Switching careers from law (with some IB experience) to private equity

Hi,

Looking for insight as I'm trying to switch careers from law to private equity.

I am from Australia and studied a bachelor of Law (honours) and a Bachelor of Arts dual degree at Monash University. I have a 3.0gpa for the dual degree. During my undergraduate, I studied abroad at Oxford University, London School of Economics and at a University in Asia. I also have a Master of Laws (Commercial Legal Practice) from BPP University where I got a 3.5gpa (hardly a target university but work paid for it and sent me there). I also completed the CFA while working.

During law school, I launched my own, albeit small, start-up and sold it a couple of years later to an investor. After this, and while still at law school, I worked part time (and full time for a couple of summers) as an Investment Banking Intern at a Canadian HQ'd investment bank in Australia. Upon graduation, I worked here as an analyst for 6 months. Although I did some M&A, the main focus of the team was equity capital markets. Therefore, I have approximately 1 year and 9 months experience working in investment banking (though most of this is as an intern). I also volunteered as a consultant for 6 months while at university.

After my stint in IB, I moved to the UK to work in BigLaw at a US HQ'd law firm in their London office. The reason for the move was because I accepted the role 2.5 years prior, which was before I even started working in IB. I have been at the law firm for two years. I am dual qualified in the UK, Australia and New York as a lawyer. I have completed rotations at work in private equity, M&A, reorgs and completed a 6 month secondment at the Hong Kong office, before settling as a lawyer in the private equity team at the law firm.

I am 27. The end goal is to break into private equity. I understand that the normal process is 1.5-3 years at a BB bank doing M&A or an MBA (or both), before breaking in. I have just over 1.5 years in IB (though mainly as an intern) at a mid-tier bank doing mainly ECM, 2 years in law with private equity/M&A/restructuring experience, CFA and Master in Law. What are my chances of braking straight into PE based on the above? Has anyone seen someone make this kind of move straight to private equity from law (with some IB experience)? If not, do you think it's remotely feasible? Or would I be better off trying for IB at BB or MBA before moving in PE? I am looking to work in either London or preferably New York.

Thanks!

Comments (8)

May 26, 2019

Comments from someone who used to be a lawyer in the US.

  1. For US even though you have E3 visa (which is 1000x better than H1B) , getting to the step where you convince employers that it's easy and low risk will be difficult. You might get kicked out if processes automatically due to "no sponsorship" policies. I would target networking with Australians/ Aussie firms (only really of size firm is Macquarie).
  2. Are you done with your trainee solicitor stint and are an associate now?
  3. MBA or direct to IB are going to be the path of least resistance, I haven't anyone directly make the move to PE in the US at the 1st year big law associate level (which I think you are after your trainee stint). I'm sure they exist but it's very difficult/uncommon. You complicate things especially more as you need an E3 and aren't on the ground.
  4. Can you transfer to your US firms NY office? Is it a top tier US law firm or is it like KL Gates? This will definitely matter in trying to do any of your three options.
  5. I'd say right now you should explore associate roles in London IB, you may be able to get some traction (not sure how IB recruitment works in UK), and in parallel also take the GMAT and prepare for MBA admissions in September.
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May 26, 2019

Thank you @Redelephant!
Really helpful advice.
I have completed the training contract and I am now a first year associate. It is one of the larger international firms, but not quite Kirkland & Ellis/ Latham & Watkins quality (think very comparable to DLA Piper, Clifford Chance, etc, rather than K&L Gates). I could possibly transfer to the NYC office which might make recruitment a bit easier. I am happy to do stint in IB (provided I can transfer in at the associate level rather than starting from scratch as an Analyst) or MBA (if necessary). Just hoping doing so won't make me too old for when I start apply for PE (would likely be 30+ by the time I start applying for PE).

May 28, 2019
PElawyer1:

Thank you @Redelephant!
Really helpful advice.
I have completed the training contract and I am now a first year associate. It is one of the larger international firms, but not quite Kirkland & Ellis/ Latham & Watkins quality (think very comparable to DLA Piper, Clifford Chance, etc, rather than K&L Gates). I could possibly transfer to the NYC office which might make recruitment a bit easier. I am happy to do stint in IB (provided I can transfer in at the associate level rather than starting from scratch as an Analyst) or MBA (if necessary). Just hoping doing so won't make me too old for when I start apply for PE (would likely be 30+ by the time I start applying for PE).

You unfortunately will be old. Such is what happens with two different career paths and career switching.

Are you looking for any locale PE long-term or just NY/London? I would think a couple years of BB -> PE in Sydney at like pacific equity or some LMM shop is doable.

May 29, 2019

30-35 is too old for PE?

No pain no game.

May 29, 2019

I wouldn't think so but it appears OP is worried about being 30 when he makes the move.

That being said 35 is right around when most people are about to make the jump to MD at my shop (and we promote slow) before partner, so if you are 35 coming in as an associate, you have to be aware that there will be 27 year olds more senior than you and people your age that are much more senior.

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May 29, 2019

I am open to moving, but focussing on NY/London for now.

What do you think the chances are of me being able to transition to a BB as an associate (without MBA) or as a 1st-3rd year analyst? Keeping in mind previous experience in IB, CFA + current associate tittle (in different field, albeit not completely unrelated).

If I did the transition within the next few months / year, I could make the transition over to PE as a 28-29 y/o

May 29, 2019

I am open to moving, but focussing on NY/London for now.

What do you think the chances are of me being able to transition to a BB as an associate (without MBA) or as a 1st-3rd year analyst? Keeping in mind previous experience in IB, CFA + current associate tittle (in different field, albeit not completely unrelated).

If I did the transition within the next few months / year, I could make the transition over to PE as a 28-29 y/o

May 29, 2019
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