1/31/14

I'm currently a 2nd year corporate associate at a top 2 NY law firm and am seriously considering the switch from big law to investment banking. The biggest issue for me is that while a big law job is more secure than one in IB, I look at the people 5-6 years ahead of me, as well as the traditional big law exit options, and find neither that interesting. Even the partners - the absolute best one can hope to be in big law - spend all of their time working and doing work that is marginally more interesting than that of a senior associate. At least in IB, as you move up the ranks the hours become better, the pay grows exponentially faster than it does in big law, and even if you don't want to be a banker for the rest of your life (as I think is the case with me), at least you have some pretty exciting exit options to consider.

What makes this decision hard for me is that at 27 I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life. I know that I love transactional work, like working in a fast-paced, demanding environment, don't mind long hours, and eventually want to be the one making the deals, rather than a lawyer/banker who only facilitates them. I think investment banking makes sense for me because I could develop valuation/pitching/modeling skills and down the road switch over to PE, or some other corporate/management role. While I'm realistic that being a banker may not be my dream job (and in many ways it is the different side of the same coin when it comes to big law), I at least think it will open more doors and point me in a better direction than my current career.

I was hoping that someone here who has made the switch (or even someone currently in the industry) could let me know about their experience, or maybe temper my expectations of what being a banker entails. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Comments (138)

1/31/14

I know a former M&A lawyer that worked at a well-known shop (think Skadden, K&E, Latham Watkins) and is now at a solid MM IB (think HL, Blair, Baird). Said it was the best decision of his life. I personally think it would be more interesting, but I also was turned off to law, so some bias in inherent.

You can add a valuable perspective to many M&A conversations and although I-bankers pretend to be experts on everything (legal, tax, etc.), that type of input is valuable.

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1/31/14

two friends of mine also made this transition. One made the transition right around your timeline and another made the transition after his his summer internship at a top law firm. The one in your position completed the CFA to show that he could show that he knew his finance cold.

both were extremely happy with the transition.

Best Response
1/31/14

PM me. Talk offline and I think I can help you with this.

"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."

1/31/14

Corporate lawyer here, dating an IBD associate, so even though I have not made the switch, I might be able to give you some advice. A lot of lawyers are known to romanticize investment banking. Yes, even the directors of Suits -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFg_PDSQBAk

There are a few things you need to consider before making the switch.

I'm currently a 2nd year corporate associate at a top 2 NY law firm and am seriously considering the switch from big law to investment banking. The biggest issue for me is that while a big law job is more secure than one in IB, I look at the people 5-6 years ahead of me, as well as the traditional big law exit options, and find neither that interesting.

Security is indeed an upside of law. Decent in-house councils take home around ~150 - 250k with a 40 - 60h work week and with a very low risk of getting laid off. I have to admit, though, that the prospect of in-house does not sound very appealing to me either.

Even the partners - the absolute best one can hope to be in big law - spend all of their time working and doing work that is marginally more interesting than that of a senior associate. At least in IB, as you move up the ranks the hours become better, the pay grows exponentially faster than it does in big law, and even if you don't want to be a banker for the rest of your life (as I think is the case with me), at least you have some pretty exciting exit options to consider.

Disagree. The hours might becoming a little better, but IBD associates generally work longer hours than Biglaw associates (even though most of us vehemently disagree), believe me. The difference in pay between IBD and biglaw associates is not significant, especially not after tax, and partners at Wachtell and Cravath (if you are at a top 2 firm, I assume it's one of them) take home more than 3 MM a year. That is not too far off from the average MD, I think.

What makes this decision hard for me is that at 27 I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life. I know that I love transactional work, like working in a fast-paced, demanding environment, don't mind long hours, and eventually want to be the one making the deals, rather than a lawyer/banker who only facilitates them. I think investment banking makes sense for me because I could develop valuation/pitching/modeling skills and down the road switch over to PE, or some other corporate/management role. While I'm realistic that being a banker may not be my dream job (and in many ways it is the different side of the same coin when it comes to big law), I at least think it will open more doors and point me in a better direction than my current career.

There you go. You already mention 'banking is just the other side of the same coin'. Consider long and hard whether this is indeed what you want. IBD associate, as opposed to IBD analyst, is a career path. This counts even more if you already made a career switch (Biglaw to IBD) before. Just a piece of advice, whenever you reach out to headhunters, leave the wet dreams about PE outside.

I do not want to sound discouraging, because if you are unhappy in law, by all means reach out to your IBD friends and make the switch as soon as possible. However, you do not seem to hate your job at all - you didn't mention a single negative thing about the [i]actual[/i] work. :-)

If none of this is helpful, consider this reply - http://www.vault.com/blog/vaults-law-blog-legal-careers-and-industry-news/ma-lawyer-to-investment-banking/

All the best,
Liam

1/31/14

I made the switch in my early 30s. PM me if you're interested in my view.

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

2/1/14

What is the optimal number of years to stay at a top firm before trying to make the switch over?

2/1/14

Mr. Collingsworth:

What is the optimal number of years to stay at a top firm before trying to make the switch over?

Not sure there is an optimal number, but I know people that spent 2-3 and moved to IB Associate and one that worked for 5-6 at moved into a VP role. I don't know any, but am quite certain I came across some individuals that moved from Partner/Principal level to Director or MD, at least in the MM.

In other words, I would expect to be there for at least 2-3 in order to get proper exposure and experience. As for the top end of the range, it may not exist. If you are a lawyer that has taken the time to understand the valuations and financials (nobody is expecting you to build a complex LBO), I'd guess you can switch over as late as you want.

2/1/14

As I stated above, I made the move from big law > IB.

Here's an extract from a PM exchange I had with the OP/

My view (at least tonight, at the moment, half way through a bottle of good red) is:

- The key skill lawyers have but often fail to recognise is EXECUTION ABILITY. This is a key marketing point if you're interviewing with IBs. As a lawyer, you have to deal with short time frames, demanding clients, multiple issues, parallel workstreams etc and you can pull it all together without freaking out. This is sort of project management, but more project management under extreme pressure - which is what bankers do. I rate this skill that you get from being a lawyer more important to banking than your legal knowledge.

- LEGAL KNOWLEDGE - useful, but not incredibly useful. I would market the legal knowledge point more as STRONG SENSE OF RISKS AND MITIGANTS - ie being a lawyer teaches you how to think about what could go wrong and how to mitigate that (more so than a banker - beware of becoming a pessimist like many lawyers are).

- CLIENT INTERACTIONS - lawyers deal with clients and quickly develop the authoritative voice which reassures clients (but could potentially be all bluff and bullshit). That's a key skill if you're a client-facing IB advisor.

- NEGOTIATION SKILL - not incredibly useful unless you're going into a buy-side PE role. However, you can still market yourself on this. I'd rank it below the execution ability point.

So, what are your weaknesses?

- TECHNICAL ABILITY - I did a CFA and other financial qualifications while I was a lawyer, although mainly because I come from a tradition of resume building and not because I wanted to go commercial. It helped nonetheless. I recall being a lawyer and my eyes literally glazing over when I hit the numbers, flicking pages until I hit words. This stuck with me for a while after I made the shift to the commercial side and I still have a bias towards prose vs numbers. Of course, you interviewers may not be as aware of this as I am. In any case, technical knowledge (eg a little bit of accounting, a little bit of market knowledge) - this is a lawyer's weakness and something you need to be able to prove you've got. If not the CFA, you should find some sort of financial analysis course you can enrol in and put on your resume to show you are countering a lawyer's natural tendency to not look at this stuff. If you've got a good law firm, they'll sponsor you through a course (as it gets you to understand your clients better).

- SALESMANSHIP - Lawyers exist to tell people what the risks are in a deal. They are worried about being sued if it all goes wrong. Lawyers get paid whether the deal gets done or not. Bankers are more focused on getting the deal done, because they only get their fee when that happens. If the deal tanks later, the client bears the risk in most situations, not the lawyers (unless they have been grossly negligent, engaged in wilful misconduct and/or one other carve out appearing in market standard engagement terms I can't recall [I can remember it now - 3rd carve out is fraud]). You'll need to convince bankers that you're not a naysaying guy who will only focus on downsides or precede every positive statement with 101 caveats.

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

2/1/14

Awesome post, thank you!

2/1/14

Are you SURE you want to switch out? Getting a job at Cravath is EXTREMELY difficult and is one of the most prestegious business law jobs on the planet. I am not an expert in this matter, but I have a very strong feeling that you would be able to make the switch.

Why do you actually want to switch?

"To Know Me Is To Love Me"-Jebus Price

  •  2/1/14

I call bullshit on this poster.

If he actually were an associate at Cravath, he woul not be asking that question.

2/1/14

With your background, bulge bracket banks should be very interested in you. Brush up on the details of the transactions you worked on and be able to speak to them and you should be fine. You should be able to enter in as an associate, possibly a 2nd or 3rd year depending on your experience. You are coming up on recruiting season for 1st year associates via B-school, but I'm sure if you can network enough you can find someone to vouch for you at the very least for a 1st year associate position, if not higher.

  •  2/1/14

dude obviously you can get into a top Ibank. Bruce Wasserstein was at Cravath and then went on to CSFB and is now CEO of Lazard.

  •  2/1/14

what the hell is a 3rd year trainee??

2/1/14

I'm guessing associate.

"We are lawyers! We sue people! Occasionally, we get aggressive and garnish wages, but WE DO NOT ABDUCT!" -Boston Legal-

2/1/14

3rd year at a place like Cravath, you may be even be able to start out as VP. My uncle was an associate at Skadden for 4 years and then went to Morgan as a VP (on the banking side, not in general counsel).

2/1/14

I want to know why you want to quit working as a lawyer, especially at such a prestigious firm. I am still trying to decide between jd or mba.

2/1/14

Have a few ppl at the office who worked at top law firms. They bring a lot of expertise and insight onto deals and are valued. Only thing is they lack technical finance knowledge (i.e. simple modelling skills) so unless you want analysts laughing at you then you'll have to work hard to get up the curve.

2/2/14

I just posted a similar question over in the general forum. I'm trying to do exactly this. I know it is possible for law students at top schools like HYS, to get associate positions after graduation.

2/2/14

entirely possible. a lot of mds have law degrees
especially in restructuring

2/2/14

entirely possible. a lot of mds have law degrees
especially in restructuring

2/2/14

it's possible but tough.

2/2/14

We look at them, but mostly restricted to top tier law programs. It's still a big challenge for candidates, since you have to convince us that you can handle the quant, finance and modeling aspects.

We tend to go out to the JDs when the market for associates is especially hot (as it is right now). In less favorable markets, forget it - even the MBAs with analyst experience are sacrificing their firstborn for jobs.

2/2/14
GhengisKhan:

We look at them, but mostly restricted to top tier law programs. It's still a big challenge for candidates, since you have to convince us that you can handle the quant, finance and modeling aspects.

The highest level of math you'll experience in I-banking is how to add numbers; I think a lawyer could handle that and learning excel.

2/2/14
Der Bankier:
GhengisKhan:

We look at them, but mostly restricted to top tier law programs. It's still a big challenge for candidates, since you have to convince us that you can handle the quant, finance and modeling aspects.

The highest level of math you'll experience in I-banking is how to add numbers; I think a lawyer could handle that and learning excel.

you'd be surprised at how terrified most lawyers get when dealing with numbers.

2/2/14

i agree. this aint rocket science.

2/2/14

JDs out of LS normally start as associates. Its on a case by case basis I believe if you are trying to move higher. Depends on other factors than just WE at Skadden if you are trying to land VP.

Where'd you go to law school? Is this Skadden NYC?

2/2/14

Yes, I work at Skadden NYC. In the efforts of not disclosing too much, I will only say that I went to an Ivy League law school.

2/2/14
2/2/14
sleepyguyb:

Try this fourm too. http://www.autoadmit.com/main.php?forum_id=2

Its really hard to cipher through the BS on that site and figure out who actually knows anything about I-banking and who is just guessing.

2/2/14

Out of curiosity, how many hours do you work in an average week? I've heard conflicting views on whether it is bankers that work more, or lawyers..

2/2/14

I'm pretty sure I-bankers work more hours. Few lawyers average much more than 60 hours a week (billing about 50 a week and 2400 a year). But there are plenty of zero hour weeks and plenty of 120 hour weeks. Another problem is that you can sit in your office from 9 til 7 pm doing nothing and then get a call that keeps you in the office for the next day or two. There is also the occasional associate who bills something crazy like 3000 hours in a year, but that is VERY rare. Its probably most typical to bill around 2000-2100 and rarely more than 2400, which is not that bad when averaged over the year.

2/2/14

The very best thing you can do is contact former Skadden lawyers now in IB to ask them about the jump. You will need significant transactional experience (not just living in the law library and doing research) if you want to make the jump from law associate to IB associate. If you have prior finance experience, though, like if you went to Wharton undergrad or something, you might be able to do it easier. Otherwise, it's going to be hard to do until you are more senior and can enter the bank as more of a relationship manager.

2/2/14

You will be an associate and you will have generally the same path as any other associate.

Upon your interview, the interviewers will generally be skiptical of your financial knowledge so you may get grilled on this. Assuming you have a great understanding of financial analystics you should pass the 1st round of interviews. Your personailty will dictate the offer.

I banking works WAYY more hours and Also makes Way more money. The notorious trade-off.

In law you will average 60-70 hours a week (a few brutal weeks and a few weeks where you do practically nothing). If you work in litigation then the weeks fly by b/c you do alot of soft "Document review" type BS work. You get paud a set salary of around $140k and the bonus is a measley 10-20k...at least you know what's coming though.

2/2/14

actually it's 160K salary, and bonuses last year were 35K

still much less than what associates make

to the op:

if you stay at your firm for 4-5 years, you can probably transition into a senior associate or VP position.

though xoxohth is filled with useless shit, you can find some useful information there

2/2/14

Consider structured finance firms as well possibly? I know some big4 partners in there that went to top law schools. They don't make as much as MDs or partners at law firms, but they get to do some legal and some business stuff.

2/2/14

Pretty sweet deal I must say.

2/2/14

I know someone who went to from skadden as a 4th year to a BB as a first year associate.

2/2/14

How helpful would it be if I had a CFA? I don't have much of a financial background (besides on the legal side of deals), so I am thinking about trying to get my CFA to show that I have some understanding of finance.

2/2/14

It would help. It will show interest and general finance knowledge. Good move. Also I know you're busy, but try learn some accounting on your own, find out what textbooks are required at NYU's entry financial accounting class and go over them. Know the vault guide's to finance and advanced finance inside and out, plus read the ibanking guide so you know more about what you are getting into. Gluck, I think with the prep you can make the move to associate, VP or higher, thats unique and good luck.

2/2/14

I am also looking to make the move from law firm to i-bank and I was under the impression that a CFA would be of much greater value in making a move to equity research. Is this really something that would be valued for I-Banking?

Does anyone know if the final registration deadline for the summer CFA Level I has already passed?

What else would help make one more attractive? I am currently doing the Wall Street Prep self-study course on financial and valuation modeling and do have a decent background in accounting/finance (took MBA level financial accounting and intro finance in law school and was an econ major in undergrad).

2/2/14

Hank... you said you're in M&A at Skadden, I'm familiar with Skadden... can you get more specific as to what type of work you're doing as a 2nd year associate?

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2/2/14

what are you asking exactly - are you fresh out of law school or have done a few years as associate in a law firm? my MD was lawyer before turning into banking, so definitely do-able. some can become first yr associate at bank straight up but might have some difficulty if you got no numbers background at all.

2/2/14

(1) Yes, unless you have unique gifts or experience.
(2) interesting, depends on your definition of interesting. More BS powerpoint and sales decks to compile. Remember the wannabe rainmaker at your firm? the guy who was going to have his own client list by 2nd year? you get to act like that guy and attempt to weasel deals, only now you have to be a better communicator
(3) it will improve your odds, though you will be older
(4) back to the title of this rant, unless you have significant M&A experience, or something else they're looking for, you might want to beg for mercy and see what you can get.

Either way, you're a monkey at the beck and call of your MD/partner boss.

Good luck.

RMB

2/2/14

why do u want to do finance; just out of your own greed? law isn't enough for you? everything in your background and prep says law, and finance is very different. you basically made a choice early on for job security and risk aversion over upside potential, so it's obvious no one is gonna hand you the opportunity to lateral.

2/2/14

Usually you would be able to get into M&a reletivley easy compared to other areas. You may need to do an MBA to allow more doors to open (i.e through the mba recruitment process).

Just apply for positions you see open up in m&a in the meantime

2/2/14

Thanks runtothehills, that's what I've been told. I do know quite a few senior associates here and other firms who have moved into M&A banking and it seems M&A is the easiest way in. I've done LatAm M&A from the legal side, but have more experience in capital markets.

2/2/14

keep us informed, I'd like to know how it works out... I'm about to start JD/MBA and this is an option that I've been looking into as well.

2/2/14

Where are you going to do the JD/MBA? I highly recommend it, I have a friend who did it at Columbia and got a good position with Blackstone very easily. There are very few people with both qualifications in the market and it's an investment that definitely pays off in the long run.

There are actually many lawyers who go into finance (just look at Goldman's CEO) but having an MBA definitely opens doors.

2/2/14

Well check out capital markets as well ;-)

2/2/14

Stay in legal services. You will have an easier time finding a job as a lawyer and it will be almost as lucrative.

But if you simply cant see yourself as a lawyer, then go to your school's career services office. Hopefully, the school you go to also has a business school. If that's the case, use their career services office, since investment banks specifically target b-school grads. Besides that, there isnt much you can do but network.

man made the money, money never made the man

2/2/14

^ MOSTLY TRUE

You can also apply for a job in the legal / compliance department of a bank and then network your way over to another group once inside the firm. You're going to have to be very creative and persistent.

Get busy living

2/2/14

Going to be very difficult to find an analyst position and I doubt you could get an associate position with only a law degree and no experience. Try to get a law job doing corporate, securities, and M&A law and then transition to banking

"Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America."

2/2/14

The problem with going the "corp/finance/M&A lawyer --> IB route" is that by the time you get enough meaningful experience (say 2-5 years), you will already be pidgeon-holed as a lawyer. It would be awkward to lateral into IB. You will also be making pretty good comp at that point. Wouldn't recommend that route.

man made the money, money never made the man

2/2/14
mr1234:

The problem with going the "corp/finance/M&A lawyer --> IB route" is that by the time you get enough meaningful experience (say 2-5 years), you will already be pidgeon-holed as a lawyer. It would be awkward to lateral into IB. You will also be making pretty good comp at that point. Wouldn't recommend that route.

I know multiple guys who have transitioned over at the senior associate/VP level. Often after working on the same deal as a bank

"Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America."

2/2/14

If I were an MD and you were a recent law school grad, I'd probably toss aside your resume'. You need an "in" with someone. Continue to network and at least work in the legal field for a year before jumping ship. Trying to transition into IB with a newly minted law degree just doesn't look good.

Curious, what was your undergrad major?

"Cut the burger into thirds, place it on the fries, roll one up homey..." - Epic Meal Time

2/2/14

I know a couple associates who completed their JD only to realize they wanted to do IB, and so went to get their MBA. That is an extremely costly route to take, but I can count on one hand the people I've seen who've done it and were able to make it. The problem with going directly into a big law firm and looking at documents, agreements, etc. for banks is that you will be pigeon-holed and there isn't that much relevant experience you can take to lateral into finance.

2/2/14

to Vadremc-undergrad was a double major in Foreign Affairs and History. I took a bunch of business and accounting classes in undergrad though. I've thought about the MBA, but I feel that I would at least need some work experience to get into a good program to be worth it...and then there becomes the circular problem that I would still need a job now...

2/2/14

I have a JD (top 6 law school) and practiced for about 2.5 years before I decided I had to get out. I tried to make the jump without anything else, but ended up going back for an MBA in order to make the transition and come in as an associate.

2/2/14

You should PM FinancialNoviceII. I read somewhere he was a qualified lawyer, who left to pursue IB.

2/2/14
2/2/14

Someone told me I should tell this board why finance now: I considered it when I was graduating in undergrad in 2008, but the market showed a lot of signs of weakness and I thought law school would be a better idea (and I had a lot of friends who had offers taken back or start jobs only to lose them two months after starting). I thought law school would be a good way to ride out the economy and learn about business law and take that into banking. Didn't realize a law degree would be such a barrier to entry otherwise I might not have done it.

2/2/14
Lawyer_Chic:

Someone told me I should tell this board why finance now: I considered it when I was graduating in undergrad in 2008, but the market showed a lot of signs of weakness and I thought law school would be a better idea (and I had a lot of friends who had offers taken back or start jobs only to lose them two months after starting). I thought law school would be a good way to ride out the economy and learn about business law and take that into banking. Didn't realize a law degree would be such a barrier to entry otherwise I might not have done it.

I am going to be blunt, you made a mistake going to law school. BTW, even though you're being honest, dont mention any of this in an interview.

Again, I would recommend you stick with law.

man made the money, money never made the man

2/2/14

Advice for a lawyer? You know we charge you guys for advice up the ass too.

PM me your credit card info, thanks.

2/2/14

marker I want to follow this conversation

Get busy living

2/2/14

If you are working in structured products, you probably have the needed finance skills. IBD is honestly not too quantitative, so I am not sure how much weight those classes would carry.

The lawyers I have met in banking either went to work for a client bank, or got a MBA, leaning towards the former. The MBA doesn't add much over the JD, but lateraling in this market might make it necessary.

2/2/14

Did you do securities law? That would make things easier. I personally know 2 people who transitioned without any major issues. Both had significant transaction experience though.

2/2/14

I am going to take courses in securities law at LSE. During my internship and forth, I worked at the Securitizations and M&A department.

The excel or mathematic skills are not really what I am worried about. It's more about the technical questions I will encounter during an interview. I see WSO offers some package deals, yet it is hard for me to value them. Any recommendations on this?

2/2/14

op needs to talk to lloyd blankfein

2/2/14

if you want to do M&A, there is absolutly no disadvantage coming from LSE law compared to any other course

2/2/14

Consulting will be a more direct route, but that said I know a few lawyers how have made a successful transition (but during boom years).

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

2/2/14

i wouldnlt do consulting, id go big law banking/corp M&A and then transition directly into banking. There's much interaction between any deal and the legislative aspects of getting to the APA close, whereas mgmt consulting has nothing to do with deals. Law and banking are more of a BS play and highly integrated, mgmt consulting is a P&L play and won't set you up for an easy transition. I'd also talk to other lawyers who have made the finance transition, from what I've seen they all came from m&a practices at law firms.

good luck.

2/2/14
socola2003:

i wouldnlt do consulting, id go big law banking/corp M&A and then transition directly into banking. There's much interaction between any deal and the legislative aspects of getting to the APA close, whereas mgmt consulting has nothing to do with deals. Law and banking are more of a BS play and highly integrated, mgmt consulting is a P&L play and won't set you up for an easy transition. I'd also talk to other lawyers who have made the finance transition, from what I've seen they all came from m&a practices at law firms.

good luck.

To IBD sure, but to PE, I'd have to disagree. Consulting is a more obvious jump, just go work at Bain.

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

2/2/14

On a related note, does anyone know whether a job in IB/CM/S&T could help you get accepted to a good law school a few years down the line if you're not happy with finance?

2/2/14
darknight12:

On a related note, does anyone know whether a job in IB/CM/S&T could help you get accepted to a good law school a few years down the line if you're not happy with finance?

There are a couple law schools that heavily favor students with a few years of work experience like Northwestern. Check out this sweet law school site: http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/index.php

2/2/14
TooEducatedToBeBanking:

There are a couple law schools that heavily favor students with a few years of work experience like Northwestern. Check out this sweet law school site: http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/index.php

Actually a NW right now. They love people with work experience, especially corporate experience.

2/2/14
darknight12:

On a related note, does anyone know whether a job in IB/CM/S&T could help you get accepted to a good law school a few years down the line if you're not happy with finance?

Law schools doing like work experience. Especially coming from IB, you could tell a coherent story about wanting to go into transactional law. There are several students in my school who came from GS. That being said, law school admissions is largely a numbers game (GPA, LSAT), much more so than b-school. However, because of how well positioned one would be to land a top law firm job, WS experience would mitigate mediocre numbers (since admissions committees also have job placement statistics in mind). Still, for law schools the numbers are number one; interestingly, for law firms, experience more than law school GPA carries the day.

2/2/14

Thanks. This is helpful feedback.

Understand the point about Bain--that would seem a really obvious route. If I got them, I would probably take that. Is there any preference whether the area of practice is banking/finance law or corporate/M&A law, or is either equally as good?

2/2/14

Banking experience will generally not help you get into a better law school. Law school admissions is almost purely a numbers game (LSAT, GPA), with some adjustment for undergrad prestige and affirmative action considerations.

It is very hard to switch from law to investment banking in the current environment. You will need to rely heavily on your network, as formal channels are unlikely to get you anywhere. Recruiters will turn you away and HR departments will simply not know what to do with your resume. As far as your practice, M&A would be the best, but Tax can also be good.

2/2/14

see more of this switch at the MD level since its basically about relationships

2/2/14
kmzz:

see more of this switch at the MD level since its basically about relationships

Presumably for management consulting you mean? Is it a very viable switch to make or more rainbow-chasing? Also, doesn't it take a decade or more to make MD? That being said, is it agreed that Big Law is the more viable route for I-banking? And what about P/E? Both are equally bad?

2/2/14

I would aim to get into the Risk Arbitrage group at a BB. Risk Arbitrage does not require mathematical prowess but rather "softer skills" that lawyers develop. Your work would be to become familiar with regulations and determine whether or not a merger will go through. Robert Rubin, a former Co-Chairman and Co-Senior Partner of Goldman Sachs, was a lawyer who made his success in the Risk Arbitrage group of Goldman Sachs. Risk Arbitrage only makes money for the firm similar to prop trading but it hasn't be banned like prop trading has.

Talent is hitting a target no one can hit.
Genius is hitting a target no one can see.

2/2/14

A risk arb job sounds awesome, any tips as to where to find a recruiter for those?

2/2/14

Risk arb (note: everyone calls it merger arb these days) is boring as fuarkkk and your only edge is if your boss can extract insider information through "mosiac theory" or other means, if you know wham' sayin.

If you really want to learn about it, check out this blog
http://www.merger-arbitrage-investing.com/

Hasn't been updated in a while, but there are many jems on there. Hope that helps brother.

2/2/14

Thanks NewGuy. I know what risk/merger arb is I just thought that it was no longer a viable strategy. Too many funds chasing too few fish in recent years = basically the risk free rate of return on your cash while having pretty huge tail risk. I kind of figured some would have found a way to make a killing with ATT/T-Mobile (though how I am not sure since the target was private, everyone had to know that a blow-up would occur) and all of the fake-ish Chinese deals. Special situations investing makes me all tingly on the inside and I want to eventually find a way to work on distressed debt deals and pricing the semi-unpriceable risk of deals.

2/2/14
caveatlector:

Thanks NewGuy. I know what risk/merger arb is I just thought that it was no longer a viable strategy. Too many funds chasing too few fish in recent years = basically the risk free rate of return on your cash while having pretty huge tail risk. I kind of figured some would have found a way to make a killing with ATT/T-Mobile (though how I am not sure since the target was private, everyone had to know that a blow-up would occur) and all of the fake-ish Chinese deals. Special situations investing makes me all tingly on the inside and I want to eventually find a way to work on distressed debt deals and pricing the semi-unpriceable risk of deals.

Special situations is only interesting if you're doing it at a lean shop (meaning you will be involved with every major restructuring / bankruptcy situation). Nothing more annoying than working at a big fund with tons of analysts, and only getting exposure to 20% of the interesting situations out there. At such funds, you will be forced to also look at HY opportunities (which is nowhere near as interesting).

Also, grass is always greener brother. Even now I'm wondering whether I should have done PE instead, and have alpha bros doing megafund PE wishing they could do what I'm doing. Starting to think the only way to not get bored is to work at a multi-strategy fund where analysts actually get multi-strategy exposure.

My rankings (in terms of personal interest and not earnings potential) would go
1. Multi-strategy fundamental investing (i.e. exposure to everything below)
2. Event driven equity long short or Special Situations (incl. loan-to-control)
3. Activist investing (though I personally feel this is more interesting for the PMs than for the analysts so maybe it should really be with no. 6 below)
4. Special Situations excl. loan-to-control
5. PE
6. Deep value investing (though I'd put it up with no.2 if it was at a very preftigious fund with a well respected PM)
7. Merger arb
8. Long only investing

And the leaner the fund, the better and more interesting your experience will be.

2/2/14
caveatlector:

Special situations investing makes me all tingly on the inside and I want to eventually find a way to work on distressed debt deals and pricing the semi-unpriceable risk of deals.

It gets me tingly too, I'm actively excited about how the Klockner Pentaplast deal is going to work out.

NewGuy:

loan-to-control
.

Dude, com'on, an alpha bro like yourself could at least call it loan-to-own, sounds big daawg.

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

2/2/14
NewGuy:

My rankings (in terms of personal interest and not earnings potential) would go
1. Multi-strategy fundamental investing (i.e. exposure to everything below)
2. Event driven equity long short or Special Situations (incl. loan-to-control)
3. Activist investing (though I personally feel this is more interesting for the PMs than for the analysts so maybe it should really be with no. 6 below)
4. Special Situations excl. loan-to-control
5. PE
6. Deep value investing (though I'd put it up with no.2 if it was at a very preftigious fund with a well respected PM)
7. Merger arb
8. Long only investing

And the leaner the fund, the better and more interesting your experience will be.

What would your rankings be for earning potential? Anybody have a good idea here?

2/2/14

Going from law to an investing role is even harder than going from law to banking. That said, I think the most obvious and most trodden path is from bankruptcy or M&A law to a distressed fund. You see plenty of lawyers at such funds--but they usually have some sort of finance background as well.

I am an ex-lawyer that switched to investment banking (M&A), and my best advice if you are already a corporate/transactional lawyer at the junior associate level is to get as much deal exposure as possible (switch to your firm's M&A or Tax practice), build up your network of investment bankers, and wait to transition at a more senior level. Investment banks will be far more receptive to you when you can bring relationships to the table.

It is a very, very hard struggle to transition at the junior level (say, from legal associate to banking associate) when you have no finance experience.

2/2/14

First off, MBB>BigLaw by a wide margin. Making the transition from BigLaw to Finance while possible, is incredibly difficult. The current hiring market isn't doing you any favors either.

What year are you in? If you're a 1L/2L, you should try to get an IBD Associate internship. It sounds daunting, I know, but if you network aggressively, demonstrate a tangible interest in finance, it should be doable.

What about your Work Experience before Law School? Anything finance related you can spin in your favor?

Calling Ron Paul an isolationist is like calling your neighbor a hermit because he doesn't come over to your property and break your windows.

2/2/14
Leonidas:

First off, MBB>BigLaw by a wide margin. Making the transition from BigLaw to Finance while possible, is incredibly difficult. The current hiring market isn't doing you any favors either.

What year are you in? If you're a 1L/2L, you should try to get an IBD Associate internship. It sounds daunting, I know, but if you network aggressively, demonstrate a tangible interest in finance, it should be doable.

What about your Work Experience before Law School? Anything finance related you can spin in your favor?

I'm a current 2L (rising 3L). I have a job with a NY firm this summer. Have already requested to spent most of it in their M & A practice. As part of the summer associate program, I'll be spending a few weeks working at a BB I-bank, which is one of their clients.

No finance related work; all consulting (very small boutique). Do have an MBA in finance, but not from a name school. Went straight into law school after getting the degree b/c of the economy.

At this point, am heavily leaning towards the consulting route. I think it would be more enjoyable, and I'm starting to get the sense that a stint at MBB would be as, if not more viable, for transitioning into finance.

2/2/14

Big law to finance without B school is hard as fuarkk brother. Big law to PE is freaking impossible (unless you're getting hired for an inhouse counsel role). Bankruptcy law to a distressed hedge fund is harder than corporate law to IBD (which is also hardd as fuarkk).

Just shoot for preftigious WLRK at law school brother. Get on that doc review at HYS law, crush it in class and rank in top10%, clerk in your 1L summer and do WLRK summer in 2L, then hit that preftigious biglaw brother. Do corporate, and then it's an easy lateral for you to IBD a few years in if you want brother.

2/2/14
NewGuy:

Big law to finance without B school is hard as fuarkk brother. Big law to PE is freaking impossible (unless you're getting hired for an inhouse counsel role). Bankruptcy law to a distressed hedge fund is harder than corporate law to IBD (which is also hardd as fuarkk).

Just shoot for preftigious WLRK at law school brother. Get on that doc review at HYS law, crush it in class and rank in top10%, clerk in your 1L summer and do WLRK summer in 2L, then hit that preftigious biglaw brother. Do corporate, and then it's an easy lateral for you to IBD a few years in if you want brother.

Oh, man, I'm already toast that means. I'm bottom half T-14. Top 10% and LR but not going to WLRK or CSM. Any chance at all? Or is it really that insanely impossible to get?

2/2/14
NewGuy:

Bankruptcy law to a distressed hedge fund is harder than corporate law to IBD (which is also hardd as fuarkk).

.

HLHZ London recently hired two associates from law, as an "experiment".

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

2/2/14

Like I said, I made the transition from law to banking. It's not impossible, but it is much harder than most make it sound. I went to CCN and went to work for a Vault 15 firm in New York City. I was in a corporate group, but not part of the M&A practice.

It took 9 months of studying, networking and interviewing to successfully transition--and this was in 2010.

The much easier route would be to get a banking internship while in law school, but that means you have to be sure you don't want to practice law, and it also means you better be at a top law school (think YHSCCN).

It makes no sense to go the consulting route if you are already in law school. My head hurts just thinking about it. Just get yourself into the best firm possible (in New York), get on the M&A team, and spend the next few years networking. You will be able to make the move sooner or later.

2/2/14
jd-to-ib:

It makes no sense to go the consulting route if you are already in law school. My head hurts just thinking about it.

O rly? Why?

IBD > consulting > law. Thinking the sunk cost of already being in law school changes that equation = logic failure.

2/2/14
NewGuy:
jd-to-ib:

It makes no sense to go the consulting route if you are already in law school. My head hurts just thinking about it.

O rly? Why?

IBD > consulting > law. Thinking the sunk cost of already being in law school changes that equation = logic failure.

No, my point is that it makes no sense to use consulting as an intermediate step between law school and banking. You are better off practicing corporate law if your goal is banking.

2/2/14
jd-to-ib:

It makes no sense to go the consulting route if you are already in law school. My head hurts just thinking about it. Just get yourself into the best firm possible (in New York), get on the M&A team, and spend the next few years networking. You will be able to make the move sooner or later.

These are really good points jd-to-mba, but why would consulting make no sense (besides throwing a law degree down the drain?). The salary is comparable and it sounds like it might provide better opportunities. Not trying to play devil's advocate, just curious to get your thoughts because of your own experience at a top school and how you transitioned to i-banking.

2/2/14
bob22:
jd-to-ib:

It makes no sense to go the consulting route if you are already in law school. My head hurts just thinking about it. Just get yourself into the best firm possible (in New York), get on the M&A team, and spend the next few years networking. You will be able to make the move sooner or later.

These are really good points jd-to-mba, but why would consulting make no sense (besides throwing a law degree down the drain?). The salary is comparable and it sounds like it might provide better opportunities. Not trying to play devil's advocate, just curious to get your thoughts because of your own experience at a top school and how you transitioned to i-banking.

Consulting, banking and law are all very different careers. If you want to do consulting, by all means, do consulting. Any difference in financial gain between the three shouldn't really matter, in my opinion. Better to be happy and make a little less.

I was just saying that if your end goal is investment banking, and you are in law school, consulting is a needless detour. Just stay in law until a transition to banking is available.

2/2/14
jd-to-ib:
bob22:
jd-to-ib:

It makes no sense to go the consulting route if you are already in law school. My head hurts just thinking about it. Just get yourself into the best firm possible (in New York), get on the M&A team, and spend the next few years networking. You will be able to make the move sooner or later.

These are really good points jd-to-mba, but why would consulting make no sense (besides throwing a law degree down the drain?). The salary is comparable and it sounds like it might provide better opportunities. Not trying to play devil's advocate, just curious to get your thoughts because of your own experience at a top school and how you transitioned to i-banking.

Consulting, banking and law are all very different careers. If you want to do consulting, by all means, do consulting. Any difference in financial gain between the three shouldn't really matter, in my opinion. Better to be happy and make a little less.

I was just saying that if your end goal is investment banking, and you are in law school, consulting is a needless detour. Just stay in law until a transition to banking is available.

But you haven't read the original post. He states banking or PE, hence the consulting suggestions.

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

2/2/14

WSO Technical Guide
Ibankingfaq.com
Rosenbaum and Pearl book is great to learn in more detail
Current events (one of the things that impressed a vp was that I knew exactly what the dow/s&p/nasdaq/gold/oil were trading at that day.
macabacus.com is a good source
invesopedia also has a bunch of good stuff

As for law to IB. I know there is an associate? in Guggenheim M&A who made the transition.

"Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat, that's a fact.

2/2/14

Thanks so much!

By giving alternative materials, your answer implied that those courses (BIWS, WallStreetPrep) were not enough alone to know everything needed for the interview on the technical side. However, I'm looking for a comprehensive course to work through (at least, best case scenario). Are any of the courses enough?

Again, thanks. The Rosenbaum and Pearl book is the one I'm working through, and these links seem extremely helpful.

2/2/14

Do you have a good story as to why all of the sudden you've decided to ditch law (despite doing seemingly well in it) and wanting to become an i-banker? They'll definitely ask about it and, despite being a non-technical question, will probably be the one where they judge your answer the hardest.

"Yes. Money has been a little bit tight lately, but at the end of my life, when I'm sitting on my yacht, am I gonna be thinking about how much money I have? No. I'm gonna be thinking about how many friends I have and my children and my comedy albums."

2/2/14

Reach:

Thanks so much!

By giving alternative materials, your answer implied that those courses (BIWS, WallStreetPrep) were not enough alone to know everything needed for the interview on the technical side. However, I'm looking for a comprehensive course to work through (at least, best case scenario). Are any of the courses enough?

Again, thanks. The Rosenbaum and Pearl book is the one I'm working through, and these links seem extremely helpful.

Sorry didn't read the part about BIWS. That suff is actually great and if you have time/money to learn it, def do it.

"Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat, that's a fact.

2/2/14

Are you trying to go in as an analyst or an associate? Do you have work experience before law school? You may have to do a case interview in which you analyze financials and present a company. It would be helpful to prepare some of the interview stuff that the MBAs get trained for naturally.

2/2/14

Thanks everyone (especially Will Hunting). I'm in the process of preparing my story. I still haven't figured out if I'm trying to be an analyst or associate. From what I've read, I might be too qualified to be an analyst, but not qualified enough to be an associate. This puts me in a pretty difficult position. I figured the best thing to do, as of now, would be to learn everything technical and then move on from there.

2/2/14

You should apply for your associate level positions if you're attending a top 5 law school. My friend attended Stanford law and went straight to BofA technoloy investment banking as an associate.

2/2/14

You should look into a boutique IB gig during the school year. Jim Cramer did something similar in the 80s lol
But seriously, there should be a few banks around your area that could use some slave labor for a few months and if you're at a top 5 law school, you are obviously smart and capable of doing the work.

"Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat, that's a fact.

2/2/14

I agree that the "story" will be what will make or break you. Do you have finance work experience? Did you take specific coursework? Were you exposed to banking in any meaningful way? The worst thing you can do is come off as somewhat whimsical/unsure about what you want to do.

2/2/14

It's a good start. Few comments and suggestions:

1) is there a securities/corporate law concentration at your school? It's my understanding that normally there are no "tracks" in law school beyond the required courses for the ABA.

2) It would be good to list the specific relevant corporate law and business school classes that you took while at law school. It would also be good to list the relevant courses from your business u-grad. One obstacle that you will face is whether you are "quant enough", which can partially be addressed by showing your coursework

3) Have you considered using the merger and inquisitions resume template? Providing a summary sentence with key takeaways would be good before diving into detail. This may be a matter of style/preference though.

4) May be a good idea to distill your two law positions further. Maybe 1-2 bullet points each. Again, you want to distance yourself away from law-related roles and to align yourself with finance-related experiences.

5) Under the Skills, etc section, I'm not sure how much listing your SAT or LSAT score matters. I'm sure there are differing schools of thoughts, so I'd love to hear others opinions as well. Also, not sure how much upside there is to including interests on the resume (again personal opinion)

2/2/14

You desperately need to change that template.
Assuming your SAT score is out of 1600 and you did not break 1500, I would not include it.

2/2/14

Format is fine. Two questions I have are;

1) Why do you want I-banking rather than AM or even Equity Research?

2) How much financial analysis did you do as part of the AM internship? I would try and bring that out a bit more b/c the assumption (and yes, we know what they say about assuming things) is that law students may struggle from a quant standpoint. Not trying to compare IB to complex quant, but you want to demonstrate you understand financial statements, valuation, capital structure/cost of capital, etc.

2/2/14

peinvestor2012:

Format is fine. Two questions I have are;

1) Why do you want I-banking rather than AM or even Equity Research?

2) How much financial analysis did you do as part of the AM internship? I would try and bring that out a bit more b/c the assumption (and yes, we know what they say about assuming things) is that law students may struggle from a quant standpoint. Not trying to compare IB to complex quant, but you want to demonstrate you understand financial statements, valuation, capital structure/cost of capital, etc.

First, thanks for the suggestions so far.

To answer your questions:

(1) Equity research and AM would be places I would like to try and will try as well, but ultimately I think my network could help me more in banking and my personality is better fit for it. AM seems to require a true quant background and a CFA. I got lucky getting the job at the AM firm, but my boss left the firm before graduation and he had reservations so I decided to pass on the firm. I feel like passing on my firm is a little of a red flag for other shops. Equity research is really interesting to me, but I have no clue how to break in at all. I really enjoyed writing some equity reports up for clients though, and would definitely keep it in mind if I could find a way to break in. Investment banking seems to value the skills that I have more than other financial fields; ability to multi-task like a mother f'ER, great work ethic, personality, confidence, etc. My friends in banking all think I would be a good fit, so I am also trusting them.

(2) I did a lot of financial analysis for the firm, and do a decent amount in my free time in my investments. I know quant ability is important, and that is why I put that I took upper-level MBA valuation classes for valuing at the T-15 business school and got among the best grades in the class. Most of that class was doing I-banking after graduating and when I told the professor I was a law student he couldn't believe it. I am also going through the WSO I-banking tech guide now to brush up. I am very confident that I have the quant ability to do investment banking, just going through stuff so that it is second nature.

Any other advice would be great.

Thanks!

2/2/14

What is your strategy for getting your resume in front of the right people?

Sometimes HR/website submissions can be black holes. Do you have personal connections?

2/2/14

Mr. Collingsworth:

What is your strategy for getting your resume in front of the right people?

Sometimes HR/website submissions can be black holes. Do you have personal connections?

Yea, I have a few personal connections that are associates at middle market firms. Also just going to network with alumni from both law school and my undergrad. I networked my way into pretty much every opportunity I've had so far, and think it is the best strategy for me. Obviously it'll be a hustle, but I like meeting new people and I think I make a good impression on most.

Probably not going to apply through HR myself at any investment bank because I doubt I would get through any screeners based on average grades and the whole law school thing.

2/2/14

I made the shift by accident after 6 years in a law firm doing ECM and M&A. I first went in as in-house counsel and was asked to move to the commercial side after 3 years.

My wife made a similar after a shorter ~2 year in a law firm. She was seconded as in-house lawyer first, then applied for a job in the IBs lending business after around 6 months.

Start the CFA or similar - that should help offset perceptions that you are not technically competent with numbers.

In interviews focus on your abilities in execution ie ability to handle many workstreams and get a project done without freaking out. This is the key skill which lawyers have which transfers to banking. The legal knowledge helps, but is not as important as execution skills.

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

2/2/14

@SSits, what position did you and your wife move into after the transition (Associate? VP?)

2/2/14

Great points, SSits. Thanks!

Is there a way to go straight into banking from a law firm without first going the in-house route? If so, how should I start that process?

2/2/14

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

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

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