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How To Get An Investment Banking Job As A Lawyer

Mar 1, 2008
Decided to go to law school, start working at a law firm, and realize you're actually more interested in finance and investment banking?

You're not alone.

It's fairly common for lawyers to switch into finance and investment banking specifically. There are several paths from law to investment banking.

You can get a banking job immediately after finishing law school; you can work as a law firm Associate for several years and then transition over; and you can go to business school after practicing for several years and interview for banking jobs as you complete your MBA.

It sounds appealing to go immediately from law school into investment banking. However, it is difficult to pull off and most banks do not recruit someone immediately out of law school. They would have difficulty placing the candidate and deciding whether to make him an Analyst or Associate.

This method becomes easier if you had finance experience prior to law school, in which case you just need to tell a good story about why you went to law school.

If you haven't had this experience, it's better to work for a few years at a law firm and transition over.

Going to business school after law school is only recommended if you've practiced in a completely unrelated legal field like Intellectual Property or Environmental Law.

How To Work In Law And Then Switch To Banking

You need to Corporate Law. Don't even think about Intellectual Property, Litigation, or anything else. Do Corporate Law.

Recruiting is ultimately a numbers game, and you increase your odds greatly if you have Corporate, Securities, or M&A legal experience.

Once you have a few years experience working on transactions, you can consider switching into finance.

Contact all your friends in the industry and ask for referrals to recruiters; contact former clients and ask about setting up informational meetings or discussing opportunities at their firms.

Target industries and clients you have experience with. If you worked with a lot of technology companies, go for technology investment banking firms; if you did Mergers And Acquisitions, go for the M&A departments at banks.

Also, try for boutiques and middle-market firms rather than bulge brackets unless you work at one of the top few law firms - it will be much easier to get into smaller places.

How To Sell Your Story In Interviews

With a Corporate Law background, there are 2 main points you'll need to prove: 1) that you have quantitative and finance skills and 2) that you really want to make a big career change even if you're on Partner track at your law firm.

You really need to focus on financial skills in your interview preparations. Know the 3 financial statements cold. Be able to explain models and valuation methods because they will ask you tons of questions here, especially if you were an English or History major and have no finance experience.

This is one of the few cases where getting a CFA might actually help you get into investment banking - it would give you the finance knowledge and show your interest in the field.

Making the case for a career change can actually be easier. You want to emphasize you were always interested in corporate finance and dealmaking, and went into Corporate Law for those reasons. However, you got frustrated with your inability to BE the dealmaker and how you had to just sit on the sidelines, and so now you want to switch into banking and be a player.
About the Author
Ian Spellfield, a former investment banker, advises students and young professionals on understanding investment banking and how to earn high investment banking salaries .
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