Thanks a lot for the information! Finance, in general, is something I am interested in and even though law is my goal right now I would like to acquaint myself with the other options out there. This information is certainly valuable. For me, I would like to work in corporate law with a firm for a while and then perhaps (if I feel the desire to move on and don't want to stay where I am) move onto PE or a hedge fund or something of the sort. Is this something that is possible coming from a non T14 (like a T30 for instance) given that I would already have experience in corporate law (3-5 years perhaps)? The prestige factor is a big deal I imagine and for a firm to be able to say they have a Harvard Law grad working on the client's deal would make them feel better I am sure. But is the experience at a law firm something that can overshadow that prestige value when it comes to moving into other areas of finance?
Yes, the caliber of your firm determines 95% of your exit options w/r/t finance. I only added the T14 bit because some banks are snooty and tend to accept applicants with Ivy-type pedigrees (Lazard comes to mind). A lot of this bias is because the higher-ups went to those types of schools, and when they were applying for jobs their higher-ups went to those places, and so on. Other banks (Stifel Nicolaus comes to mind) sometimes espouse the opposite view: kids that crushed it at lesser-ranked schools are less pampered and are likely to be more hungry.
As for PE and HF exit options....that's a bit misleading because they are not really options. PE firms hire two types of people, with almost no exceptions: (1) kids who went to work in an elite group of a bulge bracket bank straight out of college; and (2) kids graduating from a top-tier b-school who also have previous IB experience. Basically, working as an analyst or associate in an IB is a prerequisite for PE; but this is possible if you go: elite corporate law firm --> IB --> PE.
Working at an HF is even less likely, because there is zero overlap in lawyer skills and HF employee skills. HFs are looking for engineering and math majors who can understand the complex algorithms and formulae they use as trading strategies. There are very minor exceptions (e.g. a corporate bankruptcy lawyer gets recruited from an HF specializing in distressed assets), but these opportunities are rare, and you shouldn't count on finding one. Again, if you get IB experience after working in corporate law, you could be attractive to an HF - but unfortunately it would have nothing to do with your JD background.