It’s good practice for every lawyer to compile a deal sheet (a running list of representative matters that they have worked on); it’s even better to do this regularly! Not only will keeping an up-to-date deal sheet allow you to take stock of your experience, which will come in extremely handy if you intend to change jobs, put together your business case, but it will also allow you to see where your experience may be lacking too. Here are our top 10 tips for compiling a deal sheet.
Tip 1: A deal sheet isn’t needed if you have little experience
If you are very junior or only have two or three deals in total, you wouldn’t want to hand over a deal sheet; these should be included in your résumé as bullet points instead. Even if you include a separate deal sheet, if you have enough experience, make sure to add several bullet points in your résumé to summarise your most high-profile or most representative deals. The more concretely you can show your experience, the better.
Tip 2: Compile a deal sheet as early as possible and update it often
You want to start compiling a deal sheet as early as you can into your career as you will be more able to accurately record all the relevant details. Imagine 4 or 5 years down the line and you’re thinking of switching jobs, you have to recall every single deal you have worked on, including the exact dates and specific details and you have to be able to talk about them at length. Do your future self a favour – start now and update along the way.
Tip 3: Include the dates of each deal
Just like a résumé, it is logical to list your experience in each category in descending chronological order, so make sure to state the month and year of each deal. This makes it much easier to identify just how recent your experience is in different sub-practice areas.
Tip 4: Describe your specific roles
Many lawyers include a description of the matters that they worked on in each deal, but you should also include a description of your specific role on each matter too. This is especially important for junior associates. Not only does this give your potential employer a clearer depiction of your personal experience and the level of work you did, but it also shows that you are serious about the job search as you took your time to reflect on your experience and it helps you remember the experience so that you can prepare for the interview questions.
Tip 5: Highlight any interesting, unique or complicated legal issues
Try to include a note in each matter listed about any particularly interesting, unique or complicated legal issues that arose during your work. You can then briefly explain how you suggested or helped to handle the issue and how it was ultimately resolved. If you can’t do this without divulging confidential information, just list the issue that arose and prepare to explain further during the interview.
Tip 6: Do not include any confidential information
This might seem like an obvious one, but it can be easily done. Do not include any confidential information about your matters in your deal sheet, unless the information has already been made public. If you have any doubt whether a matter is confidential, include as much detail as you can but keep the identity of the client unknown (e.g. replace “HSBC” with “a foreign bank”).
Tip 7: You can include deals that did not close
If you were involved in deals that did not close but they contribute to the substantive breadth of your experience, include them in your deal sheet. Just make sure to note the final status and the reason for it (e.g. “transaction launched but was cancelled before pricing”).
Tip 8: Condense nearly identical deals for the same client into one entry
If you’ve been involved in several nearly identical deals for one client, don’t be afraid to condense them into one entry. Too much information, especially the same information, will bore your appraisers.
Tip 9: Organise your deal sheet into categories separated by headings
The easier your deal sheet is to read, the better, so organise it into logical categories that are separated by headings. For example, a corporate lawyer would list M&A deals, capital markets offerings, and SEC reporting matters separately. The aim is to create a sheet where someone can skim read it in thirty seconds and get a good sense of the experience that you have.
Tip 10: Familiarise yourself with all deals listed and be ready to talk intelligently about them in great detail
If you compiled your deal sheet from the beginning of your career, make sure to go through it and remind yourself of what deals you were involved in, what you did, challenges that you faced, and any specific issues that you may have resolved. The last thing you want is to be stuck in your interview not being able to explain a deal that you listed as being involved in, so brush up and prepare. If it turns out, you weren’t really involved in the substance of a deal that you listed, just remove it from your sheet.
Compile a deal sheet from the very first deal that you’re involved in and keep updating it every deal thereafter. Not only is this a good approach to take stock of your experience and to highlight any deficiencies, but it is also essential for interviews and performance appraisals for similar positions. Whatever stage of your law career, it’s good practice to compile a deal sheet now.