Partner, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, New York, NY

 I am the global head of Skadden's Executive Compensation and Benefits Group. I arrived as a lateral associate and made partner three years later. My work particularly focuses on advising companies, executives and boards on navigating the regulatory complexities of executive compensation and benefits. I work in New York City and live in Westport, Connecticut, with my husband and three children.

As to my job, the pace, hours and stress can be very intense when a big deal is being signed. Because deal work is cyclical, however, there are also “off” periods, as well as more “routine” work like negotiating employment agreements, structuring compensation arrangements, etc. I enjoy my specialty because it provides an opportunity for cutting edge work designing structures in the context of applicable tax, securities and corporate law. I also enjoy the personal contact with CEOs and others whom I tend to relate to on a more personal level than other corporate law attorneys. And certainly the work I do is very topical—often ending up on the front page of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or Business Week (not always in a flattering context of course.)

Many types of people can and do succeed in “Big Law” Yes, you have to be committed and prepared to work hard. You also have to enjoy (and not shy away from) intellectual challenge and a rather rough-and-tumble give-and-take atmosphere. It is also as close to a true meritocracy as I have seen, far more so than most of our corporate clients, for example. And the amount of responsibility placed on a young attorney is huge.

I think the worst aspects of big firm associate (and to some extent partner) life are the demanding hours which (particularly as an associate) are very largely outside your control. There are definitely Friday evenings that you may find out you are spending the weekend at the office. I must note that as a partner, this problem is less pressing because the associates will often do much of the “footwork” and drafting and you are in more (but far from total) control of your hours and your life. The best aspects of this job are the intellectual challenge, the fun and excitement of “doing deals,” the bright and interesting (yes, really!) people you work with, and the money which, as a partner, is handsome. I rarely (if ever) meet people whose jobs or lives I envy.