Really need some career advice. Thank you for your time.

Hello fellow professionals,

I am a first-year law student who has no interest in practicing law, but I am interested in a career in finance.
My question is: which job will put me in a better position, a front office finance job in a decent sized PE fund back in Beijing or a non-front office finance job in a local/boutique PE/M&A firm in the U.S.? I would prefer to stay in the U.S. for at least few years for work after graduation.

I came from China, did my UG in a T50 State University with 3.76/4.00 on Econ and International Studies. With a mediocre LSAT, I got into a T20s law school. In my first year, I realized that I have a completely wrong expectation about the legal profession and I decide to peruse a career in finance with a JD (not a transactional attorney, just pure finance). I did a financial internship in college and I trade stocks/options for years.

My career goal would be a buy-side job in which my background could be beneficial: I am a Chinese, I am a people person and I consider myself having good communication skills, and I will have a law degree which focuses on finance. My ideal jobs would be an international PE role which focuses on international investment, either the U.S. to China or China to the U.S.

My plan is:
1. I will finish law school (because my parents funded my through college to law school and they will be very disappointed if I quit), but I will take as many b-school and business skills classes as possible, like negotiation/deals/M&A/anti-trust...
2. I am studying for the CFA level 1 and ideally, I could pass the level 2 before graduation.
3. I spend lots of time networking.
4. I will do finance summer interns so I could show my experience and interest when I graduate.

For my first summer intern in law school, I need some advice. My dad got me an intern back in Beijing, which is in a $20 Billion PE fund with government background. Since this intern is got from connections, it seems like that I could do whatever kind of work I want. Of course, I want to do the investment-related front office work, which is what I want to do in the future.
My second options are not secured yet, but I have spent a lot of time networking, and I might get an unpaid internship from local boutique PE firm or a small M&A advisory firm. But even if I get an intern in a boutique firm, it probably won't be a front office position.

Should I take the Beijing PE job and stop looking for PE jobs in small, local firms?
I think the Pro of the Beijing job is that it could be front office, which means I could learn a lot of things. But my dad could always get me that job, so should I do one in the U.S. for this summer? Which kind of intern will bring me a better position for looking for international PE jobs next year and after graduation?

Also, I would be really appreciated if anyone could provide me any advice on my career plan, or point out if any part needs to be changed.

best wishes


Comments (7)

Best Response
Apr 3, 2018 - 3:20am

My opinion: Why in the world would you finish law school (2 more years of time, not doing law internships, and probably spending 100K)? What benefit will finishing law school give you to get to where you want to be versus dropping out and starting your new career path now. Not saying to do that, but that just sounds crazy.

If you were to finish law school - land corp M&A internships, accept a full-time offer, work that for a few years, then transition to consulting/advisory. But that isn't what you want.

""I decide to peruse a career in finance with a JD (not a transactional attorney, just pure finance). I did a financial internship in college and I trade stocks/options for years."

How did you decide you wanted to practice law? What happens if your one experience in finance, which was an internship... is in no way representative of what you think about the industry. You now have a realization you don't want to work in finance either, and now you are 55+ discovering you wan't to be a surgeon after watching youtube videos about how cool it is to help save lives.

Relevant links - none of which I think support you finishing law school if you were 100000% percent sure you wanted to do buyside. You need to do a lot more research and personal thinking.………

“I’m not fat. I’m cultivating mass.”
  • 3
Apr 3, 2018 - 3:22am

For some reason the WSO links weren't posted. Just search law and finance on the top right of the screen.

“I’m not fat. I’m cultivating mass.”
Apr 3, 2018 - 4:01am


Thank you for your comments.
My thought on finishing law school is: I could choose whatever class I want for the next years and there are plenty of classes which sound very useful to financial jobs, as I listed: negotiation/deals/M&A/anti-trust, so it should not be total waste of money and time to get my JD. Also, I could enroll in Business school classes as well, so even I am not getting an MBA, I could tell the story of "I did almost half of MBA classes" to the recruiter.

Another concern is that since I am a foreigner, at the very moment I quit law school I will lose my student visa and have to go back to China, and starting looking for FT with a college degree plus an unfinished law degree, which doesn't sound very attractive to the recruiter, right?

I decided to go to law school because I thought the legal career is creative, mentally competitive and adventurous. But it turns out law school is training us into machines to apply the rules, do research, and draft motions, at least for most of the parts. The creative and mentally competitive parts exist only in certain litigation works, and as a foreigner, I have a little chance of being the master of that field. Also, I believe there will be a revolution in the legal industry soon, in which AI will take over the basic jobs. Moreover, the most important part of the legal career which I am not a big fun is the nature of service in this industry. Everything lawyers do is for making their clients happy. But I want to be the decision-making side.

At the end of the day, having a JD is not a bad thing in the business world, right? I don't need to worry about the cost since I got a scholarship and my parents support me to finish it.

It is a good point of the possibility of getting bored of finance too. But I think I have more knowledge about finance than I had in the legal career. My dad is a banker and almost half of my friends, Chinese or American, are in finance. Also, I am an active trader for several years, (not a super successful one, or I will just go work for a prop shop), but I have spent a lot of time in finance that I am pretty sure that I am fine with this. In contrast, when I chose law school back in high school, I was ignorant and stupid, and I didn't really talk with any lawyers about their lifes and careers.

I think I have spent enough time thinking about the transition from law to finance, I mean literally hundreds of hours. And I have read almost everything I found on google and here, including many of the posts you listed before I came here to ask help.

I really appreciated your comments. It is very good to have someone to discuss about my thought. Are you persuaded by my arguments by the way?

best wishes

Apr 3, 2018 - 5:06am

You have too much I could comment on.
Spend a day researching and come back, IMO.
1) First year law classes (which you implied didn't involve what you are interested in) are not similar to what you will be doing as a lawyer depending on what law career you choose
2) M&A at top firms requires more critical thinking than 90% of jobs in finance (generalization)
3) There is no way you can justify that two more years getting a law degree is worth the opportunity cost
4) Replace the 'law' and 'legal' in your "I decided" paragraph with MBA/Finance and you could make the same argument.

AI will take over basic jobs? That can be said about every single field. I mean, Thomson Reuters aquired Pangea3 which outsources legal work to India. If you were doing those jobs anyway, you would hate it. Guess what other industry is outsourcing and automating? Ding ding! Finance.

Do I have contacts who have gotten degrees in law, MBAs, and additional degrees? Yes. Do I think right now you need any discussion with them, no. Sounds like you hate first year classes and are doubting your choice of law as a career, which is completely understandable, but you need to take a step back and put things into perspective. Please please do research.

Regarding contacts, you get me a nice high paying job from your father and I'll let you talk to as many contacts as you want. ;)

“I’m not fat. I’m cultivating mass.”
  • 3
Apr 3, 2018 - 12:00pm

Ok, I got it. I will spend some more time doing research.
Also, if I found out that I am not that interested in finance, I could just go back to lawyer track next year.

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