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The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Ramona Nee is Co-Head of Weil’s U.S. Private Equity practice and Managing Partner of the Boston office. Her practice focuses on corporate transactions, including leveraged buyouts, minority investments, and mergers and acquisitions. Ramona represents various private equity firms and growth equity funds, as well as their portfolio companies. She also counsels clients with respect to general corporate matters, including numerous joint ventures, strategic matters, and corporate governance.

Ramona is actively involved in recruiting, training, and mentoring programs at Weil. She is a member of TOWER, the firm’s Taskforce on Women’s Engagement & Retention, and the Taskforce on the Advancement of Women Leaders. In addition, she is on the Steering Committee for the Weil Legal Innovators program, which engages law school students in addressing pressing social and legal challenges. She is also a director of (and plays violin with) the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a pro bono client of the firm.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Weil’s Private Equity practice works with financial sponsors and their portfolio companies across the life cycle of their investments. That begins with doing due diligence on potential acquisition targets, helping clients assess a target’s value, and assisting in the composition and negotiation of an offer to buy a target. We also assist clients in optimizing their investments, handling executive compensation issues, governance arrangements, and shareholder liquidity matters.

What types of clients do you represent?

Weil represents many of the world’s marquee private equity funds—including seven of the 10 largest—across many different verticals. Some of our clients are traditional leveraged buyout clients doing big deals, some are middle-market clients in the growth equity space, and others are traditional private equity funds exploring different types of assets, like secondary transactions, debt funds, and minority investments.  

Weil’s private equity clients include EQT Core International Equity Fund, Providence Equity Partners LLC, Genstar, Advent International, Blackstone Inc., TPG Inc., and Brookfield Asset Management Inc., among others.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

The core of my practice is working with our clients on highly complex and transformational matters. We work on M&A transactions for a variety of private clients, like financial sponsors, private equity funds, and growth equity funds, and help them buy, sell, and manage companies through the life cycle of their investment. That includes buying a target company—which then becomes a portfolio company—through which they can add on acquisitions to grow their business organically. And to complete the investment cycle, we help our clients sell their portfolio companies to realize their investment after a (hopefully!) successful hold period. 

How did you choose this practice area?

In many ways, my private equity practice chose me rather than the other way around. I knew I was not best suited to litigation, so I was drawn to a corporate practice. The partner mentors that I was assigned happened to be private equity lawyers, so those were my first deals, and I really enjoyed it from the very beginning. 

Some law students know what they want to do and guide their career trajectory towards a particular practice area. My path to private equity was instead based more on process of elimination, but I feel very lucky to have been exposed to PE so early in my practice.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

When working with a client that is exploring a target company, a firmwide Weil deal team collaborates to ensure that the client understands the risks and nuances of the target and its industry. We collaborate with the client and its other advisors (including those in accounting, insurance, environmental, and tax) to provide holistic support to the client in assessing a potential acquisition target.  

On many days, we are reading purchase agreements to distill the most critical points. Associates are essential to this workstream—they are in the weeds, reading contracts and documents to put together a detailed report and negotiate specific points in the purchase agreement. After they have pored through everything, we all talk to the client about issues that arose in diligence and how those issues could impact value or the purchase agreement. Our associates have a deep knowledge of many of the issues that matter most to the client.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

There are no specific classes that are “must takes” and no single career trajectory that should be followed in order to be a successful corporate attorney. A tax class will help you learn the working vocabulary of M&A and an M&A class will help you learn the relevant concepts, but diving into our practice as a summer or junior associate is really the most impactful way to learn. 

Weil’s Private Equity practice very much follows an apprenticeship model. The best way to become a strong deal lawyer is to surround yourself with mentors, jump feet first into a deal, and try to understand why your little part matters within the big, collaborative effort that goes into handling a transaction.

What do you like best about your practice area?

The best things about Weil’s Private Equity group are the things that make the job enjoyable on a daily basis. Funnily enough, none of these things are what I expected to enjoy most about being a lawyer way back at the start of my career. 

The ability to grow up with your clients on a personal level, and also develop institutional relationships, makes the job much more rewarding than working for clients with whom you don’t feel connected. Private equity clients are often repeat customers. Weil’s Private Equity practice provides high-caliber, more bespoke service when we know our clients well. By developing long-term relationships, you become a better advocate and a better practitioner. And it’s more fun! You feel invested in your client’s success and your clients are invested in yours—institutional relationships are very much a two-way street. I have worked with some clients for almost 20 years, which is fantastic.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area? 

I think one of the most critical tasks for a junior Weil associate working in our Private Equity practice is the ability to dig into contracts and distill documents into the most salient points. At first, it will seem like every sentence is important, but you quickly develop a rhythm, learn to spot more quickly how documents and contracts differ from each other, and understand how to determine what is relevant.  

Private equity is a very client-facing practice. Junior associates spend a significant amount of time explaining things directly to clients and walking them through various aspects of an issue as they make a value assessment or assess the risk profile of a company. 

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain at this practice area at your firm?

Weil’s Private Equity practice is very hands-on—we learn by doing deals. We frequently hear that our second- and third-year associates in the Private Equity group are operating more like fifth- or sixth-year associates at other firms. I think that is because we focus on providing exposure to the full spectrum of a deal from the moment a summer or junior associate arrives.   

We staff associates intentionally and consistently on deals across the New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, and Dallas offices. It makes the department feel much more cohesive because everyone gets to know each other, works with different clients, and becomes invested in the larger team. 

In Boston, it is our goal that by the end of the summer you have worked on a deal with nearly everyone in the office and had coffee or lunch with every attorney. Our attorneys look forward to these meetings, and the summer as a whole, because it is an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other personally. Culture is very important in Weil’s private equity practice, and we value that over almost any other quality when hiring summer associates.

How important is it to understand your client’s business, and how can junior attorneys gain this insight?

At Weil, we pride ourselves on providing high-quality service tailored to a particular client. To do that, we have to understand the business. By drawing repeat institutional clients, we have the ability to know what certain clients do or do not care about as compared to their peers. It’s critical that our junior attorneys dive into that understanding from the very beginning by listening in on conference calls, reading industry publications, asking questions, and generally showing intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm to learn.