Law into IB...How feasible is it?

Hello everyone,


To preface, I'm honestly more interested in finance. I've considered the legal path but honestly did not think too much into it until a conversation with a mentor who also shared a similar interest to me in university, and having seen some of their typical work, I've began to look into it further.


I was wondering what the transition is like should you wish to jump into the relevant division within financial services after Law. For example, you may have been a capital markets, PE, AM-focused lawyer, and then if you were to aim to transition into actual PE/AM/IB - how would it work?


Any supportive insight is much appreciated.

 

Extremely difficult - and that is talking IB, it'd be just about impossible to move to those investing roles in PE/AM. You may know the terminology but that's about it, the skillset is much different than executing a deal or being a stock picker. The only one that is done with any frequency is RX lawyers to RX IB, given the legal background helps in that coverage.

You can do a search on here, as every few months a law student or M&A lawyer posts looking to make the move... but if you are interested in finance I would very strongly recommend against going to law school. It's very expensive to attend and difficult to exit to a non-law career, especially in finance. 

 

Yes, I have seen some law posts saying it is relatively easy to move to a technical financial role, but also some others to say the opposite - so thought i'd ask. I would find more interest in taking a finance-related degree at university; so Law is off the table. I had noticed that some do spend a brief time in actual investing firms for like 6 months prior to beginning as trainees, which intrigued me.

Thanks for the input - much appreciated

 

The gist of it was that he felt he was a paper pusher in a law firm and wanted to be the one making deals so he made the switch. If you had good undergrad grades and good work experience you can get into a top 25 MBA program with a significant scholarship. Forgone salary is obviously something we all hate, but you’ll make $300k as a first year associate.

 

A law degree is a huge scam since it literally pigeonholes you into either working for a law firm or some boring in-house roles. Why did you make such a colossal mistake for going to law school? Finance people despise compliance folks so much that they would just reject any resume with law degree on it. I mean, just take a look at the comment section here. RIP to your career prospects.

 

If you could talk the Dean of Harvard Law School into letting you get in without having first going to college, you could pull it off.

RIP Charlie Munger

 
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It is definitely doable. I mean there is a reason why 4 of the previous 16 Goldman CEOs were attorneys in their prior life, Bruce Wasserstein was plucked out of Cravath Perella, Bonderman was a lawyer. I can keep going, and I can use more contemporaneous examples too, but I think you get the point.


There are a few common threads between people who get law degrees and end up in finance. The most common is they did a joint MBA-JD and they went straight into finance after school. One of my three favorite UW professors did this.

If you practice law for a while, the best path is to work at a top firm in a related practice. For example, M&A at Wachtell or bankruptcy at Kirkland. Also, you’d want to make the jump either as an associate or as a well-established senior partner. You want to make the jump early because banks will pretty much never hire you as a VP if you only have been a partner for a few years. As a law associate, you would be able to make the lateral as an ib analyst or associate pretty easily. Just know they are likely not to give you full credit for your law associate years. For example, you may have been an attorney for 4 years but they will only hire you as an analyst 2.

Otherwise, you’d most likely have to wait until you are a senior partner with some stature. Then, you’d likely be able to move at a senior level because you should have relationships you can capitalize on. You may not be great at the IB work but you have VPs and the rest to actually do the work. You’d be the sales person. A bank would take on someone like Marty Lipton or Jim Millstein at a senior level.

 

Plenty of people did it with different backgrounds (some of those paths were shared on other threads around WSO):

1. MSc in Law and Finance at Oxford after being a lawyer >> IB or PE.

2. Lawyer in LatAm + LLM at NYU >> RX at HL

3. Securities Law for ~ 2 years at V5 >> CapMarkets at an IB

4. Finance UG + NYU JD >> Lazard RX.

5. US law firm in London >> Activist HF (Eliott?)

Some lawyers even got "drafted" by private equity funds or banks because they liked them. I remember reading somewhere (I think it was from an interview with someone from KKR), saying that they specifically like to recruit people with whom they worked closely, as they could see how those people performed under stress and tight deadlines. This is a better assessment about their character and competency than simply reading a resume, and it's a preferred method to recruit people that already have some experience under their belt. 

So I guess it's perfectly doable, but it may require great interpersonal skills and building one's network to increase your chances.

Buy land, 'cause God ain't making more of it.
 

Food for thought: Restructuring / Distressed?

That's where your legal background would actually give you an advantage

And by the looks of the economic outlook this might be a booming market for those deals soon

 

Multiple MDs and a junior at my firm all used to be restructuring lawyers then became restructuring bankers

 

I’ve seen tons of JD graduates in boutique IBs. Some worked in M&A law before they became deal makers. Some became IB Associates after stints as law associates. Some went right from there JD into IB. This is all at boutiques though. I can’t say I’ve ever seen any at BBs but don’t think you should necessarily care about that. As far as I can tell, a JD is treated more or less like an MBA. I think if you are in a good program and target regional boutiques, you’ll get a spot. I think you might not if you only target BBs, EBs, and upper MMs

 

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