to become well versed in some esoteric area where the barriers to entry are high, and later move to general corporate, if that is possible in the firm

Depends whether there is a silo mentality in the firms practice areas

Funny that she has been told this is actually an anti-cyclical area - namely that people want to leverage when the time is good but want to hedge when the time is bad... 

Wot wang said about it being potentially completely fvcked post Brexit as a practice area in London.

I would say go general corporate from a career perspective but if she genuinely finds the structured finance stuff interesting she should do it. Finding any aspect of this job interesting is rare and to be grabbed if you find it.  About 50% of making it in this game is fighting through the crushing boredom of 80% of what you do. If find a good chunk of it interesting that is a massive advantage.

What dd said about the interest bit. Even if it gets done over by brexit there will still be something to do and if she likes doing there’s no reason for it not to be your niece doing it. 

My area is quite niche so would out myself if discussed it on here, but feel free to DM me. Happy to chat to you or your niece about my area which is still a bit of a niche but growing very quickly. Can recommend the best firms in this area too.


Bear in mind that what seems interesting for 6 months as a trainee, isn't.

The only really "interesting" areas of the law are things like crime and divorce which have a real human element to them, but then you have to put up with the real human element to them.

Tax, of course, eclipses them all.

Everyone claims their practice area is anti/counter-cyclical.  It's mostly tosh.  

Structured finance and derivatives was a great area - very interesting work, funky structures, usually very well paid, demanding but often very clever clients (and at my firm the derivatives group charged out far higher than the vanilla DCM or securitisation). BUT:

- most of the fun has gone out of OTC derivatives now that it's all about more and more and more fucking regulation; 

- yeah, to an extent it has been a dying area for a decade.  But there are still plenty of interesting deals going around;

- avoid structured products or (if it's still possible) regulatory tedium; 

- make sure it really is a proper derivatives and structured finance practice, not a fancy name for a bunch of chancers sniffing around trying to undercut everyone on a repeat RMBS program issue while pasting some names into an ISDA and calling themselves derivatives lawyers.  And there really are few of the former and a lot of the latter;

- oh - and unless you want to be a regulatory lawyer or tie yourself up in some awful VM or mifid implementation project or something, you probably have to wait for someone to die before there's room in the partnership.




Definitely do something you find interesting.