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 , Associates, , , 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, 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, buildingin , 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 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 or . 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,, 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
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 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.