It’s good practice for every lawyer to compile a deal sheet (a list of representative transactions or litigation matters they’ve worked on). It’s even better to update it 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 or to help you prepare for a performance review, but it also allows you to identify any deficiencies that need shoring up or improvement.
Tips for Compiling a Deal Sheet
1. Start now and update regularly
Start early in your career or, if you’re already a few years along the way, start now. Don’t wait until you’re looking to switch jobs. Update it regularly. If you delay, it’s difficult to clearly remember all the relevant details of transactions or cases that occurred months or years ago.
For very junior candidates, a separate deal sheet may not be necessary. But even your limited experience should be included on your resume as bullet points under each job entry.
Follow a simple and easy-to-read bullet format using the same font and style used in your resume and cover letter. Include the same contact information header at the top of each of your application documents.
Organize your deals/matters into logical categories separated by headings. For example, a corporate lawyer can list capital markets offerings, SEC reporting matters, and M&A deals separately. The aim is to allow the reader to skim it in thirty seconds and get a good sense of your experience.
The list of included matters shouldn’t be exhaustive but, rather, should focus on those most relevant to the position you seek. Therefore, you might have several versions of your representative matters list depending on the open position.
3. Describe your specific roles
Describe not only the transactions or cases you worked on (nature and size of matter), but also the specific role you played in each to provide a clear depiction of your experience. Don’t include parts of the deal or case in which you weren’t involved.
4. Prioritize and curate
Start with projects involving clients with the most name recognition or most relevant to the position and those where you had the most responsibility (i.e., you managed others, wrote independently, worked with clients directly, etc.).
If you’re looking to make a move, just like your resume, your representative deal list (for corporate lawyers) or matters list (for litigators and other types of lawyers) should be written strategically and tailored to the job application. This specific bulleted and curated list of your work experience provides additional context to your resume and provides proof of suitability for working on similar projects in the future.
5. Condense comparable deals into one entry
If you’ve been involved in several almost identical deals for one client, you can condense them into one entry.
6. Note any unique legal issues
For each matter listed, include a note to explain any particularly uncommon, complicated, or interesting legal issues that arose, how you helped handle the issue, and how it was resolved.
7. You can include deals that didn’t close
It’s fine to include deals that didn’t close if mentioning them contributes something to the breadth of your experience. Note the final status of the matter and the reason for it (e.g., “transaction launched but was cancelled before pricing”).
8. Date each deal
Including the dates (year and month) of each deal indicates how recent your experience is in different sub-practice areas. For each category listed on your deal sheet, you could list transactions in reverse chronological order from the most recent to the past.
9. Protect confidential information
As always, be cautious not to include any confidential information. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t include the identity of a client. If it’s public, include the name of the case or deal; if not, describe the project or client another way (for example, “major international bank”).
10. Sample entry
For each transaction or case included on your deal sheet or list of representative matters, provide the following information as appropriate
- Client: name or description
- Role & Contribution: your active participation and specific tasks
- Deal Details: short description of the type and size of transaction or case
- Outcome: if completed and successful or, if not, why not
- Special Issues Addressed: what they were and how they were resolved
For a sample corporate transactional deal sheet provided by Stanford Law School, see:
11. Prepare to discuss
In an interview or performance review, you need to be prepared to fully explain everything you’ve included in your deal sheet. Take time to prepare by reviewing the details of the matters, key issues that arose, challenges you faced, and how you resolved them.
A deal sheet not only helps you be prepared for prospective jobs and assessments but also helps the job interviewer or appraiser prepare appropriate questions to ask according to your listed achievements.
The two most important deal sheet writing tips are: Get started now and keep it up!