Currently lawyer. Worth moving into trading?

choza123's picture
Rank: Chimp | 5

I'm currently a lawyer at a big firm but considering moving into S&T. Long term goal is to make good money and hopefully transition into PE. Is it worth trying to change careers? Salary for my level is ~200k, but forced exit within next 5 years unless I make partner (not gonna happen). For what it's worth, I'm 28. Have some interviews coming up at market making firms but also considering MBA to beef up resume.

Comments (26)

Feb 11, 2016

Why trading? If I had to rank different areas of finance based on their overlap with law, trading would be at the bottom. It isn't really a feeder to PE either.

At any rate, you would have better luck getting an MBA and trying to break into something more relevant from there.

Feb 11, 2016

To be honest, I say trading because I don't really know any better. All my friends who went into finance out of college do trading. What should I be pursuing instead if I want PE (I assume I'll need the MBA for anything else)? Just general IB or is there something better out there?

Right now I practice IP law with some securities regulation mixed in (enough knowledge that I could sell it in an interview).

Best Response
Feb 11, 2016
choza123:

To be honest, I say trading because I don't really know any better. All my friends who went into finance out of college do trading. What should I be pursuing instead if I want PE (I assume I'll need the MBA for anything else)? Just general IB or is there something better out there?

Right now I practice IP law with some securities regulation mixed in (enough knowledge that I could sell it in an interview).

So you're willing to drop a career you've spent 3 years in law school and the last 2-3 years in for a job you know nothing about.
I'd say law is perfect for you...

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Feb 14, 2016

Trading isn't fundamentally a good mix. Your typical lawyer has a good level of "soft skills", and can be trusted to work through the boring details of a complex transaction. I'm not saying all are, but by the nature of the job, a trader could be an awkward nerd with zero soft skills, and a great quantitative mind, and still be brilliant. They will process a huge amount of information, but won't be required to look at the minute transactional details a lawyer would. It is a very different role.

Other things to consider:
- trading is becoming increasingly more automated and quantitative, something which you would be completely unqualified for.
- trading as an industry is not in a great state. Career prospects aren't what they used to be.

Realistically, IB is a better fit. It is a corporate environment in which your soft skills are useful, and you are typically working on larger transactions in potentially more minute detail. Furthermore, it also typically feeds into PE. The problem though, is that it might begin to resemble law. You might find yourself reading through a large pitchbook looking for typos. Anecdotally, i've been told law is still far more boring, but I wouldn't set false expectations that working in IB is going to resemble wolf of wall st.

Feb 11, 2016

What type of law do you practice?

And I agree with the above-trading won't do anything to get you to PE.

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Feb 12, 2016

investment banking, esp if you want PE. Dont even try trading. Apply for a associate position for IB, do 2-3 years and then PE.

Feb 12, 2016

I would suggest you try out commodities sales

Feb 17, 2016

If you're in law (not too sure how IP and sec reg would translate) trading could be viable within the distressed/special situations desk analyst context. Decent intersection of law (covenant analysis, contracts, restructuring, litigation) and finance/trading.

However, as others have pointed out, if you want to pursue PE then the best route would be through banking. Distressed desk would open doors to funds, but not really on the transaction side.

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Feb 19, 2016

1) Trading is zero cross over to your current skillset -you will have zero value add from day one and not really get any credit for your JD/experience

2) Trading is a dying business. Equity trading especially. Credit and specifically distressed/high yield have a bit longer of a runway.

3) IB is most similar to PE, and law depending on what you do, is slightly more applicable. That said ultimately IB and PE guys hire attorneys (by that I mean law firms to do the legal aspect of what's needed - not attorneys for deal teams), while your background may help slightly your still lack finance experience.

4) To the extent you're a restructuring attorney much more cross over capabilities in the distressed space because a lot of that work is reading through credit agreements and bond indentures as well as managing a bankruptcy process. This is the real value add place an attorney with good RX background can make the transition to finance.

5) While you might want a new job, grass isn't always greener. Law isn't going anywhere. You will likely have a high paying career for the next several decades. Finance is much more volatile. You can go from hero to zero over night.

6) MBA while would give you a reset seems like a really expensive and time consuming endeavor. What if you realize finance is just as mundane as law.

Feb 20, 2016
ke18sb:

To the extent you're a restructuring attorney much more cross over capabilities in the distressed space because a lot of that work is reading through credit agreements and bond indentures as well as managing a bankruptcy process. This is the real value add place an attorney with good RX background can make the transition to finance.

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I've seen a ton of lawyers investing in distressed assets/debt/companies. I think one of them owns an NBA team.

Feb 19, 2016

It sounds like you want to go into investment banking (M&A, capital raising, ect...which is very different from Trading). I've seen many lawyers make this move. Learn the math/modeling that you'll need (i think there is a WSO guide). Your skills as a lawyer will transfer well, but the salary ceiling will bump up to 300-500k after a couple years. Typically you will come in as a 2nd-3rd year analyst, or perhaps as an associate.

I'd suggest applying to a handful of ibanks across the quality spectrum to see if you even need to get an MBA (your legal experience may be a decent substitute for the MBA...depends on the firm).

The hours for ibanking are rough for the first 1-2 years...but that's the price of entry.

Feb 19, 2016

I'd say that I see a lot of JD's in venture capital if that seems like something which you're interested in.

But as others said, you're probably better for IB in M&A or some advisory boutique especially if your work has been transactional in nature. I assume so, most litigation shops don't have nearly as steep 'up or out' mechanisms.

Another thing which could be interesting and I'd love to hear everyone's opinion might be ER (equity research). Your analytical background, mix with soft skills and lawyer's mind might have a good catch for some ER positions if you get the CFA 1 out of the way and network your balls (or tits) off.

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Feb 19, 2016

Is there anything else within the legal field that interests you?

Feb 20, 2016

Have you looked into restructuring, leveraged finance, and liability management roles? All three may be of interest to you with your background and current skill set.

Feb 20, 2016

try investment banking. if you do a lot of M&A legal work in your job, it could be a possible transition.

trading, not going to happen. what experience do you have related to trading?

also, PE, not going to happen. maybe a less than 1% chance if you switch ASAP to an investment bank, do really well and get a client to hire you or a friend in PE to take you in, but it's very hard to get into PE from non traditional IBD analyst program routes.

Feb 20, 2016

Use your network to try to get an associates position without getting an MBA. Its been done before and could be even easier if you majored in econ in UG.

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Feb 20, 2016

Lawyer---> Associate in a restructuring group---> Distressed debt fund

Feb 28, 2016
Pokemon Master:

Lawyer---> Associate in a restructuring group---> Distressed debt fund

This 1000x. Restructuring can be an excellent match, also anything private credit/debt that requires negotiating and intercreditor docs can be a huge leg up.

Feb 20, 2016

Distressed Debt Investing. Pretty sure that stuff is very legal based regarding business bankruptcy and whanot.

alpha currency trader wanna-be

Feb 28, 2016

not sure i've seen it...some ppl on cdo structuring and arb desks have legal backgrounds though

Feb 20, 2016
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