Big Law to Investment Banking -- Thoughts?

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.

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Comments (159)

Jan 31, 2014 - 3:30pm

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.

Jan 31, 2014 - 4:53pm

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.

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Jan 31, 2014 - 4:38pm

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."
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Jan 31, 2014 - 5:17pm

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

Jan 31, 2014 - 6:53pm

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.
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Feb 1, 2014 - 2:01pm

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.

Best Response
Feb 1, 2014 - 8:10pm

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.
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Feb 1, 2014 - 11:49pm

Moving from Law to Investment Banking (Originally Posted: 08/05/2006)

I am a third-year trainee at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a law firm in NY. I am now planning a move into investment banking, but want to know if I can make it to a BB...

I'm based in the UK, graduated with a Law degree (GPA 3.3) from University College London...agreed, its not great, but I've interned in the Attorney General of the UK's office in London and have other internships at law firms.

Having worked on a couple of high-profile M&A transactions in a law capacity, totalling almost US$50bn, I now want to move over to banking, where all the action is. I'm worried that my law degree will count against me.

Thanks.

Feb 1, 2014 - 11:50pm

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

Feb 1, 2014 - 11:51pm

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.

Feb 1, 2014 - 11:54pm

I'm guessing associate.

"We are lawyers! We sue people! Occasionally, we get aggressive and garnish wages, but WE DO NOT ABDUCT!" -Boston Legal-
Feb 1, 2014 - 11:55pm

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).

Feb 1, 2014 - 11:56pm

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.

Feb 1, 2014 - 11:58pm

Transitioning from Law to Ibanking (Originally Posted: 11/30/2006)

Hey folks, just wondering if anyone here have any thoughts on transitioning from law to ibanking. Do you guys have any collegues who have done so? Is working 3-4 years at a top-5 firm enough to land a senior associate position?

Feb 1, 2014 - 11:59pm

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:01am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:05am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:09am

Going From Law to I-Banking (Originally Posted: 03/20/2007)

I do M+A work at Skadden, but I would like to eventually go to the business side of the industry. After 2 years with Skadden M+A, and virtually no other work experience, how hard would it be to get a job with a BB I-Bank? At what level would one typically enter an I-Bank after two years at a law firm? How long would one have to work at a law firm to start as a VP on the business side (not looking to go to in house counsel)? Thanks in advance for any useful insight or experience you may have.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:10am

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?

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:14am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:16am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:17am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:18am

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

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:22am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:23am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:24am

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).

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:25am

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?

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:26am

Law to Banking Transition (Originally Posted: 05/14/2007)

Thinking about this... if anyone has any thoughts on the following:

  1. Tough to enter?
  2. Upgrade from Corporate law in terms of responsibility, scope, interesting work?
  3. Better to go to b-school first?
  4. What level to enter at? (first / second year associate?)
  5. Good time to look?
Feb 2, 2014 - 12:27am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:28am

(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

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:29am

From Law into I Banking (Originally Posted: 07/08/2007)

I'm currently a securitization/derivatives lawyer trying to move into IBanking - anybody out there who did it, or know somebody who did it? Any tips? It has been hard to get interviews without a financial backgroud (my college and graduate degrees are both law-related). Any banks where it would be easier to make the move?

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:30am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:31am

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

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:32am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:33am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:36am

Advice for Lawyer who wants to do i-banking (Originally Posted: 06/03/2011)

I'm new to this Wall Street Oasis group, but was hoping for some advice. I am a new law school grad (undergrad and law school from Top 30 schools) and looking for job in i-banking, preferably in something M&A or related. I would prefer to work in Atlanta, Boston, SF or DC. I've been alumni networking, had some interviews, but no job. Advice on where to look?

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:37am

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
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Feb 2, 2014 - 12:38am

^ 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
Feb 2, 2014 - 12:39am

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

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:40am

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
Feb 2, 2014 - 12:41am

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
Feb 2, 2014 - 12:42am

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.

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Feb 2, 2014 - 12:43am

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...

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:45am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:48am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:51am

Switch to banking from a law firm - NYU SCPS (Originally Posted: 11/13/2011)

I'm trying to transfer from working in finance at a law firm (mainly doing structured products) to working on the business side at a bank or a hedge fund. One problem I keep running into is that my undergrad is in liberal arts, and so it's difficult to show that I have the quantitative skills necessary to work outside the law. A recruiter suggested I look into classes at NYU SCPS. I'm thinking of taking something like corporate finance or financial modeling. I think the value in this is to show that I'm actually dedicated to switching to banking and pick up some quantitative skills along the way.

Has anyone done this? Are there certain classes that are more valuable than others? The classes are pretty inexpensive, but I want to make sure I'm not wasting my time. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:52am

marker I want to follow this conversation

Get busy living
Feb 2, 2014 - 12:53am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:54am

Breaking into ibanking/finance after a law career (Originally Posted: 03/25/2012)

My apologies if this question has been raised many times before, but I would really like some unbiased advice from people in the finance field.

I'll try to keep my career path as short as possible here:
Went to law school in the Netherlands, graduated within the top 2 % of my class, did a summer internship in biglaw (and kept working there 2 days a week afterwards), am currently exchange student at Columbia and am accepted into LSE for an LL.M. in international banking law.

Thing is, I am currently taking some (rather intro, yet graduate level) finance courses at Columbia and got a fascination for it since that moment. I love the work, cases et cetera, enjoy every minute of it. My GPA on the finance courses is a 3.9 average right now. Might add that some people I had to do a couple of cases with who worked in the finance field for a couple of years were rather impressed by the speed and ease I handled it.

The problem is that I obviously don't have a finance background and even though Columbia is a target school, they are not paying much attention to exchange law students. There might be more hope for LSE, but then again, IBs/hedge funds will most likely focus on economic studies.

Would you say it is still possible for someone in my position, with a strong focus on law, to break into IB/finance? Let's say at least for a summer internship to proove myself and trying to get a job offer afterwards?

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:56am

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?

Feb 2, 2014 - 12:59am

Big Law --> I-Banking/PE (Originally Posted: 04/07/2012)

Curious to hear people's thoughts:

I'm a law school student who is curious whether Big Law or management consulting is a better way to transition to private equity or i-banking down the line?

If it is Big Law, which practice area would be better: M&A or banking/finance?

Finally, if Big Law, is London or New York a better destination, or does it not matter?

Thanks.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:00am

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
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:01am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:03am

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?

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:04am

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?

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:08am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:10am

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.
  • 3
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:12am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:13am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:18am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:19am

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.
  • 1
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:21am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:24am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:30am

Law to I-Banking (Originally Posted: 07/22/2013)

I am about to start my 3L year at a top 5 law school. I've gotten excellent grades and am working as a summer associate at a Vault top 5 law firm.

I've decided I'm more interested in investment banking, and want to apply for positions that would start next fall. From my understanding, the main things you need to know for an ib interview (on the technical side) are accretion/dilution analysis, DCF modeling, and comparables analysis. On top of that, they'll presumably ask about "fit" and maybe some logic questions/brain teasers. I've read through a bunch of these forums, but the advice on transitioning from law school is thin.

My question boils down to:

To learn the technical stuff, will any/all of the programs (WSO's, WallStreetPrep, BIWS) 100% prepare me for the interview --as in, if I study only that non-stop will I know everything I need to know on the technical side for the interview. If not, what other resources will be of use (I've been working my way through an I-Banking DCF textbook).

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:31am

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.
  • 1
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:33am

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."
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:34am

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.
  • 1
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:36am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:38am

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.
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:39am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:40am

Law to Banking - Investment Banking Resume Help (Originally Posted: 08/21/2013)

Hey everyone,

I recently graduated from law school and am looking into a career in investment banking. I'll be starting to network soon and have friends in the industry that will be helping me out. Just wanted to get some feedback on my investment banking resume before asking them to take a look at it. Any criticisms or changes that should be made would be great and very helpful.

Thanks in advance for the help

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:41am

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)

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:43am

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.

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:47am

Roadmap from law firm to i-banking? (Originally Posted: 12/08/2013)

Is a transition into banking possible with the following stats?

-Target u-grad
-Top 10 law school
-2 years top-tier law firm experience in M&A and securities

If so, what's the best way to position myself to make the move?

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:48am

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
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:50am

Straight from law firm to banking - probably try a mixture of banker contacts you make through your work + a recruiter. There may be a better way than having to work through a recruiter, but I'm ignorant on what that would be.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.
Feb 2, 2014 - 1:54am

it really depends on which firm. if "top tier" means HYS and V5, especially S&C or something, then yes it's possible, and there's a track record of people doing it (generally as an Associate). networking is by far the most important thing, unsurprisingly -- you won't just be able to submit an application and get an interview. leverage people from your undergrad school or friends of your law school friends who went into banking, cold email everyone, etc. it's definitely an uphill battle, but not impossible

Feb 2, 2014 - 1:55am

@pertanicious - she moved from a lawyer with 3 years post-admission experience to associate class of (year of starting in her new role - 2 years).

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.
Apr 10, 2017 - 2:38pm

Hi, all. What a useful thread this is. I've been lurking on this site for over six years, and finally find myself posting to see if I can elicit similar information in this thread and/or offers to discuss via PMs from posters. Any constructive thoughts are much appreciated.

Background: I'm currently a mid-level Corporate/M&A associate that graduated from a T6, initially worked for a V20 in NYC with a strong M&A presence, and now work at a V25 in California (though the firm's Vault reputation is far stronger in California). I've done a range of deals, from multi-billion dollar public-public mergers, to mid-market private equity deals to distressed debt/equity deals for hedge funds. I've worked with the top of the top in terms of IB's providing M&A advisement on deals, as well as more directly with top private equity and hedge funds. I'm certainly not trying to "show off" my experience here, I simply want to provide ample background so I receive more nuanced advice. Note that outside of my corporate law experience, I do not have a background in economics or finance aside from keeping up with the WSJ and Deal Book, and devouring books like King of Capital, Hedgehogging, Liar's Poker, When Genius Failed - just to name a few as examples.

I've been debating the move to an IB for the past couple years, and am now certain the time is right. As of now, my plan is to complete the Level 1 CFA exam (or a similar course), as well as use WSO materials to prep for interviews that incorporate modeling and technical questions in particular. Meanwhile, I'm tapping every contact at IB's that I've met or worked with on deals over the past few years - even if it's just for a quick email, chat or coffee.

Why Post Now?: OK, but why post, you may be asking, if I seem to have digested at least some of the excellent advice offered above? I think that in addition to my lack of a finance/economics background, my concerns are two-fold: 1) While the firm I'm at has a very strong California reputation, in New York and more globally it is not a powerhouse in the M&A game; and 2) I'm in Los Angeles and would prefer to stay here (though I love NYC and am willing to move back as necessary), but am concerned that while there are excellent shops out here (e.g. Moelis), this move is likely much "easier" in New York, as there are many more opportunities and openings. For example, I know at least two juniors/mid-levels that made this move from my former v20 in New York - one to JPM and one to an M&A group at, I believe, Lazard.

Addressing Concerns: Given the concerns noted above (no doubt there are others), I'm trying to formulate a course of action in addition to the CFA and interview prep I noted above. So...

-Should I lateral to a firm with a stronger M&A reputation in New York? The lateral market is very hot, but this would be my second lateral move, and I would only be sticking around at a new firm until I landed an IB gig.

-Should I internally relocate to my firm's NYC office and launch my search from there? My firm would very likely let me do this, and my reputation is pretty strong within the M&A group, but again, in New York this firm is only marginally on the radar for M&A.

-Should I stay put in LA and simply use every resource I can muster, and try to land a gig within the more limited LA IB-landscape, while also applying to NYC IB offices as a backup?

Lengthy post, I realize, but I would appreciate any insight people are willing to share. Also happy to PM anyone who thinks they are able to assist. Thank you.

Apr 13, 2017 - 3:58pm

Moving from Law Firm to I-Bank (Originally Posted: 03/15/2007)

I posted this already on the I-Banking discussion board but then realized that this might have been the more appropriate place... anyway, does anyone out there have any advice on making the move from a law firm to an investment bank?

I worked in investment management for a year before law school, went to a top ten law school and top five undergrad, am at the top law firm in my city (which is not NYC)... I would prefer to get to San Francisco but am currently on the East Coast which makes things a little tricky... any good advice would be appreciated...

Apr 13, 2017 - 4:02pm

I work at a top tier law firm doing corporate work (lot of M&A and high yield debt). Went to a 2nd tier law school (think one of those right below Harvard, Yale, etc. - but a great feeder school for top tier law firms in NYC). Went to a low ranked undergrad (family reasons but did quite well and was able to "move up" in terms of ranking to law school). I was an accounting major undergrad. However, undergrad really doesn't matter once you're X years out (contrary to what folks on this board will tell you - granted its a case by case thing but that's been my exp).

There's been 3 folks pulled out of my firm to take on roles as investment banking associates in the last 6 months (again at what would be described on this board as "2nd tier" shops - those right below GS, MS, etc.). Others have received offers at small private equity shops. ALL of these have been pulled in by clients of the firm (not through headhunters, their own phone calls, etc.).

I'll be making the move shortly as well. All of that being said it is a difficult move to make. You need to make sure you work closely with those on the business side, they take a liking to you and you take a risk (of getting fired yet, but I'm yet to see someone on bus. side "rat out" someone who speaks to them in confidence) of breaching the subject with your clients (not begging for a job, but ask for advise and it often leads somewhere good or they at least keep you in mind in the future).

This board is also priceless. I've been lurking around for some time, reading all the interview tips, learning the questions asked in interviews, etc. I've also taken a few financial modelling classes so that I can "hit the ground running" as much as possible.

I hope the above is helpful (be prepared for some bashing as well - as good as this board is you need to just ignore those who say "haha you went to school X, your GPA is Y, you have no shot." It might take 6 months or longer but w/a little luck and LOTS of hard work the move can be made. Just work on those contacts and one thing that I think you need to do is be at a top tier law firm doing the deals you read about in the WSJ (only way you're going to get your name / work product out to those at the top banks / PE shops who have the ability to pull you in)

Good luck.

Apr 13, 2017 - 4:04pm

I am at the top law firm in my city, went to a top ten law school, and top five undergrad (majored in econ)... had one year doing investment management before law school... I also have been taking a course in financial modeling to sharpen my skills there... my preference would be to get a position in San Francisco but I am currently on the East Coast (not in NYC) which I think makes everything a little trickier... anyway, thanks for the input...

Apr 13, 2017 - 4:09pm

The above poster doesn't know what he is talking about at all. Comments like this show a lack of exposure to the whole deal process and it reflects poorly on the rest of us.

Lawyers are essential for every corporate transaction, including IB. Everything is a contract: stock issues, buy backs, exchanges, liquidations, contingent value rights agreements for target shareholders, various forms of covenants in various bond offerings, working around change of control provisions to ensure leadership stays on post-LBO, tax law and planning for structuring deals via various forms of reorganizations and acquisitions.....the list goes on and on.

Look at Tribune's ESOP-led LBO, where the sponsor put up less than $300 mln for an $8 bn company and the rest will be funded by ESOP-backed junk bonds. Since ESOP contributions are fully tax deductible, the structure would reduce Tribune's effective tax rate to way below the 35% marginal tax rate, helping it to service the huge debt load.

Now that's how to do a deal. Deals are always structured by the best lawyers AND bankers (which most of you want to be), not just a bunch of egotistical MBA's who discredit everyone except themselves.

Bottomline: Michigan you're in a very good position, and while it is tough to secure a front office position at any bank, a good dose of dedication, persistence, and faith would suffice.

Apr 13, 2017 - 4:15pm

Well that's the feedback my friends in law school got when they applied for IB jobs. 1 works for Bain, 1 for Monitor and the third ended up sticking with law. All three applied for IB jobs, all three had great undergrad, good law schools, 1 made law review. I am not arguing that lawyers have nothing to do with IB, I am just saying that the road is steeper than being an MBA.

Apr 13, 2017 - 4:11pm

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