So You Go to a Top School and Aren't Interested in Law...

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So You Go to a Top School and Aren't Interested in Law...

Postby Borg » Sat Jan 11, 2014 1:29 pm

I haven't logged in here in a while, but I had a ton of messages from people that were all basically saying the same thing: "I'd rather go into finance than law, how do I get there/what should I do?" I thought I'd write a quick post on the subject instead of responding individually. Note that this post only applies to students at top schools (non-JD/MBA) that are in big cities, where it is possible to not graduate at the top of the class and still get a biglaw job.

(I) 1L - assuming you are like most law students, you probably came straight through from college or just worked for a year or two before heading back to school. You might not know anything about finance at this point and aren't sure what you want to do, but probably will follow the biglaw conveyor belt. Treat 1L like everyone else treats 1L - study really f-ing hard, do well, and join clubs that will potentially help you to get more legitimate business sounding stuff on your resume (i.e. corporate law society or whatever your school has). The one thing that I would recommend doing differently than most 1Ls would be to try to build relationships with alumni who are in finance. Find alumni of Harvard/CLS/NYU/Chicago/NW or wherever it is you are and ask them to come speak on campus. Try hard to build an actual relationship with that person aside from the event, or at least make sure that you have enough contact that they will remember you later on. For your summer internship, work your ass off to find something that will be interesting to the corporate world. Regular 1L public interest internships aren't going to help you to get a job at a bank. Build your resume.

(II) 2L - Assuming you get a summer offer at the beginning of 2L, this is where you should start to break the track a little bit. Take as many classes as you can at the business school. Specifically, you should take accounting, corporate finance, and a class on financial/capital markets. Also, take a Training the Street course to get familiar with the basics of modeling. Make sure you're taking the basic versions of the business school courses - I saw a fair number of miserable law students getting crushed in my upper level courses because they hadn't taken foundational stuff and didn't know what they were getting into. Network with THOSE professors, not your law professors. Explain your interest in finance, get to know them, ask them if they know anyone in finance who might need an intern during the term at some point. Most importantly...


Every semester you should be working outside of school in finance. Build your base of experience, your resume, and your contacts. Whatever you do, stop thinking that the stuff they try to make seem important in law school is actually important. In the business world, no one knows/cares what a managing editor of a business law journal does, and they don't know/care about your A in income tax either. Continue to do well enough that your summer firm won't pull your job, but stop sweating the really law schooly stuff like getting a good editor position because it won't matter.

Try to get an internship at a bank for the summer and see if you can split with your firm if you get it. Otherwise, work at the firm you got during early interviews and make sure you get an offer.

(III) 3L - Assuming you didn't do banking for the summer and took a job at a firm instead, before accepting an offer at your firm, make a really hard play for finance positions. Send resumes out far and wide when your summer associate position is through, meet up with alumni for "informational interviews" to find out about full time offers and how they transitioned into finance etc. Firms have to hold offers open for a long period of time after the summer, so take advantage of it. Apply to employers who you worked for during semesters or, if you'd rather work somewhere else, ask them to give you a recommendation and a contact at that place. If it doesn't work out and you want to take your fallback, biglaw is a fine option. Understand that the finance recruiting timeline is much different than the law one though, so you might need to hold out if you really want a job in finance. You also may be at a disadvantage with respect to big banks by not having been in their summer program.

That's the best advice I've got for you. Good luck.

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Re: So You Go to a Top School and Aren't Interested in Law...

Postby hellojd » Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:01 am

This post was relevant to me, thank you. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm "not interested" in law, but definitely open to doing consulting/banking post-LS.

Also contemplating the JD-MBA at my school. I talked to a few alumni who went V10 -> banking, and they said the network in banks is what got them the interview after a couple of years at the firm. Actually, law firm -> banking (if you can pull it off) seems like a great route because you miss the worst years as an associate in banking in terms of hours, and then transition over when the pay starts to eclipse what you make at a firm.

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