7/24/13

I've worked in economic consulting at one of the major firms for a few years. In that time, I've gotten a number of private messages from people asking me about what to expect in the interview process, what the work is like, and so on. I decided that it would make sense to assemble as much of that knowledge in one place, especially given that economic consulting is not always an active topic of discussion. So here it is. I'm going to later copy this info onto the consulting firm once this thread leaves the top page. See answers to questions I've already received below, and feel free to ask more.

What is economic consulting?
For the most part, economic consultants quantify damages and analyze economic, financial, accounting, and statistical issues in litigation. For example, if you've ever read about Apple suing Samsung for patent infringement, or heard about large payouts that a financial firm had to make to investors, I can guarantee that each side of those cases had consultants providing expert analysis. The final work product that the firm produces will be in the form of an expert report.

Generally in these cases, there will be one "expert" (often a professor at an economics department or a business school) who will be supported by a partner and team of people internal at the consulting firms. These are the ones who actually write the report and do all the analysis. The expert who's name is on the report rarely does very much in the way of actual work.

Usually, these sorts of cases will settle before ever going to trial, but sometimes the expert will testify in front of a jury.

In addition, many of these firms will work on more traditional strategy consulting engagements that require more quantitative expertise.

Who are the major firms?
The big, major, national firms that do very high profile work include Analysis Group, The Brattle Group, Charles River Associates, Compass Lexecon, Cornerstone Research, and NERA. Berkeley Research Group, which mostly consists of people who worked at the now-defunct LECG, is another big firm.

Going down a bit on the prestige meter you have organizations such as FTI Consulting, Navigant, and Huron. The Big Four accounting firms also all have economic consulting divisions. Many of the firms here do work that is just as big and unstructured as the firms above, but they are also involved with many less prestigious cases as well.

There are many smaller boutiques as well: places such as Criterion Economics, Kenrich Group, MiCRA, and many, many others.

What will I be doing there? What's the structure like?
Most firms will hire analysts directly out of BA or masters programs. It is generally impossible to move up the ladder unless you have a graduate degree, though exceptions exist, especially within the Big Four. The next step will be an Associate type of position for recent MBA/PhD grads. From there, the titles might be something like "senior economist," "manager," and "vice president" until reaching a "director" or "partner" type of title.

In a typical case, the partner will be responsible for managing the relationship with the client (the direct client tends to be a law firm), while a manager/VP will be responsible for directing most of the day-to-day research and analysis. As an analyst, you'll be responsible collecting and cleaning data, auditing the work product of other analysts, building financial models in Excel, and analyzing large datasets in SAS, and creating charts and graphs. You'll probably also spend a fair bit of time doing more qualitative research, such as going through equity research reports, looking for news items, reviewing academic articles. Then there's the real boring stuff like putting together binders of supporting documents.

What are the interviews like?
The 30 minute screening interview will be very similar to any other screening interview. Expect to be asked why you'd like to work in economic consulting and be ready to walk through any substantive research projects that you've worked on. If you wrote a thesis, worked as a research assistant, or mentioned completing some substantive project, be ready to talk about how you approached your work, what sort of problems you encountered with the data, and how you resolved those issues.

What are the exit options like?
Economic consulting does not offer the variety of high paying exit options that you'll get after putting in a few years at Goldman Sachs IBD or McKinsey. Most analysts go directly to business school after a 2-4 years, with smaller but still significant numbers going to PhD programs or law school. Smaller numbers will go to other masters programs, and I've even seen a few go to medical school.

Very often analysts will take a lower paying but perhaps more interesting job after working in economic consulting. I've known people who have gone on to spend 1-2 years at federal agencies such as the Federal Reserve board or various non-profits.

Some analysts, however, have managed to make careers for themselves at startups, asset management firms, or other economic consulting firms that are less stringent about requiring a graduate degree to advance.

The business school placement from top firms, I should add, is very good. My firm sends multiple analysts to Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford every year with many others going to UChicago, MIT, Northwesterm Columbia, and others. I think that the economic consulting skillset lends itself well to many post-MBA positions. I've known people who worked in economic consulting, worked as summer associates in IBD, and came back to economic consulting. They've all said that the economic consulting skill set is very easy to sell to the IBs. In addition, I've seen people from my firm make successful post-MBA transitions to Asset Management, management consulting, marketing--a whole range of stuff
---
Basically, I've enjoyed working in economic consulting. As an analyst, I've had the chance to do interesting, substantive work on some really big cases. I've built financial models, became adept as using SAS, and have lightening fast Excel skills. I didn't need o travel like my friends in management consulting, and though I had more than my fair share of very late nights and weekends in the office, I wasn't driven to the bone as hard as my investment banker friends were. I think that it's a great stepping stone to grad school and other jobs.

Any questions, monkeys? Fire away.

Comments (89)

7/29/12

Wow, I'm thrilled to see this right now. My interest in econ consulting was recently rekindled, and I have spent all weekend searching WSO for whatever nuggets of information I could find.

1) Do any firms have MBA or other graduate degree (not PhD) sponsorship programs?

2) How much flexibility is there within the firm for analysts to move to other areas? So from securities litigation to antitrust to strategy, perhaps?

3) How much interaction would an analyst have with PhD economists (not just Nobel laureates)? Especially those who could write a good letter of recommendation for PhD programs?

4) Have you seen people move from econ consulting, either pre or post-MBA, to private equity specifically?

5) Do any econ consulting firms have part-time, school-year internships that you know of?

6) When is recruiting season for full-time analyst positions?

7) How much does the prestige of one's undergrad institution matter? For a math and economics major coming from a non-target but with lots of economic research experience (at school and internship), how much of a hurdle is the name (or lack thereof) of his school? (I can PM resume if you're willing :) )

Thank you very much for this thread, it's a huge help!

Best Response
7/31/12
Khansian:

Wow, I'm thrilled to see this right now. My interest in econ consulting was recently rekindled, and I have spent all weekend searching WSO for whatever nuggets of information I could find.

1) Do any firms have MBA or other graduate degree (not PhD) sponsorship programs?

Among the major firms that I listed (Cornerstone, AG, etc.) you will likely not get funding for Bschool, mostly because you're expected to move on to something else after a few years if you're an analyst. However, associates are sometimes re-hired out of Bschool at the same firm that they used to work for.

Khansian:

2) How much flexibility is there within the firm for analysts to move to other areas? So from securities litigation to antitrust to strategy, perhaps?

This is wholly dependent on the firm and the particular office. Some offices are purely generalist, and an analyst will be part of an open labor pool. Others silo analysts in particular practice areas. Even in the open/generalist offices, however, analysts will develop relationships with certain managers and do consistent work for them, so if there's someone who's work you like, you can set it up so you mostly work for him/her.

Khansian:

3) How much interaction would an analyst have with PhD economists (not just Nobel laureates)? Especially those who could write a good letter of recommendation for PhD programs?

If the PhD economists are internal at the firm, then you'll likely have a lot of interaction, though it would depend on the level of the PhD in question. I'd imagine that there are offices out there where analysts will have little contact with very high powered PhDs who mostly build client relationships. But for the most part, you'll have the chance to work closely with PhDs who are associates/VPs/managers.

Khansian:

4) Have you seen people move from econ consulting, either pre or post-MBA, to private equity specifically?

Pre-MBA? I'm sure that it's happened, but I'd imagine that it would be difficult to do since those jobs seem to be 100% geared towards ex-banking analysts and a few management consultants. Your networking ability and raw determination will be very important. Post-MBA? I'd imagine that an MBA grad with a few years of economic consulting experience would likewise have a tough time moving into PE. An MBA grad who then worked in economic consulting as an associate for a few years? I'd wager that this would be quite difficult indeed.

Khansian:

5) Do any econ consulting firms have part-time, school-year internships that you know of?

I'm sure that some do. You'd be best off contacting the firms/alums directly. This would likely be easier and more common at smaller places.

Khansian:

6) When is recruiting season for full-time analyst positions?

It starts in the early fall, same as banking/consulting. Might run a bit later for the smaller firms.

Khansian:

7) How much does the prestige of one's undergrad institution matter? For a math and economics major coming from a non-target but with lots of economic research experience (at school and internship), how much of a hurdle is the name (or lack thereof) of his school? (I can PM resume if you're willing :) )

You can PM me if you'd like. Going to a school where these firms recruit from is obviously quite helpful, but you can still apply online/network with alums and if you're really good get your foot in the door. Also, smaller places should be more receptive.

Khansian:

Thank you very much for this thread, it's a huge help!

No problem.

7/30/12

good thread. very informative

7/29/12
pktkid10:

Hayek- Thank you for this thorough write up.. This type of work is often not discussed.

In your experience do most folks start here directly out of undergrad, or is it just as probable to transition over after a few years?

Thanks in advance.

gentles:

This might be useful for others to, what are the most sought after skills you see in the industry? I am starting at a Big 4 in Economics but ultimately I would like to move to one of the more specialist firms you mentioned earlier.

Is a graduate degree necessary to progress? Or is it possible to self develop economics skills and demonstrate these to a potential employer?

Any responses are greatly appreciated, as is your time taken to write this thread, SB for you!

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

8/2/12
pktkid10:

Hayek- Thank you for this thorough write up.. This type of work is often not discussed.

In your experience do most folks start here directly out of undergrad, or is it just as probable to transition over after a few years?

Thanks in advance.

I would say that the majority of analysts get their job in the fall/winter of senior year and start after graduating from college, but this is by no means universal. I've worked with people who have worked at federal agencies, marketing firms, financial places, etc. for a year or so before making the switch over. I would say that it's best to make this switch with no more than 2 years of experience. At smaller places, they will likely be more open to people with varied backgrounds in terms of masters degrees, work experience, etc.

The most common hiring process is to interview in the fall/winter and get an offer to start in the spring/summer, but ad-hoc hiring does go on at other times during the year, most often around Christmas time, right before or after the new year. Sometimes analysts will leave unexpectedly around this time, or management may decide that more analysts are needed, which will result in a new analyst or two being hired. Although there are fewer slots during these periods my guess is that getting hired is actually a bit easier if you have an interview, since the firm won't have the same large pool of talent to choose from that they might have during campus recruiting, so if you fall above whaever bar they have, you'll be in good shape.

gentles:

This might be useful for others to, what are the most sought after skills you see in the industry? I am starting at a Big 4 in Economics but ultimately I would like to move to one of the more specialist firms you mentioned earlier.

Is a graduate degree necessary to progress? Or is it possible to self develop economics skills and demonstrate these to a potential employer?

Any responses are greatly appreciated, as is your time taken to write this thread, SB for you!

[/quote]

The most important skills, at least among analysts, are:

  • Quant experience and grades: economics major with some math classes and programming experience would likely be the ideal academic background. This is usually necessary but by no means sufficient. Also, I have seen people who majored in philosophy or other soft subject get jobs if they also have some quant classes in their background. I need to emphasize that the top places in particular REALLY LIKE PEOPLE WITH HIGH GPAS. I've worked with multipl 3.9+ people as well as at least 2 4.0+ individuals.
  • Research experience: This is huge; they really like people who write senior theses or worked as research assistants, since this sort of work (data collection/cleaning, emphasis on accuracy, reviewing academic literature) is so similar to the work that you'll do as an analyst.
  • Internships: Consulting, banking, and anything that involves analyzing data.
  • Personality/fit: This is huge, at least in the second round. THEY WANT PEOPE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN ECON CONSULTING. if you have a few IB/finance internships, you really need to work hard to get across why you don't want to go down that path and why econ consulting is right for you. Also, ECON CONSULTING IS NOT MANAGEMENT CONSULTING! I can't tell you how many cover letters I've seen that talked about the candidate's enthusiasm for "working on high level corporate strategy engagements" or "marketing products in new markets." You must know what these firms do and demonstrate interest in it!

Obviously people can get hired with different weights on all of these factors. People with a soft major and a few econ/quant classes can get hired if they have good research/internship experience. A weak GPA can be mitigated with good research experience and being seen as a good fit. And so on. I've seen people that were 3.9 econ majors with a dinky internship and almost nothing else going for them get offers because they demonstrated interest and clicked with their interviewers.

8/3/12

Thanks broseph. That's very imformative.

I'm on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shine ain't always gonna be gold. I'll be fine once I get it

8/5/12
pktkid10:

Thanks broseph. That's very imformative.

No problem chief.

7/31/12

Thanks for posting.

Was wondering if you could talk about what kind of applicants CRA/Analysis Group/NERA/Cornerstone end up taking? Assuming mostly target kids (also what is the GPA cutoff?) but what types of internships do applicants do their junior year if they didn't do economic consulting for their junior summer?

Also in terms of networking and who decides to grant interviews for OCR, would you recommend talking to analysts/associates/etc?

8/2/12
option1234:

Thanks for posting.

Was wondering if you could talk about what kind of applicants CRA/Analysis Group/NERA/Cornerstone end up taking? Assuming mostly target kids (also what is the GPA cutoff?) but what types of internships do applicants do their junior year if they didn't do economic consulting for their junior summer?

Also in terms of networking and who decides to grant interviews for OCR, would you recommend talking to analysts/associates/etc?

I covered this in my other responses, but to reiterate, they tend to like high GPA econ majors. Junior internships can vary a great deal. I've seen people to finance, management consulting, paralegal work, RA for a professor...it really runs the gamut. 3.5 is a good rough GPA target but they trend higher than that. And like I said, it depends on your major/minor, classes, internships, and other factors.

I would network with analysts, but if associates went to your school, then go for it. At my place analysts and associates review resumes (mostly analysts though) and the process is generally run by analysts.

9/13/17

Thanks a lot on the insight. I came from a bus and comp sci background and don't have a lot experience in research outside my classes and intenrship. Should I put my only high level econ and math class on my resume or targeting my codeing and Excel ability is a better approach?

9/22/12

Hi,

I am currently a PhD student in Econ. Do you know what position a PhD graduate can start a career at in an economic consulting firm or the Big 4? Do economic consulting firms hire intern? If so, how can I apply(as I notice, the online application systems of Big 4 are only for undergraduates or MA...)?

Thank you so much!

12/11/12

Hi, I was wondering if you could shed some light on this? I posted this on another forum but you seem like a good person to ask! I've pasted my question below:
------------

I am a senior and have accepted an offer at one of the large econ consulting firms. What's unique about my situation is that I am graduating in Fall 2012, and not summer 2013 and have the option of an early start date (maybe in Feb 2013/Mar 2013?)

I am wondering: If i start in Feb/Mar 2013, do you guys think that will make me a decent candidate for applying to top MBA programs for admittance in 2015? I know there's several other factors to consider besides duration of work experience, but I guess I'm wondering if I'd be put at a significant disadvantage?

From what I understand ppl in econ consulting typically apply to MBAs with about 3 years of experience (about 2-2.5 years at the time of application)

Appreciate your help!

2/18/13

Thanks for the info, this thread is great. I'm looking at going into economic consulting and am really just trying to evaluate my chances. I have solid BA and MA degrees in economics from good schools (the former from the UK), and overall good GPAs for both. My previous experience is a bit varied and scattered - I have some decent research assistant experience (but not in Economics), and have worked in accounting and asset management. I also have a couple of gaps. I can PM my resume if you want.

My problems are, I think, my varied resume, the timing of my applications (I've been abroad, will be returning to the US this summer and so will be applying around now). Are these problematic? Is it problematic that I have some prior experience - about 2.5 years overall?

Thanks again for the great thread.

2/18/13

ZDR:
Thanks for the info, this thread is great. I'm looking at going into economic consulting and am really just trying to evaluate my chances. I have solid BA and MA degrees in economics from good schools (the former from the UK), and overall good GPAs for both. My previous experience is a bit varied and scattered - I have some decent research assistant experience (but not in Economics), and have worked in accounting and asset management. I also have a couple of gaps. I can PM my resume if you want.

My problems are, I think, my varied resume, the timing of my applications (I've been abroad, will be returning to the US this summer and so will be applying around now). Are these problematic? Is it problematic that I have some prior experience - about 2.5 years overall?

Thanks again for the great thread.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like. Don't worry too much about your varied experience--you need to work with what you've got and try to network + send your resume to as many places as possible.

4/2/13

Awesome thread. Can I ask how is the recruiting process for econ consulting different than investment banking or consulting? Do they have their own list of target schools for recruitment? The reason I am asking is because I am from one of the Big Ten, majoring in economics. Although I do not have a perfect gpa but I do have research experience from my senior honor thesis class last semester. Do you think I would stand a chance for breaking into econ consulting (Can I pm you my resume to have you take a look and possibly give some advice?)?

7/23/13

Hayek,

You mentioned that ideal candidates would be econ majors with some math and programming experience. Can you please elaborate on the kind of math and programming skills that are usually used in economic consulting? For instance, do you ever use real analysis or topology?

mk

7/24/13

akkk:

Hayek,

You mentioned that ideal candidates would be econ majors with some math and programming experience. Can you please elaborate on the kind of math and programming skills that are usually used in economic consulting? For instance, do you ever use real analysis or topology?

No, you will never use anything even comes close to approaching real analysis or topology.

You'll run some regressions (depending on case/practice area) and do lots of modeling in Excel, and programming in STATA or SAS. The actual math that I use is never more complicated than what you'd see in an introductory econometric class. They like people with math backgrounds because it means that they're likely numerate, quantitatively inclined people. The process of going through a problem set and so on is very transferable to grinding through many of the problems that you'll face, but you'll never actually use calculus let alone having to prove any theorems. Remember, the clients/audience for an expert report are lawyers, judges, and juries. You want to keep the analysis as simple as possible.

7/24/13

Great thread, thanks for doing this. A couple questions...

I have a BS and MS in economics, but will have approx 5 years of military experience when I could first make the jump to another career. I realize that networking would be my only real way in, but would someone like me come in as an Analyst or an Associate?

What is typical annual all-in compensation like for Analysts and Associates?

7/24/13

Do analysts/associates ever rise up the ladder as they do in IBD? Who brings in the business? Are there VP-type folks? Or is there a clear, insurmountable wall between the partners and the analysts/associates?

What do MBAs do at these types of firms? They generally don't have the stats/programming skills of top undergrad students.

It's very difficult to find information on economic consulting on the internet, so thanks for this thread.

7/25/13

Hayek, great post! Really appreciate your input I am about to start work at a Analysis Group/NERA/Cornerstone type firm and am curious a little more about the non-b school exit ops.

Specifically, do you see people transition into some of the big-4 type forensic, litigation FAS support, type roles? And also, could you elaborate a little more on the type of industry switches you saw and what sort of roles/titles those led to?

Finally, I am curious about your experience with the post-mba associate salary increase. Is this increase large enough to justify the cost, the opportunity cost is obviously a consideration for anyone with an econ background.

Thanks a lot, and keep up the good work!

7/25/13

great thread, thanks a lot for posting this.

7/25/13

Since I live in the UK, do you know which firms are leading in economic research in the UK and European market? (because some of the firms you mentioned unfortunately only have offices in the US like Cornerstone)

thanks a lot!

7/26/13

and also, you mentioned somne former economic consultants join asset management firms. what is there role their usually? economic analyst, credit analyst maybe? and how common/ realistic is the move from a top econ consulting firm like CRA to a top asset manager (e.g. Fidelity or Blackrock)?

thanks a lot!

7/28/13

zoomie:

Great thread, thanks for doing this. A couple questions...

I have a BS and MS in economics, but will have approx 5 years of military experience when I could first make the jump to another career. I realize that networking would be my only real way in, but would someone like me come in as an Analyst or an Associate?

What is typical annual all-in compensation like for Analysts and Associates?

Different firms have different categories of people, maybe you would come in as a "senior analyst sort of position." For people right out of school at the big firms (Cornerstone/AG/etc.) analysts probably start at around 65+10% bonus+a few k signing bonus and associates at low 6 figures, not sure about their bonuses. Might want to check glassdoor.com.

7/29/13

I just graduated from UVA with a BA in Economics, I don't think I would like to go for a master's. Do you think a MSF or MS Accounting would help me get into this field? I didn't do any research/internships in college so the few interviews I've gotten have gone bad since I have had trouble drawing from experience. Would there be any entry-level jobs that are pretty easy to obtain and could eventually lead to a better consulting position or is education the only way in outside of networking?

7/29/13

Scotchy- I did a MS in Accounting and was subsequently hired at an econ consulting firm. Very few people go this route from my experience and I was definitely an anomaly in my master's class. That being said, there has been some growth at some firms in the number of accounting related cases they are taking on. An econ background is definitely a plus, so depending on how many and what sorts of interviews you have lined up you may not need the extra degree. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions related to my experience.

12/24/13

scotshy:

I just graduated from UVA with a BA in Economics, I don't think I would like to go for a master's. Do you think a MSF or MS Accounting would help me get into this field? I didn't do any research/internships in college so the few interviews I've gotten have gone bad since I have had trouble drawing from experience. Would there be any entry-level jobs that are pretty easy to obtain and could eventually lead to a better consulting position or is education the only way in outside of networking?

Yes, these degrees can help. Remember the big 4 all have litigation support/valuation practices, and they may like your background.

8/6/13

Hayek,

Really great thread. Thank you for this. There isn't much conversation like this going on on the internet.
You mind sharing a bit more about your background? Say, your research experience and so on.

I have some Econ research experience and Math classes up to Linear algebra. Since graduating in Fall 2012 I have been working in Business Intelligence (mainly work with structured databases and data visualization). I am really, really interested in the field but am not sure how best to sell my background.
Any advice? Much appreciated!

Thanks again for the thread and detailed replies!

8/17/13

Hi Hayek, and thank you for taking the time out for this really insightful post.

I currently double as a money market analyst and a treasury bills portfolio manager and I would want to make the switch to economic consulting. My academic background is Economics (BS) and Finance (MS). I would be applying to do a PhD in Economics in 2014 to round me up. Long term plan is to work in a firm with a cross-country bias to analyze deficiencies in macreconomic models and give solutions. How well would you say my background fits this role and what advice will you give to pull my career on the track?

12/24/13

logaane:

Hi Hayek, and thank you for taking the time out for this really insightful post.

I currently double as a money market analyst and a treasury bills portfolio manager and I would want to make the switch to economic consulting. My academic background is Economics (BS) and Finance (MS). I would be applying to do a PhD in Economics in 2014 to round me up. Long term plan is to work in a firm with a cross-country bias to analyze deficiencies in macreconomic models and give solutions. How well would you say my background fits this role and what advice will you give to pull my career on the track?

Once you get a PhD you can do whatever you want. I don't think that your plans are too well aligned with the sort of economic consulting we're talking about here though (litigation consulting). You may want to look at firms that do macroeconomic forecasting/analysis, or ratings agencies.

10/7/13

I'd like to thank you so very much, I have been searching for a thread like this all over the internet to no avail, until now.

I am aiming for an Economic Consulting job (i'll be fine with starting as an intern or research associate). Since i'm from Europe, I do not really understand the GPA values you have mentionned. Does a cum laude masters degree (from a leading department), majoring in International Organization, Microeconomics and Economics of Competition would qualify my application? I am at ease with STATA (but not SAS nor excel) and econometrics, and did research for my thesis (in which I had a very high grade).

Also, according to my credentials (and my really young age), do you think that selling myself based mainly on my academic achievements is a good idea? How should I prepare for an interview based on real-life or fictional cases?

Thank you again Hayek!

12/24/13

Griffith:

I'd like to thank you so very much, I have been searching for a thread like this all over the internet to no avail, until now.

I am aiming for an Economic Consulting job (i'll be fine with starting as an intern or research associate). Since i'm from Europe, I do not really understand the GPA values you have mentionned. Does a cum laude masters degree (from a leading department), majoring in International Organization, Microeconomics and Economics of Competition would qualify my application? I am at ease with STATA (but not SAS nor excel) and econometrics, and did research for my thesis (in which I had a very high grade).

Also, according to my credentials (and my really young age), do you think that selling myself based mainly on my academic achievements is a good idea? How should I prepare for an interview based on real-life or fictional cases?

Thank you again Hayek!

Your background sounds fine. Yes, I would leverage your academics, but try to get an internship or two as well.

12/7/13

Hi, this is a great post, very helpful. I wanted to know where I could practice econ case studies. Is there any resource I can look into?

12/24/13

Many people have asked me over PM about case study questions. Here's a response that I sent to someone:

"I wouldn't worry too much about the case interviews. A good source is to look for white papers on the website of the firm(s) where you're interviewing. That should give you a good idea about the way of thinking and so on. For example I had a "case" interview at [Firm] a few years ago about patents (what would make the value of a patent go up, how would it be more valuable, etc.) I knew that the office focused on IP and before the interview I found a great white paper on cornerstone's website that talked about patent damages, the panduit test, georgia pacific factors, etc. and I did extremely well on those case questions. Really they just want to see that you have some baseline of economic intuition/reasoning ability."

tl;dr: best way is to find marketing white papers on different firms websites. They will generally give you a broad overview of how consultants do their analysis in IP, securities, etc. and then apply it to a case study.

1/20/14

@Hayek Any recommended reading regarding securities fraud damage calculations? I'm Interviewing for a firm with a solid practice in this area and want to be able to talk the talk and better understand different methods for calculating these (and other) complex damages.

Also would appreciate any recommended reading/guides for learning STATA/R, monte-carlo simulation models for damage calc purposes, derivatives valuation, and any other relevant stats skills for the job.

Awesome thread that is very informative. Thanks so much!

3/14/14

J-Man:

@Hayek Any recommended reading regarding securities fraud damage calculations? I'm Interviewing for a firm with a solid practice in this area and want to be able to talk the talk and better understand different methods for calculating these (and other) complex damages.

Also would appreciate any recommended reading/guides for learning STATA/R, monte-carlo simulation models for damage calc purposes, derivatives valuation, and any other relevant stats skills for the job.

Awesome thread that is very informative. Thanks so much!

I would go to all the firms' websites and look for white papers on these topics. I don't have anything off the top of my head to link you to though.

Look into "Financial Modeling" by Benninga, supposed to be a great book, with a CD of Excel stuff.

2/21/14

@Hayek Can you tell me a little bit about the super day process? What kinds of questions do they ask? What is their structure? What proportion of kids usually get hired at an econ consulting super day? Thanks!

3/14/14

phish:

@Hayek Can you tell me a little bit about the super day process? What kinds of questions do they ask? What is their structure? What proportion of kids usually get hired at an econ consulting super day? Thanks!

Know your resume well and be able to talk about research experience or anything that involves dealing with data. Make sure you're relaxed, and come across as chill and likable. At that stage a huge part of it is finding people that you would actually want to work with. You'll probably meet with a few people, get lunch with some analysts, then meet with a few more people, from a variety of levels in the firm. Not sure about percentages, that will depend on the firm and hiring needs. Most important thing is to be very well rested the night before, have your story down, etc...standard interview stuff.

6/15/14

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11/4/14

@Hayek
I am deciding between two of the firms you had mentioned (FTI and The Kenrich Group). I was wondering if you think that either one has more pull than the other if I were to ever pursue future opportunities elsewhere? I have no intentions leaving anytime soon with whichever I choose. However, I realize that in this day and age, our generation tends to jump from job to job.

12/26/14

bandit3:

@Hayek

I am deciding between two of the firms you had mentioned (FTI and The Kenrich Group). I was wondering if you think that either one has more pull than the other if I were to ever pursue future opportunities elsewhere? I have no intentions leaving anytime soon with whichever I choose. However, I realize that in this day and age, our generation tends to jump from job to job.

FTI has a better brand name...it's likely what I would choose but it also depends on the type of work you'd be doing at either place. If you like securities/finance work and you can do a lot of that at Kenrich, for example, I'd say go for it. Need to listen to your gut instinct too.

4/9/15

I'd like to make a lateral entry-level jump next recruiting season, ideally beginning the process this fall, into a top economic consulting firm.

I work as a research analyst for a law firm's internal economic/finance consulting group. I can PM you with further details. Thanks, Hayek. Very informative and much appreciated.

4/9/15

Any thoughts on Alvarez & Marsal? I know they're known for restructuring, but how is their Econ Group?

9/3/15

I am graduating this coming December (Fall 2015) and am applying to top tier and boutique economic consulting firms. I have an econ degree from a non-target school with a crappy internship and a GPA of 3.9+. Recently, I have been given the opportunity to work for a Business Process Management consulting company as a programmer (I don't know how to code, but the agreement is that they will train me). My question is this: If I took the programming job and decided that I wanted to re-apply to economic consulting positions (fall 2016), would my competitiveness decrease due to the fact that I graduated nearly a year ago? Basically, when are my course work, GPA, major, math classes, and research papers no longer relevant? I've heard it's about 10-months after graduation. I'm curious to know what you think.

Thanks so much Hayek!

(I sent a PM, but decided to make this public in case anyone had a similar question.)

9/3/15

They will be much more concerned with economics coursework, and the grades you got in certain courses, primarily econometrics, and any other quant-heavy, statistic-heavy courses you have taken. ECs are much less important, it is almost a straight function of GPA, grades in relevant courses and course difficulty.

The interviews aren't cases per se, but you better be able to show your passion for economics. Also be prepared for heavy stats questions.

9/3/15

Those places are probably loaded with Ph.D's in econ (or stats/math) that have tons of research experience.

9/3/15

Well from poking around on their websites, it seems like they all have some form of entry-level college recruiting (I know 1 or 2 of them recruit at my school). Assuming a strong course schedule and a relatively strong undergrad, any ideas what kind of GPA they would be looking for--3.6+? 3.8+?

9/3/15

Not sure what relatively strong undergrad means... but assuming say a top 20 school, you should have a good shot with a 3.6, 3.7+. Also remember your econ GPA is very important, not just your overall. Finally be warned, MOST of the work is pure research bitch work but there is very little travel.

9/3/15

As an insider, econ consulting is not so bad if you like research and quant. Very little travel, reasonable hours, competitive pay, and most of all, you work and learn from some of the smartest people around. Good experience for b-school. 3.5+ GPA and got to show you like and can handle the work.

9/3/15

Thanks for all the info. What's the recruiting schedule like for econ consulting? I'm taking a heavy load of econ classes this semester, including econometrics, and want to have grades for these first. Would January be too late to start applying for these jobs?

9/3/15

Can't speak for other firms. But for my firm, recruiting starts in late fall in line with the general fall recruiting schedule. Put your econ/stat classes on your cv including those you are currently taking. Btw, no matter where you work, having some accounting background/courseload would also help. Afterall, you don't work with just any numbers, you will encounter financial numbers the most.

9/3/15

Also somewhat of an insider (just completed a summer internship at a pretty well-regarded lit/econ consulting firm). As was said before, grades and difficulty of classes are pretty paramount. They really like people who write honors theses and have some kind of RA position with professors at school, as well as folks who have taken as many econometrics / microecon classes as are offered.

As far as recruiting, they do recruiting in the fall, but are much less regimented than other industry firms. For example, my firm was still doing recruiting in June, and I had friends who found full-time work in March or April.

The interviews are usually case interviews, but much different than a case interview for M/B/B - usually some industrial organization / finance type question which requires you to talk about lines of analysis (what you might look for) rather than suggesting an answer. You might have to interpret econometric output from stata/sas as well.

The pay is extremely competitive (60-65k base, plus signing and performance bonuses), and the hours are very do-able for the most part (9-7/no weekends unless a report is due). The work really is research bitch work, but depending on the proficiency you show, you might get to do some really interesting econometric work and write parts of expert reports. Finally, as far as I know, top firms (NERA/CRA/LECG) place extraordinarily well at grad schools/business schools/law schools - although perhaps its because they don't hire people unless they have really high GPAs.

9/3/15

To add the the previous comments, I interviewed for FT positions at many Econ consulting firms.

One interview was entirely devoted to me explaining/defending my data collection methods for my senior thesis (maybe they wanted to make sure I hadn't completely fabricated it on my resume).

Another interview felt like a discussion section for an econ class - mainly discussing microeconomic/econometric concepts.

Overall, interviews had much more of an academic feel than did my interviews with MC firms. Be prepared to discuss at length what you may have learned in any econ class on your CV. Taking an Economic Law course was extremely useful. Good luck.

9/3/15

Sorry to dredge this thread back up from the depths. All the info provided here so far has been really useful, I appreciate everyones' input. I'm about to start applying for several econ consulting firms through our on campus system.

Several people have mentioned CVs--should I not be submitting a regular resume to these companies?

9/3/15

banana

9/3/15

banana

9/3/15

bump

9/3/15

Coming from a non-target without much applicable experience -- insurance risk (regulatory and compliance based)/hr consulting from no name small companies-- what is the best way to stand out in your eyes? Would coursework allow a good area to differentiate (doing an honor senior thesis for economics degree)...?

What is the general salary progression/exit opps & where are the hubs at for econ consulting?

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

9/3/15

What are the exit opps for Economic Consulting like for kids out of undergrad?

9/3/15

If you come from a non-target school and don't have much applicable experience, there are several strategies you can try to stand out. One would be to do research or quantitative analysis with professors or as an honors thesis--it would also look good if you have a lot of quantitative economics/finance classes (e.g. advanced econometrics). Another strategy for econ consulting shops that have a variety of practice areas is to tailor your application to cater to a practice area that most applicants tend not to be qualified for. For example, mortgage-backed securities cases that involve a lot of review of due diligence documents, or accounting cases involving review of audit files tends to be less popular, so some firms will actually hire candidates who have audit experience to balance out the incoming class even if those candidates might not be traditionally as strong as other candidates.

As for salary progression, it depends on the company. You can look on Glassdoor for specifics. I'd say if you're looking at the top tier firms, starting salary should be $70K-$75K, with performance bonuses and/or overtime bonus/pay. Salary growth tends to be 10%-20% per year, but depends on the firm and is also tied to performance. At my firm, salary increases grow as you stay longer, so most people are making over $100K w/o bonuses after their 3rd or 4th year, and could start making over $100K including bonuses after their 2nd or 3rd year.

Hubs for econ consulting are in the major cities--NYC, SF, DC, LA, Chicago, Boston, etc. There are also firms like AG and NERA that have offices abroad.

As for exit ops, most undergrads tend to go to grad school--majority to business school, but some to law school or PhD. There are also people who switch jobs to go into finance or industry jobs. The most recent people who left my company for another job went to hedge funds, another consulting company, and tech startups. Business school placement at top consulting companies tends to be very good. We send people to HBS, Wharton, GSB, Haas, Booth, and Kellogg every year.

9/3/15

Hi, thanks for doing this! I go to a target/semitarget and just accepted an offer from a firm similar to FTI, Huron, Navigant...etc for this summer, mainly because I'd rather have this offer than not receive anything and I liked the people I've met in the company. However, my real goal for full time would likely be Cornerstone, AG....etc. Would having this internship experience help me get a full time interview? I am a economics and political science major with around a 3.7 GPA.

9/3/15

Yes, the internship would help, especially if you worked on an analytically challenging case (so you weren't just doing document review). Just be sure that you work on an econ consulting case, since I know those companies do management consulting cases as well sometimes. Hopefully you enjoy the internship and can tell interviewers during full time recruiting that 1) you have experience working in the industry on cases like the ones they'd staff you on, 2) you enjoy working as an economic consultant, and 3) you're good at working on econ consulting cases (so try to get an offer after the internship even if you don't intend to accept it). We've hired people who did internships at a less-well-known econ consulting company in the past, so I'd say it's a useful thing to have on your resume--just be sure you're ready to explain why you want to work at Cornerstone/AG/etc. rather than staying at FTI/Huron/Navigant/etc. (2 good responses I've heard in the past: you want to work on a wider range of cases, or you want to work on bigger cases that have more impact.)

9/3/15

What are the elite economic consulting groups? Any specific schools that your firm recruits at besides the Ivy's?

9/3/15

Thanks for doing this! i actually have a final round coming up next week with an econ consulting firm (CR/AG/Brattle). Just wondering which part of the interview weights more, behavioral or case studies? and how to prepare for case studies? I have been reading the cases published by the firm. is there anything else I should be doing? and any pointers for behavioral interviews? greatly appreciate it!

9/3/15

I'd say the top 3 economic consulting companies are Analysis Group, Cornerstone Research, and NERA. Charles River Associates and Compass Lexecon are pretty big in the space as well. Different firms have different specialties and relationships with different experts, so some might be better than others in certain industries and case types.

My firm recruits at the top schools in/around each of the major cities that our offices are located in. So for example, in Chicago, we'd recruit at University of Chicago, Northwestern, University of Michigan, etc. If it's LA, we'd recruit at UCLA, USC, Claremont Colleges, etc. Our offices in New England of course recruit heavily from the Ivy's, but we also go to top liberal arts schools and other strong colleges in the area.

9/3/15

Different firms have different preferences about whether they weigh the case or the behavioral section more. A good gauge is how much of the interview you spend answering behavioral questions vs. doing the case. Some companies don't even give case interviews (or at least not every interview round has a case) so the fact that there will be a case might indicate that it'll be weighed more. When I do interviews, I weigh case performance more than the behavioral questions I ask, but if I think that you'll fit in really well with the culture at the company, I'll be more inclined to pass you even if your case performance was mediocre. On the other hand, if you did amazing on my case but answered some behavioral questions in a way that indicates you would NOT work well in a team, that's an immediate ding from me.

As for how to prep for case studies, I think it's great that you're reading the cases published by the firm. I'm not sure whether it's too late for this or not, but the way I practiced when I was recruiting was by going to all of the info sessions held by econ consulting firms on-campus, regardless of whether I was actually interested in the company or not. Those info sessions typically include a walkthrough of a sample case, so it's a good way to get practice in. If you have upperclassmen friends who are now working at an econ consulting firm or did internships/internship interviews for econ consulting firms last year, ask them to give you a sample case. You can also run Google searches on how to calculate damages for X cases (where X is a particular practice area that the company operates in). For example, Googling how to calculate intellectual property damages might lead you to the 15 Georgia Pacific factors about how to calculate reasonable royalties, which will be very helpful if you are given an intellectual property case involving reasonable royalties.

For behavioral questions, just make sure you've practiced answers to the big questions that firms most frequently ask (bonus points for practicing in front of a friend and getting feedback from them). These questions include: why do you want to work at CR/AG/Brattle? Why do you want to do econ consulting? What do you see yourself doing in 5 years and how do you think CR/AG/Brattle will help you get there? Tell me about a time when you...worked on a team, lead a team, failed, worked on a quantitative analysis, etc. Be prepared to answer any questions someone might ask about things in your resume, especially internships/projects/research involving quantitative analysis. Some interviewers might ask you more detailed questions about your analysis (e.g. tell me about what the independent/dependent variables in your regression analysis were, how did you choose them, what was significant, etc.), so be ready to give details if asked. Also, if you got bad grades (i.e. C or below) in particular classes, be ready to explain that if asked.

I think it's hard to mess up the behavorial component of the interview if you've practiced and are aware of social norms. Try to relax, be friendly, tell stories, and make sure your answers have structure (STAR method--situation, task, action, result--always works well).

Ultimately, what I see in the decision meetings is, one bad case performance won't break your chances of going forward if all of your other cases were above average. However, if someone decides they really don't like you and can't work with you, you won't get an offer no matter how smart/good you are. Also, the candidates that get offers are those that are consistently good (i.e. stellar cases and well liked) OR those that have decent case performances but a few vocal champions (I've seen candidates that messed up on a manager's case who got offers because a principal thought that they amazing). So just try your best and don't worry if you have a few hiccups along the way. I give people more credit in my cases if they mess up but recover really well. Hope that helps and good luck!

9/3/15

Thanks for doing this!

Any information on post-MBA positions? Does your firm recruit MBAs (I know that some do and some don't)? How does a post-MBA career look like at your firm and/or other firms that you have knowledge of?

Are MBAs disadvantaged compared to PhDs? What do people generally do after they do econ consulting at the post-MBA level if/when they exit - obviously not everyone can rise to the top.

9/3/15

Yes, our firm (and also other top econ consulting firms) recruits MBAs. MBA candidates would be entering the career tracker, aiming to get promoted to manager and eventually a principal/managing partner of the office. Once you get hired, your role would be more project-management oriented, organizing the team and allocating tasks, setting case strategy and writing reports, interpreting the results of the analysis and figuring out what to do next, etc.

I don't think MBAs are disadvantaged compared to PhDs, they just come equipped with different skill sets. PhDs are better at doing cases in specific practice areas (e.g. econ PhD would be better on antitrust cases that require serious statistical modelling), but MBAs can be more versatile or might specialize in finance/accounting/securities cases. Also MBAs tend to be better at case/team management than PhDs, and they tend to be better at bringing in business as well, which is crucial if you want to eventually get equity stake in the company.

In terms of what people do after econ consulting at the post-MBA level, I don't have as many data points, but I've seen/heard of people going into industry (corp fin position), going to other boutique econ consulting or management consulting shops, and going into private equity.

9/3/15

Don't know a whole lot about these programmes other than seeing them mentioned here and there but dI you use any of : SAS / SQL / Stata / Access ? Trying To Understand If theyre more relevant for economic consulting or corporate finance. Thanks

9/3/15

I don't know about corporate finance, but SAS and Stata are very commonly used in economic consulting (SAS more commonly for data manipulation and cleaning, Stata more for statistical analysis like running regressions). Excel is also very common, when the dataset is not too big and the analysis is not too complicated. We also use SQL, sometimes within SAS, and we rarely use Access. There have been cases that have required some VBA coding to automate things. Also, for cases that involve really large datasets (usually antitrust cases) or that require some more obscure statistical modelling, we may use Python or R. The choice of a particular programming language on a given case depends on the size of the dataset we need to analyze, the types of analysis/tests we need to do, and the familiarity of other team members with the language (at all times, there should be at least 1 other person on the team who is able to check your work).

9/3/15

Is it worth applying if I have a 3.5 and a B- in statistics?

9/3/15

Depends on the other things on your resume and your other grades/coursework. If you don't really have quantitative internships or research projects, it might be harder to get past the resume review round. Ditto for if you haven't really done well in your econ or math/econ classes (if you've gotten As on econometrics or advanced microeconomics, I think that should more than offset the B- in stats). That being said, I have seen candidates that had 3.5 or lower GPA get passed through to the interview rounds because of a well-written cover letter or other relevant work experience or extracurriculars. Also, if you're a less traditional candidate (e.g. focused on accounting), grades in stats classes will be discounted, although it will still count against you.

Ultimately, you are competing against the other applicants in your school (or batch of schools) for a limited number of interview slots. Once you get through to the interview rounds, your case performance and answers to behavioral questions will outweigh any GPA concerns.

9/3/15

@"tabularasa823"

Hi,

First, thanks for doing this. My questions is - what advice do you have for someone who has worked in a small/no-name EC firm and wants to transition to a better firm like AG/NERA/Cornerstone?

9/3/15

Thanks for making this thread. I have a few questions:
1. What is the difference between economic and litigation consulting?
2. What is the difference between working for top econ consulting firms and smaller firms like Proitiviti, etc.
3. Do you know anything about Protiviti

9/3/15

@"snakeoil"

First, try to work on cases at your firm that will showcase your skills (e.g. you were in charge of some particularly interesting/complicated piece of analysis or SAS code), and be able to clearly explain what you did and your thought process. You can tell these stories in your interviews. Try to learn as much as you can and build up your technical skills. Second, practice doing case interviews and answering behavioral questions (you will definitely get asked why you want to transition to AG/NERA/Cornerstone). Third, try to make friends with an insider in the company (e.g. a friend of a friend or an alumnus) who can tell you whether the company is looking to hire more people b/c they're growing too fast, whether the company is looking for analysts to help staff a particular practice area/industry, etc. This will allow you to tailor your application and hopefully give you an advocate within the company.
From the perspective of AG/NERA/Cornerstone, they want to make a low-risk, high-return hire--someone who already excels as an analyst and doesn't need additional training, who already knows it's what they want to do, who works well with the team, who can start adding value from day 1 (or thereabouts). You need to communicate that you are such a hire. Just be aware that there might be some prejudices/issues you need to overcome, b/c small/no-name econ consulting shops don't always have the best work product, so you need to show that you can do top notch analysis that digs deep into investigating different assumptions (this is where having stories about some complicated in-depth analysis you did comes in).

9/3/15

@"datphukinnewb"

Economic consulting and litigation consulting should refer to the same thing--broadly speaking, you are helping companies (or the government) do economic or statistical analysis for lawsuits (i.e. calculating damages).

There are several differences between working for top firms and smaller firms (think of the difference between working at MBB vs. boutique management consulting firms). For one, the top firms tend to get the best cases (e.g. cases that have the most interesting and in-depth analysis, Fortune 500 clients that have deep pockets, cases that end up on the cover of the WSJ, etc.). They also have contracts with the most famous experts, who could be big name professors at prestigious universities (my co-worker got into a Harvard PhD program based on the recommendation of a professor there who she worked with on a case), or a dean of a business school you'd like to get into. They have good track records with business schools and they can pay for admissions consultants and/or tuition. Your co-workers are really smart, and have graduated from top schools (you can probably find a manager or above who's an alumnus from the grad school you want to attend to write your rec letter). This list is not exhaustive, but I think in general you just get more opportunities when you work at a top firm vs. a smaller one.

Sorry, I haven't heard of Protiviti so I have no advice to give you there.

9/3/15

Thanks for doing this! This is really helpful!
Several quick questions:
1. do you usually have to do a summer internship in economics consulting to land on FT? If not, what kind of other internships would help?
2. as a junior who has only done research project in class (no experience with profs outside the classes), how can I leverage my limited research experiences?
Thank you so much!

9/3/15

@tabularasa823

Ahhh, how come I saw this thread so late... Thanks so much, the replies are extremely helpful! And I hope you are still around? I have some 'less common' questions I am really curious to know :)

1. What is the approximate rate of acceptance among analyst candidates who have already reached the on-site, final round? I mean, it seems to cost the company a really significant amount to fly a candidate to the office, and I presume it should be already a very selective process before the on-site round for cost control optimization?

2. Following that, what is the most common reason you see turning down a final round candidate? I would guess that because of previous rounds of selections, competency/technical skills of a candidate should be less an issue. Or simply just because the companies are still inviting many candidates for the final round?

3. OK, this question seems really abstract. It's fine if you find it hard to answer.
How is 'fit' determined? Is it quantified in the evaluation process? Are there some general rules?

Thanks so much!

9/3/15

@"aaaarte"

1. You don't need to do summer internships in econ consulting to land a FT offer. It can definitely help in that you can say that you can do the work, you know what the industry/job is all about, and you know that you enjoy/are good at it. Hopefully that last part is true, and hopefully you get an offer from your internship (it's a red flag if you don't, esp. if you didn't intern at one of the top firms). If you don't end up with an econ consulting internship, it's not the end of the world. Any internship where you do some kind of quantitative analysis would be fine. I've seen successful candidates with internships from management consulting, auditing/accounting, corp fin, investment banking, research/public policy institutes, IT consulting, Asset Management, etc.
2. If you worked on a particularly interesting or relevant research project in class, you could bring it up during interviews. I have seen some very creative candidates reference blog posts they've written analyzing some public policy current event, or white papers they've just published on their personal websites based on some school research project. Research experience isn't necessary, as long as you can prove that you can do (or learn) quantitative or financial analysis as needed on the job. I've seen candidates who didn't have any research experience get offers because they got along great with the interviewers and did very well in case interviews.

9/3/15

@"ConnorC"

1. This depends on the firm and the office, and on who is interviewing, but in my personal experience around 50%-60% of candidates who make it to the final on-site round will get offers. The rate at which a company makes offers is more dependent on how well the candidates perform than on the cost of interviewing them and flying them to the office. If you think about it, a bad hire will cost you maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars, which makes the thousands spent on recruiting trivial in comparison. If there are not enough good candidates, firms will just make fewer offers and try to tap into recruiting channels in other offices, or into their off-cycle hiring pool. If there are more than enough good candidates, firms will hire up to their recruiting target, and maybe more depending on how business has been/is projected to be.

2. Common reasons for turning down a candidate in the final round--I've seen that happen for fit concerns, because they bombed an interview with the wrong person, because their performance was inconsistent, or because there were just X (insert recruiting target) other candidates better than them. In decision meetings, you get passed on if there are no reasons to reject you (i.e. great resume/grades, great answers in interviews, great performance in case interviews), or if you have a champion (i.e. someone who REALLY likes you--maybe you did really well on their case interview, or you just build a great rapport with them).

3. Fit isn't quantified in the evaluation process, but generally speaking for consulting, fit is like the airport test--can you (or would you like to) spend 4 hrs stuck at an airport with this person? Put another way, it's just a matter of whether the interviewer thinks you'd get along with the other people at the company. If you are rude or offensive, if you seem arrogant or abrasive, if you cut people off or don't seem like you're listening to the interviewer's questions, those are fit concerns. I've also seen amazing candidates (on paper and in interviews) get rejected because a current employee had a previous bad experience with them (e.g. worked with them on the same school project and saw them cheat/free-ride), to the point where the current employee is not willing to work with the candidate. Generally speaking, if you haven't pissed anyone off and don't have a bad reputation, and if you come off as friendly and a team player during the interviews, you shouldn't have any problems with fit.

Hope that helps!

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