Investment Banking --> Litigation?

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Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 19, 2020 5:23 pm

For context, I'm a senior associate at a top tier bulge bracket bank executing M&A and capital raising transactions (more of the former) in a well-regulated industry. What are my odds of moving back over to the law, and specifically, litigation? Is there a path here or is this just a nutty fantasy?

The highlights:
+ JD/MBA from a top school
+ Summered at a V20 firm during law school
+ Plenty on my law school resume that I think I can spin to make this move (mock trial, moot court, top grades in typical litigation classes like procedure, evidence, etc.)
+ Passed the bar, pending admission
- Law school grades were above median but not *great* (with the exception of a handful of classes)
- Never practiced, went straight into banking

I'm pretty consistently ranked at the top of my IB associate class every year, well regarded by both seniors and juniors, but with the prospect of becoming a VP on the horizon and my current situation giving me more time to actually think about whether that's a next step I want, I'm increasingly convinced it's time to return to my roots. The obvious question here is - why in the hell did I go the banking route if I wanted to be a litigator? The short answer is that I never intended to stay in this role, but always viewed it as an opportunity to develop an expertise in an area. The longer answer if you care to read it is below - a bit of a lengthy tale but feel like this is a sufficiently weird path that it warrants explanation.

My credentials and interests had a clear litigation bent up until I decided to join banking - I loved procedure and evidence and the study of the law itself, and was pretty nationally successful in both moot court and mock trial (having competed in the latter through college as well). But I realized as I was deciding on what I would do post-law school that I lacked substantive experience in any area of the world. Many of my peers had a calling - national security, antitrust, hard sciences, tax, the list goes on - all developed from a prior life before law school. In my case I was a paralegal in biglaw, which gave me some good insight on what working in biglaw was like, but not much else. I applied to business school in my first year of law school looking for that calling, having developed a keen interest in finance through Khan Academy videos and reading a lot of books in my spare time. I wanted more hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of how my clients in NYC biglaw one day might think about issues, and I thought the MBA program could provide that.

Having worked in biglaw both as a paralegal and a summer associate, I wasn't going to waste my time during my MBA summer as a biglaw summer associate again (still probably working off some of the residual waistline expansion from my 2L summer...), I decided I would dip my toes into a more substantive finance role during my MBA summer in the hopes of actually learning something, and landed myself a summer offer (and eventually, was one of the ~70% of my class who received return offers) at my bank. My decision to come back full time wasn't an easy one, but ultimately I felt like I still had a lot to learn and hadn't fully accomplished my goal of actually learning something about finance other than the shiny gold star I'd gotten at the end of my summer. I pulled the trigger on the IB offer with the knowledge that it would make a path to standing up in court one day more difficult, but could pay dividends in the sheer amount of learning I could do as an IB associate not just about corporate finance, markets and corporate strategy, but also about project management, leadership, client skills, etc. And if the law didn't want me back, I'm the type of person who can be happy doing just about anything provided it's intellectually stimulating - and banking unquestionably is.

Which brings me to now. As I note above I'm trying to feel out this potential path. It's not an immediate move by any means - I still a bit left before my promotion, but it's something I'm thinking seriously about. Are there good lit-oriented shops in NYC that would consider taking me on as a first or second year next fall? Should I even bother trying to explore this or am I better off just jumping to a PE or VC firm and dreaming about what could have been? And is this even worth exploring recognizing that a clerkship is pretty much shut to me at this point?

Sorry for the long post, but hopefully provided some helpful color on my thought process here.

jagpaw

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by jagpaw » Sun Jul 19, 2020 6:44 pm

Target bankruptcy lit and/or pure restructuring groups at any of the major shops (Kirkland, Weil, Quinn, Milbank, etc) and highlight your finance background and academic focus in lit.

Being able to speak intelligently about discount rates, valuation and a company’s capital structure would give you a huge leg up in those areas and is probably something you would enjoy given your interests/background. If you pitch it right I think you could absolutely make the switch (assume you’re not >4 years out of LS?). Could also try for bankruptcy or other fed clerkship. Antitrust might be doable too.

As you know ppl typically go the other way from law to banking but at the very top there are people who have made switches from banking back to law, though much later in their careers (sprayregen, Harvey Miller).

LBJ's Hair

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Sun Jul 19, 2020 7:13 pm

I think the above is your best shot to getting into a law firm, but after reading your post I'm still struggling to understand ... why you want to do this.

You said you'd be happy doing finance if this doesn't work out, but that you want to "stand up in court." As I'm sure you know, though, at large NY law firms you will ... not be regularly standing up in court. For like, many years.

This isn't to say you shouldn't try to make this switch. I worked in finance before law school, am happy I made the career change. Definitely don't think like, categorically people shouldn't leave remunerative fields for the law.

But it's gonna be hard for you to pull this off, and if you do it for the wrong reasons you may very much come to regret it. The exit options are more limited, your compensation will be much lower as a first year, and you don't really "know" that you'll like litigating.

I would ask yourself: Am I thinking about leaving banking because I want to become a litigator? Or am I thinking about leaving banking because once I'm scared of committing to finance/banking/this career forever? Is this sort of a career "midlife crisis"?

If it's the latter---which it might not be, but I got hints of that when you mentioned the promotion to VP was making you think about---that's not a great reason, and you should probably explore this more before committing.

soft blue

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by soft blue » Sun Jul 19, 2020 7:50 pm

Aren't there a bunch of boutiques doing cool finance-related litigation? Like, Brown Rudnick seems to do interesting intercreditor work, Friedman Kaplan seems to be doing cool LIBOR stuff, etc. Maybe better to target those rather than the traditional large shops; I have to imagine that they'd let you get to court faster.

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:22 am

I will say I barely had any Ibanking experience and I punched above my weight in getting interviews. It won't override a mediocre GPA/law school but it will give you a small bump with a lot (but not all) of law firms.

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LBJ's Hair

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:22 am
I will say I barely had any Ibanking experience and I punched above my weight in getting interviews. It won't override a mediocre GPA/law school but it will give you a small bump with a lot (but not all) of law firms.
oh it's a great plus for OCI. but OP isn't doing OCI, s/he's trying to join a BigLaw lit department ~3 years out of law school w/o having practiced law.

different situation

workhard

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by workhard » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:17 pm

OP- I interned at investment firms in UG and am now an NYC attorney. You will be overworked, harassed, and super insecure at both.

sparty99

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by sparty99 » Mon Jul 20, 2020 7:47 pm

workhard wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:17 pm
OP- I interned at investment firms in UG and am now an NYC attorney. You will be overworked, harassed, and super insecure at both.
I would not waste my time going from finance to law. There are way more opportunities in the world of finance.

Anonymous User
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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 11:22 am
I will say I barely had any Ibanking experience and I punched above my weight in getting interviews. It won't override a mediocre GPA/law school but it will give you a small bump with a lot (but not all) of law firms.
I made the quoted post.

I'm reluctant to go into a lot of details but my story broadly is like this.

I interned for bulge brackets, for 3 years straight even while classes were in session (a combination of night classes and classes where professors didn't take attendance too seriously) full time, and spent most weekends (Friday/Saturday) in debate tournaments. I had full time offers but I ended up in trading pretty much because they promised way more money than a fresh UG should make. Left in less than a year with my boss to a prop trading firm/hedge fund (it wasn't well known then, but it's considered one of the biggest hedge fund/prop trading group in US now).

I had a good knack for spreadsheets and coding and ended up with decent equity stake worth quite a bit in only a few years.

But I always wondered about a career in law. I was a pretty solid debater (not speaker of the year contender but always an outside threat to make finals) and absolutely loved studying and arguing about philosophy and law. Specifically, there was a rather niche area of law I dreamed of litigating in. My naive idea was litigating in that particular area of law would put me in the position to literally define the rules of the game that American economy would operate under.

I quit my job and sold the equity stake in firm. Signed NDA and non-Compete. I was committed to law school now and I went to the best law school I could get into with my shitty UGPA but top 1% LSAT.

It took me about a year and half before I realized it was a mistake. It took many summers at law firms and almost a full year out of law school before I was able to start over as a fresh associate (basically hired as an MBA with past experience) in a banking role.

By now I am sure you want to know why I quit law:
1. Compared to interns in ibanking roles, even partners at law firms are fundamentally reactive. I felt I was at the mercy of business needs and negotiations where even my bosses weren't in the room for.
2. In a litigation setting, at least at the firms I was at, unless you get one of the few cases getting to appellate and even SCOTUS levels, you are very restricted in the arguments you can make. Very often you're twisting models to fit old law that were based on pretty outdated theories (as in theories that would be taught in finance/econ books 10+ years ago but no longer.)
3. There is virtually zero connect between my productivity and my pay.
4. I missed the travel (yes, I liked the travel) and quiet periods where I was literally locked in a conference room with phones (at the risk of dating myself, they were blackberries) taken away and waking up to CNBC talking about the deal put together over the weekend. The best I can hope for in a law firm is a footnote in WSJ or an article on law360. Frankly, I rather do project finance and build dams in South America.
5. I hated writing memos/motions/discovery requests/responses to regulatory agencies that were 80% identical day in and day out. To me, Excel models, though built similarly, had dramatically different implications with just small changes to inputs. I just didn't get that feeling in law.
6. This probably irritated more than it should but it just made 1 to 5 that more unbearable. Junior bankers treated me like an idiot and constantly tried to gaslight me into accepting their shitty models as is.
7. I am a minority and I really felt like the ceiling to break into partnership/MD ranks for minorities is way harder to crack in law than in banking.

All that said, I know former bankers who are much happier now in biglaw.

forthelols

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Re: Investment Banking --> Litigation?

Post by forthelols » Tue Jul 21, 2020 12:12 am

I think you'd have a good shot at any firm that does M&A or bankruptcy litigation. Understanding what you're litigating about will be a big advantage. You're still not that far out of law school and seem to have some good lit stuff on your resume. If you were willing to take a big comp. cut (go in as 1st or 2nd year), I think you could make the switch. Clerking OTOH may be difficult because judges care a ton about law school grades and just might not really get your story or prefer it to other applicants. But there's no harm in applying and you certainly will stand apart from the pack.

I will say however that I think you should think a lot more about potentially giving up what sounds like a promising career in IB/finance. I also have done both and while I agree that the study of law / law school is more interesting, I'm not sure that the practice of law is. Take w/ grain of salt b/c I'm not a litigator, but practicing at a firm involves a lot of discovery and other BS, plus endless researching. It's not the exhilarating experience of a debate round or law exam, at least not as a junior. And it will be years before you argue anything meaningful in court. So I'm just not sure that that kind of jump would make sense unless you don't like working in finance.

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