Biglaw to IB

Is it too late to make the transition to bulge bracket IB? I'm a third year t14 law student with a v10 firm job lined for next year (DPW/STB/CSM/Skadden tier). Also have a prior BA/MBA from non-target schools.

Somewhat recently realized how much more upside there is on the IB end and the way better exits. So am I at the point where I need to lateral  after a few years of practice or do banks actively hire 3L's outside the tradition recruiting season. 
 

And if forced to lateral with experience, how many years until I could come in as a VP?
 

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Comments (14)

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Oct 11, 2021 - 6:01pm

jklaw

Is it too late to make the transition to bulge bracket IB? I'm a third year t14 law student with a v10 firm job lined for next year (DPW/STB/CSM/Skadden tier). Also have a prior BA/MBA from non-target schools.

Somewhat recently realized how much more upside there is on the IB end and the way better exits. So am I at the point where I need to lateral  after a few years of practice or do banks actively hire 3L's outside the tradition recruiting season. 
 

And if forced to lateral with experience, how many years until I could come in as a VP?
 

Former big law attorney here good for you for thinking of leaving before it even begins.  Until you are a senior associate, it is never a hard and fast "too late" to enter finance from law.  The stages beforehand, however, pose different challenges, strategies, and levels of difficulty.  At no stage is leaving law for business easy or straightforward.

There will be finance positions that will consider 3Ls.  Be prepared to burn your bridges with your V10 firm and have career services hate you.  Use your university's business school to learn the fundamentals and to prepare for interviews.  If you can use their job board all the better.

If you cannot get into IB during 3L (and you probably will not unless you do some heavy networking and get lucky, I know HYS alums with BB analyst stints who could not get back into finance at a reasonable firm or role), try to move over as soon as possible.  Do not stop applying, do not get comfortable in law.  You will not lateral into a VP role.  You will take a seniority cut because, correctly and fairly, they assume you know nothing useful or substantive.  If you have to practice, do M&A or bankruptcy.  DO NOT do capital markets or fund formation.

Oct 11, 2021 - 6:18pm

Appreciate the insight. A couple follow ups if you don't mind:

- What is my ideal recruiting window? I have been told and read conflicting timelines - both that I should be applying now and that I should be applying in January/Feb for when banks dig into off-season/lateral recruiting. My only pause on sending apps now is that I need to refresh my finance skills since it's been a couple years since the MBA (a law school has only taught me useless stuff lol).

- Do you at least get to lateral in as a second/third year associate if you have a couple years law firm experience? I have heard of ppl going in as VP (but understand that may be more a unicorn outcome).

- Are my options better if I get some law firm experience under my belt (really haven't been able to gauge how much interest top banks would have in me right now)?

- Is credit a close second to M&A? I will do M&A but will have to spend time in at least 1-2 others groups. 

Oct 11, 2021 - 8:01pm

jklaw

Appreciate the insight. A couple follow ups if you don't mind:

- What is my ideal recruiting window? I have been told and read conflicting timelines - both that I should be applying now and that I should be applying in January/Feb for when banks dig into off-season/lateral recruiting. My only pause on sending apps now is that I need to refresh my finance skills since it's been a couple years since the MBA (a law school has only taught me useless stuff lol). [3L is a complete waste of time, start studying tonight, you have no exam for months]

- Do you at least get to lateral in as a second/third year associate if you have a couple years law firm experience? I have heard of ppl going in as VP (but understand that may be more a unicorn outcome). [you will go in as an associate, usually first year.  VP is unicorn outcome]

- Are my options better if I get some law firm experience under my belt (really haven't been able to gauge how much interest top banks would have in me right now)? [not really, they know fully well what you will be doing in law and how much or how little it helps them]

- Is credit a close second to M&A? I will do M&A but will have to spend time in at least 1-2 others groups. [no, credit is highly "legal" as far as transactional goes and is less useful to a bank than M&A.  Your best bet is restructuring/bankruptcy, that is the smoothest transition to finance for lawyers.  Because there is a substantial chance you will stay in law and not break into banking, be very careful about your 1-2 other groups and make sure they are viable rather than merely helpful to get into banking.]

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Oct 11, 2021 - 6:38pm

plantpot

Not a lawyer but I've seen plenty of people move from law to IB. They all seem to come in at the analyst level unless they have 20-40 years of experience and come in at MD

Most who make the transition enter at the associate level.  Not sure on how you define "plenty," most who put in a decent effort will fail to break in barring Ivy League level undergraduate credentials, an analyst stint, and/or some tangible corporate experience pre-law school that most Harvard/Stanford/Yale law students do not possess.  Many who do eventually break in will end up at non-bulge bracket.  Many of those will realize they are not capable of acquiring the skillset to thrive in an associate role and return to law dejected.  It has also gotten more and more challenging to make this move over the last 30 years.  V5/V10 firms used to sell their firms to law students by showing the rates of entry for IB, they no longer do.

Oct 11, 2021 - 6:59pm

jklaw

Can you really "return to law" if you make the jump? Figured once you're out of big law you're out barring exceptional circumstances. 

If you include in-house and mid-sized law firms, then yes for sure.  Big law gets a bit trickier.  I am not talking V5 or even V20.  But there is a huge variety of firms and groups within the V100 so that going to a bulge bracket bank or some respectable financial institution for 1-2 years is not the end of the world if you want back in.  

Oct 11, 2021 - 7:16pm

jklaw

That makes sense. 

Do you have any idea of the 3L recruiting window/timeline for bulge brackets?

Been out of school too long, unsure if it has changed. Your two options are apply on the website's resume black hole or use the business school's recruiting schedule. The latter is obviously way better, but law schools try to avoid cross pollination. I'd also try to crash networking events. If you're in a major city meet bankers for coffee now. 

Oct 11, 2021 - 7:31pm

Will do. Unfortunately my school doesn't allow access to the business school's symplicity page. But, generally speaking, is IB recruiting less structured than biglaw? Like for biglaw if you don't have a job by the end of October you're pretty much screwed (even having to look after the 10/1 nalp date or post-oci is bad) and have to take whatever for the coming year. 

So with regard to IB associate positions do you have any sense of how fluid the recruiting process is generally. In other words, are they on the same schedule (assessing needs after return offers are accepted from the summer) or do they do substantial hiring year round b/c a associate position is more like a big law midlevel position (where you can essentially reach out anytime and get hits, just depends on the market)?

Oct 11, 2021 - 7:36pm

jklaw

Will do. Unfortunately my school doesn't allow access to the business school's symplicity page. But, generally speaking, is IB recruiting less structured than biglaw? Like for biglaw if you don't have a job by the end of October you're pretty much screwed (even having to look after the 10/1 nalp date or post-oci is bad) and have to take whatever for the coming year. 

So with regard to IB associate positions do you have any sense of how fluid the recruiting process is generally. In other words, are they on the same schedule (assessing needs after return offers are accepted from the summer) or do they do substantial hiring year round b/c a associate position is more like a big law midlevel position (where you can essentially reach out anytime and get hits, just depends on the market)?

Just like big law is less regulated than medical residencies, finance recruiting is less structured and regulated than big law recruiting. Big law recruiting is stupidly mechanical, surface level, and on a strict timeline that can almost never be circumvented. I think other posts need to get involved here for clearer answers, I'm too far out of school and my peers in finance are further in than first year IB associate. 

Oct 11, 2021 - 9:27pm

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