Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

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Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:56 pm

Dear TLS,

I recently started as an Associate at a V10 firm. However, over the past year or so I have been considering moving into investment banking. I enjoy working with numbers and analyzing the qualitative aspects of a company. I have some credentials that show my interest/ability in finance (don’t want to be more specific), but I don’t have an MBA and there would likely be a steep learning curve for me. I realize that the hours can be worse, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice. I do not want to, nor can I really see myself, staying in law for the rest of my career. I’m not unhappy in my current position, I just think I’ve stumbled upon something that I really want to do.

What would be the best time to make a transition into investment banking? After a year or two? Earlier? Later? Am I losing out on anything by staying in biglaw or leaving biglaw?

How would I go about applying for an investment banking position?

Are there any resources I can look at to learn more about life as an investment banker? (Is there a TLS of bankers? That would be amazing.)

What are some realistic career trajectories in investment banking?

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Nagster5

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Nagster5 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:06 pm

WallStreetOasis is like TLS for Finance, if you're looking to find out about the life and market, you might want to lurk there.

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chiguy99

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby chiguy99 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:09 pm

Nagster5 wrote:WallStreetOasis is like TLS for Finance, if you're looking to find out about the life and market, you might want to lurk there.


I second WSO. Wealth of info there for IB and finance in general.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:39 pm

I made the transition but much later in my career and I got to transition at a higher job title. I went to a boutique institution which made it all possible.

Like anything else in life, there are things you will like about it and things you will dislike relative to Big Law. I've seen a few associates make the transition (including some that jumped straight to private equity roles). About half returned to big law. Most important take away was that nobody will give a shit about your JD or legal experience if you're a junior associate.

Fundamentally, you're going to be doing similar junior associate bitch work when you transition. It'll be years before your doing actual substantive work. That said, junior years in IB are just as bad as junior years in big law, but somewhere around year 5 the quality of life balance starts to shift hard in favor of IB.

As far as recommendations for what you're trying to do, if B-school is out of the question, consider jumping to smaller instituions in secondary cities. The smaller the institution you're interviewing with, the more likely they are to value your legal expertise.

If you want to play the long game transfer into a restructuring group in your firm and focus on the transactional side of the practice. If you can do that long enough to make senior associate, you'll find it easier to transition to a financial institution in a business role in a much higher position on the org chart.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I made the transition but much later in my career and I got to transition at a higher job title. I went to a boutique institution which made it all possible.

Like anything else in life, there are things you will like about it and things you will dislike relative to Big Law. I've seen a few associates make the transition (including some that jumped straight to private equity roles). About half returned to big law. Most important take away was that nobody will give a shit about your JD or legal experience if you're a junior associate.

Fundamentally, you're going to be doing similar junior associate bitch work when you transition. It'll be years before your doing actual substantive work. That said, junior years in IB are just as bad as junior years in big law, but somewhere around year 5 the quality of life balance starts to shift hard in favor of IB.

As far as recommendations for what you're trying to do, if B-school is out of the question, consider jumping to smaller instituions in secondary cities. The smaller the institution you're interviewing with, the more likely they are to value your legal expertise.

If you want to play the long game transfer into a restructuring group in your firm and focus on the transactional side of the practice. If you can do that long enough to make senior associate, you'll find it easier to transition to a financial institution in a business role in a much higher position on the org chart.


OP here. Does that mean that I will need an MBA to go to a larger institution?

Also, can you speak to what your day-to-day is like? Do you do any valuation?

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:17 pm

To the anon who transitioned to IB above, do you think the same opportunities and relevant skill sets apply to those working in tax or real estate as in restructuring? I think I've seen some of your previous posts about how working in a specific industry helped you make your transition to a boutique financial institution, and was unsure whether you were referring to your practice area (I assume restructuring) or a specific business sector (healthcare, telecom, etc). No need to share personal details but am just looking for clarity on how to best plot my path, thanks.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 27, 2017 12:08 am

Anonymous User wrote:To the anon who transitioned to IB above, do you think the same opportunities and relevant skill sets apply to those working in tax or real estate as in restructuring? I think I've seen some of your previous posts about how working in a specific industry helped you make your transition to a boutique financial institution, and was unsure whether you were referring to your practice area (I assume restructuring) or a specific business sector (healthcare, telecom, etc). No need to share personal details but am just looking for clarity on how to best plot my path, thanks.


Not the anon above. I don't think you should choose a legal practice area simply for transitioning into investment banking.

Restructuring is a double-edged sword. Transitioning from bankruptcy/restructuring law to restructuring investment banking is not easier than transitioning from M&A law to M&A investment banking. On the one hand, understanding bankruptcy law and the restructuring process is helpful in restructuring investment banking. On the other hand, restructuring investment banking is the most Excel intensive/technical investment banking specialty (even at the associate level), must more so than M&A, which makes transitioning as a junior/midlevel associate very tough unless you worked as an investment banking analyst before law school. Also, the number of restructuring investment banking opportunities are very limited, since there are only a handful of restructuring investment banking positions at the top debtor shops (PJT, Evercore, Lazard, Moelis) each year (15-20 spots combined at the firms mentioned, most of which are taken by JD/MBAs at Penn/Columbia/NYU), and you can't really get top-notch restructuring experience outside of those places plus perhaps Houlihan, Rothschild, and a couple of other places. People I know who made such a transition typically have investment banking experience prior to law school and worked at a top bankruptcy law firm (e.g., Kirkland, Weil), or have flawless credentials (Ivy UG->HYS Law->Wachtell, S&C, Cravath, etc.).

Real estate and tax are areas where law has significant impact on the economics of business transactions, which facilities transition to a business role.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby RedGiant » Wed Sep 27, 2017 1:47 am

I can answer this having gone the other direction, bulge bracket analyst, MBA, hedge fund trader, back to law and now lawyer.

I agree that Wall Street Oasis will be helpful. I would also check out the Vault Guide to Investment Banking. There is a very old book, that is a classic, that will help you understand the expectations at each level in banking called the Fast Track by Miriam Naficy (it should be a bout $4 on Amazon). She wrote it while at Stanford GSB, but has since gone on to found Minted and a few other well-regarded startups, and it's a fun tour through the IB graveyard of merged-out banks (pre-crisis).

How much valuation you do will depend on how your bank does execution (e.g. will you be in an industry group that outsources execution to an M&A group, or will it be "combined"?). You will still need to have very advanced excel skills, right up to the point of VBA (no need for VBA, but close). You should understand how to build an integrated model from the three financial statements. If you have the money, I would consider doing a "banking training" program, like FE Training (there are others). Then you can really understand if you like excel.

The biggest difference for me was that when I was in banking, I would spend DAYS working on the same excel model, tweaking it, building out more functionality, getting more inputs. Then similarly, we would spend WEEKS working on pitch books or information memoranda, circulating those between the company, bankers in different groups internally, lawyers, etc. I worked in a specific vertical in M&A, so we only did M&A for one industry (and we did our own execution, as I mentioned above). So I think you need to ask yourself whether you would truly enjoy doing numbers (and by extension, finance and accounting) all day long, as opposed to drafting.

As others have mentioned, your role transitions over time in banking, and so while being deeply in the numbers is a thing when you are an analyst and junior associate, it becomes less of a thing as you move toward leading deals (quarterbacking, much like the legal-side project management/managing specialists), sourcing deals (lots of industry research, pounding pavement, etc.) and sales at the very highest levels (Dr/Sr. Dir/MD). You really need to go through the crunching phase so that you can easily trend-spot and pick stuff apart.

If, as you mentioned, you have a CPA or ugrad BBA or just in general are a great quant-type person, I would not worry about being annoyed by the modeling. I majored in Econ, but my ugrad school did not have finance (we were liberal arts) and so my Excel skills were WAAAAY behind some of my banking colleagues' skills when I started my analyst program (but I quickly caught up). Accounting can be learned--it's just rules and understanding concepts which are not immediately intuitive but that do click over time.

As you mentioned, there's this myth that "structuring" is a very useful skill to have, and I think it is, on specific capital markets products desks. (You can read more about this in Erin Callan's memoir, if you're interested.) Overall though, I have seen the associate to IB transition work best in certain groups, especially if you move from say, Oil & Gas M&A to NatRest banking, or tech law to tech banking. I agree with the previous poster re restructuring jobs--they truly were for the creme de la creme of my Ivy MBA class, lots of prior finance experience as vultures, etc., so if you haven't done a stint as a "Regular" banker, you are likely not going to get a job like that unless you have massive amounts of BK experience and are very well-versed in finding fulcrum securities and the like. I haven't seen law to PE transitioning as much as on the law to banking side, but again, I suppose it's possible.

I would warn that you're moving from one client service industry with rotten hours to another, so don't really expect it to be awesome. It's just a different way of working hard. If you're really certain you want to try, go for it. You might want to enlist some headhunters. I recommend Mercury Partners or Glocap. Godspeed.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:43 am

Great, thank you. Both of those replies are very helpful. Out of curiosity, what brought you back into law after working in a coveted buy-side role?

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I made the transition but much later in my career and I got to transition at a higher job title. I went to a boutique institution which made it all possible.

Like anything else in life, there are things you will like about it and things you will dislike relative to Big Law. I've seen a few associates make the transition (including some that jumped straight to private equity roles). About half returned to big law. Most important take away was that nobody will give a shit about your JD or legal experience if you're a junior associate.

Fundamentally, you're going to be doing similar junior associate bitch work when you transition. It'll be years before your doing actual substantive work. That said, junior years in IB are just as bad as junior years in big law, but somewhere around year 5 the quality of life balance starts to shift hard in favor of IB.

As far as recommendations for what you're trying to do, if B-school is out of the question, consider jumping to smaller instituions in secondary cities. The smaller the institution you're interviewing with, the more likely they are to value your legal expertise.

If you want to play the long game transfer into a restructuring group in your firm and focus on the transactional side of the practice. If you can do that long enough to make senior associate, you'll find it easier to transition to a financial institution in a business role in a much higher position on the org chart.


OP here. Does that mean that I will need an MBA to go to a larger institution?

Also, can you speak to what your day-to-day is like? Do you do any valuation?


You don't have to have an MBA, but an MBA will increase your odds of being able to make the jump, especially to a larger institution. Your biggest problem is going to be that you really need to make this jump from polar extremes of the spectrum. You really need to make the jump early in your legal career or deep into your legal career. It's incredibly tough to jump to the finance side as a midlevel and not have to "start over".

Day-to-day is all over the place. It ranges from checking on my team's work to listening to pitches, managing expectations of key stakeholders (I.e., key members of our investment committees), negotiating terms on deals, meeting with my management, attending industry conferences, etc.... I don't do much of the model building and valuations. I leave that to members of my team.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To the anon who transitioned to IB above, do you think the same opportunities and relevant skill sets apply to those working in tax or real estate as in restructuring? I think I've seen some of your previous posts about how working in a specific industry helped you make your transition to a boutique financial institution, and was unsure whether you were referring to your practice area (I assume restructuring) or a specific business sector (healthcare, telecom, etc). No need to share personal details but am just looking for clarity on how to best plot my path, thanks.


I haven't run in to many former tax lawyers doing business-side work. Tax lawyers that transition to client side seem to me to have a pretty sweet setup working as lawyers. No real reason to give that up. I have run into real estate lawyers that make the transition, but they tend to be at smaller institutions (truly nothing wrong with that). The reason I referenced restructuring lawyers earlier is that it seems to be a *relatively* easier transition to make for senior restructuring lawyers. Not saying anything is guaranteed, but restructuring work is roughly 50/50 understanding the economics/understanding how the BK code drives issues.

I was not a restructuring lawyer though I occasionally touched on those issues. Without getting into too much detail my legal experience was focused on a specific industry (healthcare, telecom, transport, etc...).

One other avenue I've seen people pull off: most lawyers seems to get squeamish when the topic of derivatives comes up. If you really are someone who enjoys working with numbers, mastering the ISDA forms as a lawyer and then trying to jump business side by joining a commodities desk as a junior person is a plausible strategy and I know of one guy that pulled that off. Hedging expertise is also pretty flexible and will present decent exit options if you want to stay in the legal side of things because you'll find a need for legal expertise on the hedge provider side as well as the hedge purchaser side. In certain industries, even the commercial bankers will get involved with hedging issues and they'll bring their own counsel to the deal. OTOH, from experience, I can tell you the ISDA forms are boring and most lawyers would hate the idea of just working on those forms for the rest of their legal career.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I made the transition but much later in my career and I got to transition at a higher job title. I went to a boutique institution which made it all possible.

Like anything else in life, there are things you will like about it and things you will dislike relative to Big Law. I've seen a few associates make the transition (including some that jumped straight to private equity roles). About half returned to big law. Most important take away was that nobody will give a shit about your JD or legal experience if you're a junior associate.

Fundamentally, you're going to be doing similar junior associate bitch work when you transition. It'll be years before your doing actual substantive work. That said, junior years in IB are just as bad as junior years in big law, but somewhere around year 5 the quality of life balance starts to shift hard in favor of IB.

As far as recommendations for what you're trying to do, if B-school is out of the question, consider jumping to smaller instituions in secondary cities. The smaller the institution you're interviewing with, the more likely they are to value your legal expertise.

If you want to play the long game transfer into a restructuring group in your firm and focus on the transactional side of the practice. If you can do that long enough to make senior associate, you'll find it easier to transition to a financial institution in a business role in a much higher position on the org chart.


OP here. Does that mean that I will need an MBA to go to a larger institution?

Also, can you speak to what your day-to-day is like? Do you do any valuation?


You don't have to have an MBA, but an MBA will increase your odds of being able to make the jump, especially to a larger institution. Your biggest problem is going to be that you really need to make this jump from polar extremes of the spectrum. You really need to make the jump early in your legal career or deep into your legal career. It's incredibly tough to jump to the finance side as a midlevel and not have to "start over".

Day-to-day is all over the place. It ranges from checking on my team's work to listening to pitches, managing expectations of key stakeholders (I.e., key members of our investment committees), negotiating terms on deals, meeting with my management, attending industry conferences, etc.... I don't do much of the model building and valuations. I leave that to members of my team.


What point would you say is “early” in your career? One year in Biglaw? Two years in Biglaw? How late is too late, where you would have to start over?

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 29, 2017 3:30 pm

3 years max. This has as much to do with how much big law will change you and the fact that your legal expertise is not likely to be valued by your new employer.

By the time you become a midlevel associate the idea of starting over and going back to junior level work is going to be tough to swallow. One of the toughest things for you after you make the jump will be to abandon any idea that you're a banker with value-add legal expertise. Unless you're explicitly told otherwise by your boss, you want to think of yourself and present yourself as a banking guy/gal only.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're committed to jumping into banking without getting an MBA and unless you're willing to make it to senior associate as a lawyer, you should view your legal education as a sunk cost at this point.

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Re: Interested in Moving from Biglaw to Investment Banking

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I made the transition but much later in my career and I got to transition at a higher job title. I went to a boutique institution which made it all possible.

Like anything else in life, there are things you will like about it and things you will dislike relative to Big Law. I've seen a few associates make the transition (including some that jumped straight to private equity roles). About half returned to big law. Most important take away was that nobody will give a shit about your JD or legal experience if you're a junior associate.

Fundamentally, you're going to be doing similar junior associate bitch work when you transition. It'll be years before your doing actual substantive work. That said, junior years in IB are just as bad as junior years in big law, but somewhere around year 5 the quality of life balance starts to shift hard in favor of IB.

As far as recommendations for what you're trying to do, if B-school is out of the question, consider jumping to smaller instituions in secondary cities. The smaller the institution you're interviewing with, the more likely they are to value your legal expertise.

If you want to play the long game transfer into a restructuring group in your firm and focus on the transactional side of the practice. If you can do that long enough to make senior associate, you'll find it easier to transition to a financial institution in a business role in a much higher position on the org chart.


OP here. Does that mean that I will need an MBA to go to a larger institution?

Also, can you speak to what your day-to-day is like? Do you do any valuation?


You don't have to have an MBA, but an MBA will increase your odds of being able to make the jump, especially to a larger institution. Your biggest problem is going to be that you really need to make this jump from polar extremes of the spectrum. You really need to make the jump early in your legal career or deep into your legal career. It's incredibly tough to jump to the finance side as a midlevel and not have to "start over".

Day-to-day is all over the place. It ranges from checking on my team's work to listening to pitches, managing expectations of key stakeholders (I.e., key members of our investment committees), negotiating terms on deals, meeting with my management, attending industry conferences, etc.... I don't do much of the model building and valuations. I leave that to members of my team.


What point would you say is “early” in your career? One year in Biglaw? Two years in Biglaw? How late is too late, where you would have to start over?


Early stage = year 1/2, which is very hard unless you have banking experience before law school. Late stage = Harvey Miller->Greenhill/Jamie Sprayregen to Goldman, which is rare because by then you'll probably make more money as heads bankruptcy groups at Weil/Kirkland.



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