10/8/10

Hello everyone. I come seeking your guidance.

I recently graduated from law school (yea, I know, this story may seem familar but your anticipated advice is greatly appreciated). Over the past year or so, I have become a bit disenchanted with the thought of practicing law and have looked more and more into reentering the financial world.

I wanted to ask your opinions about which areas of the industry a law degree is most respected, is desired/sought after and/or would allow for advancement. Now, I know some law grads can make the jump directly to IB/PE. I also know those with bankruptcy experience/knowledge sometimes seek positions at distressed shops. Additionally, some JDs do place in major consulting firms like MBB. All of the aforementioned options are extremely difficult to do in this economy, especially without having graduated from Harvard/Yale, and therefore, seem out of the picture for me.

With that in mind, can some of you suggest some more junior roles in the finance world where I could potentially land a position? I don't want to do compliance! Rather, I was seeking some type of an analyst role that has good exit options, decent/good pay and where a background in law would be beneficial. So, what types of roles do you suggest I should be looking to get into??

Your serious advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Comments (52)

Best Response
10/11/10
DDGM1112:

Over the past year or so, I have become a bit disenchanted with the thought of practicing law and have looked more and more into reentering the financial world.
.

I almost pursued a law degree with no intention to practice law. So, I'll give you my opinion:

*Basically, you want to switch out of a potentially lucrative career that you spent 3 years and a lot of money studying for into a career that may or may not be as lucrative as law. On top of that, it will be more difficult to switch. That doesn't make sense, does it.

*Their are a lot of people in your shoes. I know a person who graduated from a T3 law school and tried to get a job at both Mckinsey and Bain. Didn't work out. I know another person who graduated from a T10 law school and tried to get into real estate development. Didn't work out. Both enrolled in law school with no intention to practice law after graduation. Both practice law today. There are a lot of stories like these two.

*The only value you add to an investment bank or pe group is through legal matters. There are no junior roles that fit your educational background.

*You're career services office won't be able to help you out.

*The switch is possible, but the odds are very much stacked against you and it wont be worth the effort.

*The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Finance is just as boring as law, and finance is not more prestigious than law.

Basically what I am saying is: stick with law. It's not worth it to try to switch into finance.

If your stuck on switching and just can't stand the idea of practicing law, then talk to alumni who have made a similar transition. They will be your best resource for info and possible job opportunities.

man made the money, money never made the man

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10/8/10

Bankruptcy and restructuring would probably value a legal degree

10/8/10
bugmenot2:

Bankruptcy and restructuring would probably value a legal degree

Not if he doesn't have post-grad bankruptcy and restructuring experience.

man made the money, money never made the man

10/8/10

Thanks for the kind words, mr1234. I must say, I am not completely uninterested in practicing law. But the legal job market is in the toilet and it seems incredibly difficult to even earn a respectable living in this field at the moment. I have many friends in finance and opportunities seem much more numerous. I guess the "grass isn't always greener" but my side of the lawn is currently very depressing .

Bugmenot, I have thought about this as well. I have studied distressed investing/lending in LS and have looked analyst roles at distressed shops. Is this really achievable without any prior IB/PE experience though?

Additional thoughts are welcome, thanks.

10/8/10
DDGM1112:

But the legal job market is in the toilet and it seems incredibly difficult to even earn a respectable living in this field at the moment. I have many friends in finance and opportunities seem much more numerous. I guess the "grass isn't always greener" but my side of the lawn is currently very depressing .

Ok, couple of thing I want to address:

*The legal job market might be in the toilet, but it is doing far better than just about every other field. In an economic environment like this, everybody is suing each other and everybody is going bankrupt, so there is plenty of legal work to go around. Besides, the finance job market is worse.

*Those 2 lawyer friends I told you about both earn almost $160K base salary. I don't believe you when you say its difficult to earn a respectable living practicing law.

*For you, lucrative opportunities in law will be easier for you to get than in finance.

If this is how you approach the beginning of your career with a law degree, than expect many more disappointments in life, my friend.

man made the money, money never made the man

10/8/10
mr1234][quote=DDGM1112:

*Those 2 lawyer friends I told you about both earn almost $160K base salary. I don't believe you when you say its difficult to earn a respectable living practicing law.

Your two friends were likely at very very good schools and at the top of their classes. I didn't do poorly, by any means (Top 25% at a T50 school), but those kinds of jobs were more attainable in previous years/decades. Moreover, most of those firms which can offer $160K base are laying off laywers left and right, deferring the start of new associates or paying hirees an amount to cancel their employment arrangement. Believe me, the law job market, especially for junior associates, is terrible right now.

10/8/10
DDGM1112:

Your two friends were likely at very very good schools and at the top of their classes. I didn't do poorly, by any means (Top 25% at a T50 school), but those kinds of jobs were more attainable in previous years/decades. Moreover, most of those firms which can offer $160K base are laying off laywers left and right, deferring the start of new associates or paying hirees an amount to cancel their employment arrangement. Believe me, the law job market, especially for junior associates, is terrible right now.

If this can happen to law, can it happen to finance in the future? Seems like getting a law degree used to be a great way to earn a solid living. These days, I hear that's hardly the case. Likewise, finance has generally been a good way to make solid money. What are the chances that in 20 years or so, finance will no longer be the high paying profession it is today?

10/8/10

I know a lay who got her law degree from Duke University a few years back. Her specialization was in Securities Law. Now she is MD in the Securities area at Deutsche Bank. So there are areas where the IBs hire law grads. But they need your egal expertise. You cannot compete with the Finance grads, MBA grads, or Quant PhDs.

10/8/10
TraderJoe1976:

I know a lay who got her law degree from Duke University a few years back. Her specialization was in Securities Law. Now she is MD in the Securities area at Deutsche Bank. So there are areas where the IBs hire law grads. But they need your egal expertise. You cannot compete with the Finance grads, MBA grads, or Quant PhDs.

I am assuming your lady friend graduated many years back if she is an MD today. Assuming that is so, it was a different market back then. There was a time where that kind of switch wasn't unheard of. It's a different job market today.

man made the money, money never made the man

10/8/10

Structured finance would be a good one but that may be a choppy job market in the near-term.

There have been many great comebacks throughout history. Jesus was dead but then came back as an all-powerful God-Zombie.

10/8/10

Restructuring, risk arb., PE.. Anything that involves complex legal issues. That being said it's an uphill battle and you should probably stick it out doing corporate law at a top firm for 2-3 years before trying to make the jump. A lot of the old guard in vulture funds, PE, restructuring and even-driven funds have law degrees because they needed them to make sense of all the legal stuff. These spaces are mature enough now that law degrees aren't as highly valued as they used to be but it could still be a plus, particularly in the MM space.

10/8/10

I would play up your restructuring courses and aim for small boutiques in that field. There is a massive oversupply of people with legal educations so it will be challenging but anything is possible for the determined.

10/8/10

Lloyd Blankfein went to Harvard Law School.

Also look through the key personnel here: https://www.bluemountaincapital.com/Team.aspx#

I believe 5/10 of these guys studied at HLS.

-MBP

10/8/10

interesting...sounds like no better time than to launch jdOasis.com. In all seriousness, it sounds rough man. I have heard it is very bad out there for new law grads and MBAs out of the top 10.

I worked in restructuring at rothschild and they only hired out of ugrad for analysts and mbas for associates. I think if you had a good connection in a small restructuring shop you could at least get an interview. After that, if you prove you really understand restructuring (especially the finance side) you have shot -- but basically you need to be willing to work for a lot less than $160k base if someone is going to take a risk on you.

Either way, good luck,
Patrick

10/8/10

I am in undergrad and looked into this situation and doing something similar. Unless you have a real good connection, I do not think you have a good chance. I would just focus on law. But, I am still in undergrad so what do I know.

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10/8/10

i'm guessing you don't really have to have a job that draws too much upon your legal knowledge. in that your bosses don't want you to advise them on what the law says - it just comes in handy in your day-to-day work

if you've studied m&a and securities law, try landing a job at a boutique investment bank

you mention consulting as well. that's a whole new ballgame from ib or lawyering. and let's not forget that mbb are kinda picky when it comes to candidates

how much networking have you done?

10/9/10
zbb:

how much networking have you done?

An endless amount. Seriously, I've been networking incessantly since my second year of law school. Networking ramped up even more during my third year to land a spot upon my graduation and has continued since. I have been talking to anyone and everyone, no matter how remote the connection is. I've landed a few interviews, in both law and finance, for positions as well as informational ones. Nothing has panned out. If I said my plight is discouraging, that would be a huge understatement.

Anyway, I didn't intend this thread to reflect how bad it was for recent JDs. I really come seeking your advice because I have read many threads on this board for a significant length of time now and I've come to know there are very intelligent individuals on here who can offer sound career advice.

So, the consensus seems to be that I should just stick it out in law? Hopefully, I'll land something in a smaller firm where they would have a decent corporate practice and just try to keep working and lateral my way into better firms. Many senior attorneys who I've spoken to said that will be difficult but doable with hard work/good networking so it is still an option for me. But, do you all suggest to go this route instead of starting from the bottom in a financial/analyst position?

Your continued comments/suggestions/advice is appreciated. Thanks everyone.

10/8/10

My buddy just graduated from UVa law. Got on with the firm he interned with. He started in September and is doing $170k base plus bonus at this Manhattan law firm. That said, yeah, UVa law is a top program (figures a place like UVa would produce more supply of the worst people on earth--overpaid politicians and lawyers).

econ O, to your point, I think experience matters. I think going forward, you'll see people continuing to make money in law and finance, but they'll be rewarded for their actual skills and experience. I think the time where anyone who graduates with a JD or MBA can expect a huge salary because of the letters next to their name are long gone.

10/8/10

PM me

10/9/10

I am no career expert, but my advice would be that you attack all your options some of which you have already mentioned. As a deal professional who advised during the crisis, believe me - you have more options than many even in this market just beacause you have a JD.

BigLaw: If you can get in, do well, and you will be staffed on the best clients and lateral opportunities will present themselves in due course.

Restructuring finance/workout IB and consulting: Restructuring groups at all the Investment Banks, the consulting shops like Alix Partners, Alvarez and Marsal, Maynards, the restructuring/work out arms of all the Big4s: KPMG/EY/PwC/Deloitte, etc. all have reorganization practices that are hiring and will consider you because you have a JD.

Your role in any of these jobs would involve both legal analysis of the credit docs - identures, subordination provisions, etc. as well as traditional financial analysis to support either the creditor or the debtor side. While the pay may not be all that great, the network that you build would be invaluable especially when the economy turns around. Since you are JD I would make sure that your resume concisely portrays your understanding of finance - so you are not just viewed as a legal guy, but a legal and finance guy that is multidimensional.

Distressed/Special Situations/PE: Out of school w/o any experience, this would be a tough undertaking, but these funds are looking for real experience whether work-out or banking experience from above and your JD would certainly qualify for these with real experience.

Investment Banking/Commercial Lending/Specialty Finance - Again the JD is very helpful during underwriting, but you need to develop the finance skills (whether on your own or on the job) to be a combo finance/legal guy, not just the latter, and portray this in your resume.

You have options my friend. Keep hustling and you'll be fine.

10/9/10

I worked at top tier MM IBD. One of the analysts graduated from law school and was working in the Real Estate group. He got promoted to associate on an accelerated path (after 1.5 years). You have a good chance if you're not old. Just don't focus on rigid BB's. I also spoke to a 30 yr old Vp at Barclays who worked in law for 3 years before doing a completely unrelated group. He's now 30. Business is people. If you're not getting in after getting interviews then you need to prep harder and come with a more compelling story. Getting an interview should be the hardest part if you have the skills.

Half the Md's out there seem to have JD's so of course they understand making the switch.

10/12/10

Have you considered econ/litigation consulting?

10/12/10

Duff & Phelps has a dispute Analyst type positions that are always opening up. You should look into that or as the other posters said mgmt consulting.

10/12/10

why don't you get a dual degree JD/MBA to fill the demand of the two best worlds?

10/12/10
econ:

Have you considered econ/litigation consulting?

I have, but the individuals with whom I've networked have said that a JD doesn't really make me as marketable to a econ/lit consulting firm. They are really looking for very quant guys who have or are on track to get their MAs and PhDs in Economics. I just finished three grueling years of law school, don't think I have it in me to another 2 - 5 more years of higher education.

slim_ibd_shady:

why don't you get a dual degree JD/MBA to fill the demand of the two best worlds?

An MBA is something I've been thinking about but I went straight from UG to LS so I lack the work experience needed for a top program.

10/12/10
DDGM1112:
econ:

Have you considered econ/litigation consulting?

I have, but the individuals with whom I've networked have said that a JD doesn't really make me as marketable to a econ/lit consulting firm. They are really looking for very quant guys who have or are on track to get their MAs and PhDs in Economics. I just finished three grueling years of law school, don't think I have it in me to another 2 - 5 more years of higher education.

slim_ibd_shady:

why don't you get a dual degree JD/MBA to fill the demand of the two best worlds?

An MBA is something I've been thinking about but I went straight from UG to LS so I lack the work experience needed for a top program.

I understand that if you look up law school's FAQ now it says that you need to be accepted by both business and law schools if you're applying for dual degree simultaneously and there are separate admission processes involved

But if i remember correctly, my friend who got admitted to Cornell Law told me that from what he heard by calling up the admission office or someone else in the field whom he spoke with told him that he could enroll for JD then could apply for MBA in the first semester of law school and that has no work requirement. I hope he's right....maybe someone else can confirm this because that's exactly the route I'm planning to take as well

10/13/10
slim_ibd_shady:
DDGM1112:
econ:

Have you considered econ/litigation consulting?

I have, but the individuals with whom I've networked have said that a JD doesn't really make me as marketable to a econ/lit consulting firm. They are really looking for very quant guys who have or are on track to get their MAs and PhDs in Economics. I just finished three grueling years of law school, don't think I have it in me to another 2 - 5 more years of higher education.

slim_ibd_shady:

why don't you get a dual degree JD/MBA to fill the demand of the two best worlds?

An MBA is something I've been thinking about but I went straight from UG to LS so I lack the work experience needed for a top program.

I understand that if you look up law school's FAQ now it says that you need to be accepted by both business and law schools if you're applying for dual degree simultaneously and there are separate admission processes involved

But if i remember correctly, my friend who got admitted to Cornell Law told me that from what he heard by calling up the admission office or someone else in the field whom he spoke with told him that he could enroll for JD then could apply for MBA in the first semester of law school and that has no work requirement. I hope he's right....maybe someone else can confirm this because that's exactly the route I'm planning to take as well

It's true that a "JD/MBA candidate" needs to be admitted to both schools separately. Typically, a candidate will begin the school's LS first and then be subsequently admitted to BS. However, I've never heard that the work experience requirement is then waived. Unless Cornell is a school which typically doesn't require WE or if they have some kind of policy towards JD/MBA candidates, I believe your friend will likely need some years of WE to be a good candidate for admission to the BS.

10/17/10
DDGM1112:
slim_ibd_shady:
DDGM1112:
econ:

Have you considered econ/litigation consulting?

I have, but the individuals with whom I've networked have said that a JD doesn't really make me as marketable to a econ/lit consulting firm. They are really looking for very quant guys who have or are on track to get their MAs and PhDs in Economics. I just finished three grueling years of law school, don't think I have it in me to another 2 - 5 more years of higher education.

slim_ibd_shady:

why don't you get a dual degree JD/MBA to fill the demand of the two best worlds?

An MBA is something I've been thinking about but I went straight from UG to LS so I lack the work experience needed for a top program.

I understand that if you look up law school's FAQ now it says that you need to be accepted by both business and law schools if you're applying for dual degree simultaneously and there are separate admission processes involved

But if i remember correctly, my friend who got admitted to Cornell Law told me that from what he heard by calling up the admission office or someone else in the field whom he spoke with told him that he could enroll for JD then could apply for MBA in the first semester of law school and that has no work requirement. I hope he's right....maybe someone else can confirm this because that's exactly the route I'm planning to take as well

It's true that a "JD/MBA candidate" needs to be admitted to both schools separately. Typically, a candidate will begin the school's LS first and then be subsequently admitted to BS. However, I've never heard that the work experience requirement is then waived. Unless Cornell is a school which typically doesn't require WE or if they have some kind of policy towards JD/MBA candidates, I believe your friend will likely need some years of WE to be a good candidate for admission to the BS.

I asked my friend and let me confirm this as someone might still follow this thread. It was the local state law school admission advisor who told my friend about this privilege of waiving working experience to get a MBA, not Cornell Law. So it is best to consult with the law admission office of the school which you're applying to for a confirmation on whether you may do this or not.

11/3/10

This is totally unrelated, but why don't you consider applying to a Transfer Pricing group in one of the Big4. Apparently people with JDs are in high demand for these jobs, and I've also heard that the pay is solid. (i.e. starting around 80-100K)

-MBP

12/8/10

Is a bank workout group at a commercial bank considered restructuring experience?

12/8/10

Many MMs and boutiques like to hire people with law backgrounds for their M&A departments. I'm sure some BBs are warming up to it, as well. A law degree is a good degree, I'd say it's just as if not moreso useful than an MBA.

In M&A it's not all valuation-related work. There are a lot of IP-related and legal documents (contracts? exec. comp-related stuff) to plow through. While they are handled mostly by lawyers / accountants, the bankers as process runners still have to understand what's going on and how to represent the client, especially in the late execution stages. This is where familiarity with corp or M&A law can be helpful.

If I were you, I would take as many self-study modeling / accounting / corp fin courses as possible (since M&A is still the most technical of IBD) and start applying. You never know.

12/8/10

Real estate law firms that specialize in commercial real estate or affordable housing (i.e. LIHTCs) finance would have a big need for JDs. From my experience, my guess is that these lawyers make a pretty penny. Not a bad work-life balance either from what I've observed.

12/9/10

Thanks for your posts, guys.

Midnight Oil - I understand there is always an exposure to legal documents in M&A, but there doesn't really seem like there are types of positions for them? At least not that I've encountered, and I've been searching for awhile. It seems these are mostly handled by the hired lawyers, as you mentioned. I do intend to take some modeling classes, though, as you mentioned. I feel like this will help my technical knowledge and also signal to potential interviewers that I am serious about my interest in M&A.

VT4ever - what do you mean "real estate law firms ... would have a big need for JDs?" Do you mean RE PE firms? But these seems kind of out of reach, no? I would think PE is only really attainable with 2-3 years IB experience.

12/9/10
DDGM1112:

Midnight Oil - I understand there is always an exposure to legal documents in M&A, but there doesn't really seem like there are types of positions for them? At least not that I've encountered, and I've been searching for awhile. It seems these are mostly handled by the hired lawyers, as you mentioned. I do intend to take some modeling classes, though, as you mentioned. I feel like this will help my technical knowledge and also signal to potential interviewers that I am serious about my interest in M&A.

No, there aren't special positions or anything. If you're in M&A, you're in M&A. It's just that with a law background (and all the benefits that come with it) you might have an edge sometimes.

But if you're completely deficient at math and have never taken a single accounting or finance course, then yeah, it'll be tough as familiarity with law won't be enough. But if you've got an interest in the valuation aspect of M&A and have a basic predisposition for finance, you should definitely learn on your own and apply.

(PS - the majority of lawyers I see in banking, though, didn't come straight from law school. They usually spent a year or two - or five - at an M&A-related law firm).

12/9/10

Like take Troutman Sanders, for example. One of their most profitable practices is their real estate practice. Before any commercial/multifamily loan closes, lawyers, in conjunction with underwriters, structure the legal forms--which are quite extensive--for the loan closing. They review every detail of the forms, even the boiler plate information. Troutman Sanders, as one example, primarily represents the Lender. Borrowers will have their own lawyers. And if the transaction is with one of the GSEs, they will have their internal lawyers. So the practice itself of commercial real estate law is very, very finance intensive. And the more complicated the deal--loans and equity transactions that have affordable components (LIHTCs, historic, new market, etc.) or several pieces or IRPs, etc.--the more expertise is required from the lawyers.

12/9/10

See the thing is, these jobs are especially difficult, and even more so in this economy. "BigLaw" firms such as Troutman focus their recruting mainly on students from the top 15 or so schools and only students in the top 10-20% of said schools. I'd love to be able to pull a big law gig but it's just in the cards right now. I know grads from NYU Law and other top schools who were no-offered by those kinds of firms and had to take jobs in the public interest.

Whatever, I'm not here to bitch; I could just really use some advice. Most of the options I know of require a strong corporate/financially-intensive RE law practice for a few years before transitioning over to finance. But its getting that experience which is the wall in my path...

Either way, I appreciate everyone taking the time to respond.

2/2/16

why go to law school if you don't want to do law?

2/2/16
estet_5:

why go to law school if you don't want to do law?

Nobody said anything about not wanting to practice law.

Being an associate at a lawfirm vs. associate at a banking firm? - Same hours but more $$$ in banking.

I want to keep my options open...so back to the question.

2/2/16

If i had to guess I'd say no. No disrespect but to an associate w/o previous banking/finance you would probably need to goto a top bschool and/or law school, unfortunatley pepperdine doesn't fall into either of those categories. It can't hurt to try but its a shot in the dark. If you like banking why not m/a or securities law.

2/2/16

I spoke to a VP, who graduated with a law degree, worked for 3 years in law, and then started as an associate at BB.

So its definetly possible, but the guy is a real dynamo, very smart, very motivated, and extremely articulate, has this aura around him.

2/2/16

jdoasis.com

Law School is a losing proposition for many at the moment

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

2/2/16

I think that is a stupid idea, but please do yourself a favor and do some research.

2/2/16
kimbo:

I think that is a stupid idea, but please do yourself a favor and do some research.

Co-sign

2/2/16

I'm not sure if you are trolling or not... as HPM said JDOasis is a good reference.

Just as well, it sounds like you are based in the UK. From my experiences stateside, CPAs don't usually go back for the law degree here in the states (a Juris Doctor in the US is a professional degree) until after they have been in the world for a few years if they want that degree. At the same time, an LL.B. (a Bachelors of Law) holds no weight across the pond until you have an LL.M. (a Masters of Law degree) to go with it. Most of the CPAs I have met have accounting, finance and actuarial backgrounds to begin with, with few persuing post-graduate degrees outside of the MBA, if even that. Considering that the CPA Title requires passing 4 different exams and a number of years of work experience to obtain, most in the states don't go on for an advanced degree.

Having a Law Degree won't hurt your case, but focus on being an accountant first if that's what you want to do. After a few years of real experience in audit, go ahead, reevaluate things and decide if you want to go back for the second degree.

2/2/16

I'll give you another good reference www.abovethelaw.com

2/2/16

Stupid idea. Take it from me, a holder of a law degree, there's no added advantage of holding a second bachelors. Esp. as your background seems good enough for audit/ finance firms.

2/2/16

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.

2/2/16

"They are all former investment bankers that were laid off in the economic collapse that Nancy Pelosi caused. They have no marketable skills, but by God they work hard."

2/2/16
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