by Brian DeChesare Comments (48)

From Law to Investment Banking: Even Better Than Starring in “Suits”?

Law to Investment BankingIf real life imitated TV perfectly, law would be an intellectually stimulating and exciting career path for everyone.

You work with high-profile clients, try intense cases, make massive M&A deals happen, and empower the barbarians at the gate.

Except… that doesn’t quite hold up in real life.

The average corporate law job turns into a game of “How many documents can you turn, and how quickly and accurately can you turn them? Bonus points if you’re skilled with the Table of Contents feature in Word.”

Some lawyers play that game and move up the ladder, while others get bored, conclude that business is more interesting, and move into roles with more modeling and fewer “Track Changes.”

Whenever deal activity heats up and banks ramp up their hiring, more and more professionals fall into that category and move from law to investment banking.

I’ve seen that firsthand because there has been a big uptick in the number of readers and customers making that move in the past year.

A cynic might say, “We’re at the peak! If so many career changers are getting in, the bubble is about to burst!”


But even when deal activity and hiring are down, a fair number of lawyers break in – and here’s how you do it:

Why? Didn’t You Already Write About This?

Yes – in fact, it was one of the first articles ever published on M&I.

But that was a long time ago, things have changed since then, and that feature was a very “high-level” overview.

This time around, I’m basing the article on several interviews with readers and clients who have moved from law to finance.

If you haven’t already read it, that article above is a good “101” guide to this topic – but we’re going into more specific tips and advice here.

Starting Points: Becoming a Barbarian at the Gate

Let’s start with a basic, but often-overlooked point: you need to make sure you’re going into IB, or any other finance role, for the right reasons first.

A lot of lawyers think, “This job is boring and I’m intellectually under-stimulated… but bankers make a lot more money, so I should do finance instead!”

That is a poor reason to make the move because banking and law are very different professions.

If you’re a lawyer, work is “handed” to you; you can get ahead by virtue of being smart and hard-working, and by turning documents successfully.

You won’t necessarily be responsible for bringing in clients until you’re at the top, or very close to the top.

But as a banker you start wining and dining clients much earlier on, and the job changes significantly once you hit the VP level.

If you don’t like sales and schmoozing with clients, you really shouldn’t move into banking.

The stories of the most successful law –> banking career changers I spoke with all looked something like:

  • Always had some interest in finance – for example, they took classes on M&A, Restructuring, or Capital Markets in law school, or classes on accounting or finance in undergrad.
  • Then, they completed internships and/or full-time roles with some relation to business – even if they were not in corporate law – and they were more drawn to the “deal” side, in-line with their previously stated interest.
  • And now they’re here today to leverage their finance + legal backgrounds to ultimately become a trusted adviser to management teams in [a specific industry or deal type, ideally].

If you do NOT have a story like that or you cannot point to longer-term interest in finance, put on your “spin” hat and come up with something.

Or start learning more now and think about transitioning only when your story is more credible, whether that takes 1 year, 2 years, or more.

How Much Do Your Firm and Group Matter?

I wrote previously that it’s “difficult to break in if you’re not in corporate law.”

This one is not quite true.

Several lawyers-turned-bankers mentioned litigators and even patent and environmental lawyers getting in: it all depends on how good a story you can spin.

For example, if you did environmental law perhaps you worked on cases that were related to due diligence in deals (e.g., was there a toxic spill right behind the company’s headquarters? Did this come up when a private equity firm was evaluating a company?).

If you’re in a seemingly unrelated group, switching to corporate law first sounds like a good idea.

But there’s also an opportunity cost because you need to spend time recruiting for a new group, and then work in that group for some time so you have experience to speak to.

Plus, if you move into that new group and then fail to get into banking you’re left in an awkward position: do you move back to your original group? Or stay there? Or just open a surf shop in Brazil?

On the other hand, there was universal agreement that working at a brand-name firm gives you a big advantage.

The bulge bracket banks know the top law firms, but they’re much less aware of smaller firms.

So if you’re at a smaller firm:

  • Target smaller banks.
  • Set yourself apart by gaining sector expertise in a specialized area (e.g., oil & gas).
  • Consider moving to a bigger firm if all else fails.

Preparing to Recruit

So you’re at a top firm, or you’re targeting smaller banks, and you have a story that reflects at least a few years of interest in finance… what next?

Before you network with anyone, you need to master 2 important points:

1. Your Story – See the example above for an outline. You cannot just say you became interested very recently; it has to be an evolution over years.

You also need to emphasize that banking IS your long-term career, and you’re not just doing it because you’re “bored” with law.

Many lawyers sabotage themselves by including too many negatives in their responses to the “Walk me through your resume” question.

It’s not a surprise, really: you’re trained to find problems, flaws, and points of contention, so your story often ends up sounding negative.

For example, one coaching client made this statement as part of his initial story:

“I’ve enjoyed my work in this corporate law team, but I’ve gotten frustrated because business-oriented questions never get answered. They always say, ‘It’s a business decision, it’s not our realm’ and we’re not responsible for the key points that clients care about.”

This statement is not a faux pas, but it sounds quite negative.

It’s better to say something like, “In addition to advising on the legal issues, I want to contribute to the actual deal process and move transactions forward – which you have the opportunity to do in banking.”

It’s a small change, but if you come across as “negative” in the first 2 minutes that impression will stick with you.

2. The Technicals – They will ask you technical questions from the beginning, even in casual informational interviews, because they assume that lawyers are bad at math.

So you need to know accounting, valuation, and transaction modeling before you contact anyone.

They do not care AT ALL about your background, and they also don’t care AT ALL how senior you are.

I have seen stories of 7th year law associates with dozens of deals getting rejected from IB roles because they couldn’t answer questions about the 3 financial statements.

Yes, it will take time to learn this material via online courses, books, in-person classes, or however else you want to approach it, which creates a problem: how do you get that kind of time?

Answer #1: Secondments and Rotational Programs

Many of the top law firms have rotational programs for new hires, so you might move through capital markets, M&A, real estate, tax, and other groups.

There are often breaks or “secondments” (where you work for a normal company temporarily) in between, where you get a reduced workload… and therefore time to learn the technical skills and network.

Answer #2: Take Your Time

If you don’t have this opportunity, spread out your learning over a longer time period.

Maybe it will take you 6 months instead of 2-3 weeks, but it’s really not rocket science, at least not the part you need for interviews.

Many lawyers mistakenly:

  1. Start networking before they know the technical side; or
  2. Attempt to cram and learn everything in a weekend.

Neither is a good strategy.

Plus, taking more time to learn these skills just makes your story more credible.

Networking Into Investment Banking: How to Become Shameless

Some people online will say that you need at least “several years of experience” to break into IB, but many stories contradict this.

As with any other career transition, the sooner the better.

It’s doable with only 1-2 years of full-time experience, and sometimes even less than 1 year.

Headhunters tend to be useless, so you should focus on alumni from undergrad and law school, plus former co-workers.

Do NOT ignore junior bankers – they can’t get you interviews/offers, but they can give you lots of information on the group, and they can introduce you to more senior people on the team.

If you do know someone more senior on the team (e.g., a Group Head), yes, contact that person first.

But if you don’t know anyone, contact an analyst first and then ask to be put in touch with an associate, then a VP, and so on, and move up the ladder like that.

Helpful vs. Useless Contacts

Former lawyers from your own firm, followed by former lawyers from other firms, will be your most helpful connections.

Networking is all about follow-up, and you’ll always get a significantly higher response rate from quick, 1-2 sentence follow-up emails sent after your initial email.

Do not underestimate the randomness of opportunities, and don’t limit yourself to specific groups at banks.

Yes, technically you have a better chance in groups with some legal overlap, like Restructuring, but…

I’ve also seen lawyers reach out to contacts they haven’t spoken to in years, find out the contact is in an unrelated division, ask about anyone he/she knows in IB, and ultimately get interviews like that.

So ideally you’ll contact bankers first, but if not, reaching out to people in other divisions at any large bank can work well.

What to Expect When Networking: “Objection, Your Honor!”

You need to be careful to avoid negativity in your story, and it’s the same when networking.

Even if you’ve emailed someone dozens of times and you haven’t heard back, you cannot let it get to you or you’ll never make any progress.

It can also be tough to convince bankers that you’d be comfortable doing the job since law is perceived as being dramatically different.

You can counter this objection by knowing the technical side very well, and even bringing in your own models and valuations… IF you know your stuff.

You can start most conversations with a simple “So what advice do you have for a lawyer moving into investment banking?” and go from there; networking is networking even in a career change.

How to Interview Like You’re a New Star on Suits

Assuming you’ve done well and progressed to more formal interviews, you’re in for a ride because they vary quite a bit.

In rare cases, bankers will ask no technical questions… but then in equally rare cases, you might get a valuation / modeling case study.

On average, though, the “fit” questions are very predictable (“Why are you switching into finance? Why now? Why banking?”) and the technical questions are quite standard (depreciation changing by $10, linking the statements, etc.).

Even if you somehow happen to get a case study, it’s usually of the form: “Here’s an annual and interim report – build a 3-statement model and valuation for the company, along with the football field graph at the end.”

So it is time-consuming, but it doesn’t require a huge amount of critical analysis, and, again, this is very rare from all the accounts I’ve seen.

You should also be prepared to discuss the business details of your cases.

Two examples from previous coaching clients come to mind:

  • Corporate Loan – One reader listed the key result of his work – an increased credit line – but then he could not explain the credit stats and ratios (Debt / EBITDA, EBITDA / Interest, etc.) that determined the appropriate amount of credit.
  • Deal Financing – In another case, a reader listed an M&A deal on his resume and an interviewer at a bank started asking about the mix of cash, stock, and debt, and the rationale for that mix. He knew the purchase price and the valuation stats, but couldn’t explain this side as well.

So it’s not enough to know a few stats about the purchase price and the valuation – you can and will be grilled on more detailed numbers.

If you don’t know this information for the deals and clients listed on your resume, find it and make sure you can comfortably speak to these numbers.

The hiring process itself, similar to lateral hiring anywhere, can be prolonged because banks are under no time pressure to hire you.

After your interviews begin, it might take anywhere from 1-2 months up to 6 months to win an offer.

Case Closed: An Offer as an IB Associate?

If you perform well and receive an offer, you’ll most likely join as a 1st or 2nd year Associate.

If you have a lot more experience, e.g. you are a 7th year Associate up for promotion to Partner, you might move in at a slightly higher level, but you’d never move in as a Managing Director.

Think: “Beyond a 1st or 2nd year Associate, but still not at the VP-level, unless it’s a smaller bank or a smaller regional office of a bank.”

You may also end up taking a pay cut depending on your current level; for example, 1st and 2nd year IB Associates might earn 50-60% of what 7th year Associates at top corporate law firms earn.

You’ll move up and match that pay fairly quickly if you do well, but you need to be psychologically ready for this drop.

What If It Didn’t Work: Demanding a Retrial

If you made it through interviews but did not get an offer, you need to pinpoint why by asking the interviewers directly.

The most common reasons I’ve seen include:

  • “We like you, but this other candidate had more relevant work experience.”
  • “We like you, but we’re not sure you have the technical knowledge to do this and we don’t have time to train you.”

If it’s the first reason, you can’t do much other than continue to interview around at different firms.

But if it’s the second reason, potentially you could go back to them and make your case again, if you’re confident you do have the skills.

This tends to work better on the sales & trading side, but it can also work here if they’re wrong and you have enough evidence to prove it.

The Law to Investment Banking Roadmap

So if you’re sitting in a frustrating law job right now and you’ve always wanted to get into finance, follow everything above and nail your story and the technical side, network without shame, and interview like you’re on TV to break in.

And if it doesn’t work the first time around, you can always go for the “retrial” option.

Just try not to make a habit of it.

A controversial case may make for the most popular podcast of all time, but it doesn’t work quite as well when it’s your own story.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hi, Brian. I am an international law graduate this year and want to get into banking industry as soon as possible. I have an LL.B. from Chinese law school and then attended T-14 law school in the U.S. (yeah, my background is all about law). I now have offers from i-banks in China (my home country). I feel like facing a dilemma here. It is currently impossible for me to get into prestigious i-banks on Wall Street unless I get into a top MBA first (which requires 3-5 yrs work experience). Yet, I am afraid my experience in the ibd of Chinese banks will not be good enough to qualify me for top MBA. Also, I really want to get into the industry as soon as possible. So I am considering one-year program like Master in Finance under B-school to help me break into the job market in the U.S., and get an MBA in a few yrs. Do you think this is a good idea?

      1. Thanks Brian. I have read quite a few of your articles, and it seems to me that when interviewing candidates, ibd tends to ask professional/technical questions relating to modeling or sometimes macroeconomics (to which I had zero exposure). I planned to teach myself all the relevant knowledge, but I am not sure to what degree is command of such knowledge enough. Given the questions ibd interviews ask, does that mean we need to have the same command of finance/economics as those majoring it? If so, do you think it is sensible to switch to finance (assuming after earning a master degree) as a law graduate instead of experienced lawyer since we have much less industrial knowledge?

        1. Yes. You need to know the topic pretty well or you won’t get too far in interviews. It is possible to switch into finance, but you should do so only if you have the personality and mindset required to do so (e.g., for investment banking, you MUST like sales, speaking with potential clients, etc. because it becomes more and more of a sales job as you move up).

          1. Thank you very much for the rely, Brian. I have just one more question: which one is a better route to i-banks, law firms or rating agencies as a first job? (I heard people say rating agencies are backdoor to high-finance).

          2. Rating agencies are better since you don’t have to spend 3 years and hundreds of thousands on law school first.

  2. Hi,

    I am interested in pursuing an MBA before I move into an investment banking firm. Do you think US business schools take in lawyers who have worked at a corporate law firm for 2-3 years in the M&A segment directly, without any IB firm or other finance experience?

    1. They do, but it’s not common

  3. Hi Brian, I have just found this article as I am researching the topic of how to get into PE as a lawyer. My case is slightly different, and therefore, I would be grateful if you could share your insights. I am a Hungarian qualified lawyer (from a top law school), worked at a top tier international law firm for 6 years on M&A and PE deals, then I set up my own practice. Within my own practice, I provided commercial and corporate legal advice, did a few distressed asset and debt restructuring transactions, and business development work for a global financial services provider, besides sourcing work and deals for myself on an ongoing basis. In 2015 I left to Singapore and did business development work there, promoting commercial real estate investment opportunities and looking for investors for certain residency/citizenship schemes. Now I am in London and continue to work on a few hotel investment projects from the CEE, however, due to the fact that they are progressing very slowly, and also because I would like to move on in my career, I have just recently came to the conclusion that PE would make a lot of sense for me. Just like other lawyers, I lack the technical skills as well. And therefore, I was thinking that instead of pursuing a role as a PE Associate, I could break into the system on the ‘investor relations’ side. Does this sound feasible to you? Later on, of course, I would like to do an MBA in order to get the relevant education. I am currently 36. Does this make any difference? Thank you.

    1. A better idea is to pursue real estate private equity roles, which you have a much better chance at getting than standard PE roles. Also, I don’t think investor relations would help you get into standard PE firms.

      1. Avatar
        Dr. Aliz Kardos

        Thank you Brian. Appreciate your input. Please allow me two additional questions. 1. What roles would you have in mind with my background? 2. Would I need to complete any courses or get relevant education before I apply?

        1. 1) Associate-level roles in RE PE. 2) Maybe learn something more about how RE PE funds operate and how to analyze investments.

  4. Hi, love this great article.

    I am a corporate lawyer with ECM and DCM experience working in a top law firm. I’m on secondment with the legal team of a bulge bracket bank. However, in this secondment every one I work with is a lawyer. All the bankers sit in another building and I do not contact any of them on the matters I work on.

    In this case,

    1. What’s the best way to network and move into the ECM / DCM investment banking division?

    2. If network through the lawyers in the legal team (say VP/ED/MD level), should I have casual chat with them in the office or ask if they are free for quick coffee or drink?

    3. Should I make my story clear to them that I’m interested in moving to the front office (bearing in mind that they are lawyers and are in the legal team and I’m also a lawyer in the legal team)?

    Thank you for your advice.

    1. 1) Reach out directly via LinkedIn and email, or ask for referrals within your company to anyone who knows bankers there.

      2) Probably start with a casual chat and then take it from there, and ask for coffee or a phone call with anyone who is less accessible.

      3) Probably not, unless there’s precedent for moving into IB from the legal team. In this case it’s better to use more discretion and mention this only when you’re contacting bankers directly and they’re speaking with just you.

      1. Hi Brain, thank your for your reply. i’m now one step closer!

        Based on your advice, I managed to schedule a quick coffee with an investment banker in the bank. We have worked on same deals before (me as lawyer and him as banker) so we have common topics to talk about and he’s ok to meet. It’s an informal catch up initiated by me. He doesn’t know my ultimate goal is to see if i can join his team. He’s at VP level and leads most deals in his team.

        So what’s the plan when I meet this person for coffee? As it’s an informal catch up and not a job interview, im planning to do the following.

        1. a general chat about the deals we worked on together and people we both know. just like normal conversation when meeting a new person.

        2. ask him questions about the team structure and the work in his team.

        3. express an interest in the type of work he does and whether there is an opportunity to join his team.

        4. whether he says yes or no or don’t know, ask what’s the best way to follow up with him in order to secure a further meeting with him or a more senior person to discuss my credentials.

        5. (not sure if this may come across as too aggressive or this is actually the purpose of the meeting in order to proceed to next step). offer to email him my CV so he can consider or pass to a more senior person (eg ED/MD) in his team.

        Your advice on the above is appreciated. Thank you!

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, I think your plan and the 5 steps are fair. Good luck with the chat!

  5. Hi, Brian:

    I worked in finance with one of the big banks for 7 years right out of college. I stopped to go to law school, and would like to go back directly into investment banking. I’ve reached out to the recruiters, my old supervisor and VP of my division and they are giving me awesome tips…but the jobs I am looking for are outside of that division now and above their pay grade so they aren’t able to really make the “right” connections. What do you suggest for someone coming right out of law school with banking experience?

    1. If they don’t know the right people at the bank, you’ll have to find and contact those people directly via LinkedIn… so search for bankers at the firm in the location you’re applying to and contact them yourself and mention your previous experience in the first line of the email.

  6. Avatar

    Hi Brian,

    Have been following your blog for a few years now (right back since I was at university in Hong Kong) and remember getting an ECM summer analyst stint literally on the back of going through some of your interview prep guides, so thanks for that!

    I qualified as a lawyer in Hong Kong (since you attend law school as an undergraduate in many Commonwealth countries, including the UK, Singapore/HK and Australia) and trained in HK with a top London law firm specialising in project financing and debt capital markets work.

    I have since move to Dubai and am currently a 26-year old second-year associate with my present firm. I earn US$170,000 per annum as a base salary (with an additional 10-15% bonus at year end), and given that this is completely tax-free, I reckon I would need to be on a base salary of at least US$255,000 or GBP160,000 in NYC/London to earn the same amount as I do here in the Middle East.

    With this profile, do you think that it still makes sense for me to try and break into IB? Don’t mean to sound like a mercenary, but I would only be tempted by a sizeable jump in compensation, and keeping in mind that the most obvious lateral move for me would be into the project finance/DCM team at a bank, I’m not sure if the move makes any financial sense for me at my level.

    Would love to hear you thoughts on this, and thanks again for all the great materials on your site. Cheers.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can still try and break into IB with your profile, but it can be challenging if you don’t have the valuation/deal experience. DCM/project finance can also be quite technical. So if you really want to do deals and are more interested in the finance side of things then yes it makes sense. Otherwise I’m not 100% sure.

      In terms of getting a higher base salary in NY/London, this might be achievable depending on the firm and role that you’ll be interviewing for. With the above being said, I am not sure if you’ll need to take other qualifications/exams to work in NY/London (since you’ve been trained in HK) and you may also need visa sponsorship – these factors may also affect your pay and chances of working in those two cities. I may actually consider looking at roles in HK too given your background.

      1. Avatar

        Thanks Nicole. The NYC/London salary comparisons were just a guide since most global banks tend to peg their salaries at similar bands across big financial centres. I would of course be more than willing to work in HK instead (far less tax!) but reckon I would still need to be paid approx. HKD1.4mn a year to make the same as I do in law. I am not aware of any major bank (not even GS,MS, etc.) which pays this much as base compensation at associate level.

        I guess at my stage there are no significant or immediate comparative financial rewards for moving into investment banking (compared to my current profile in law), so will stick to drafting the contracts for now :) …cheers.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks for sharing. Yes if you really want to move, you may have to think through other factors you may gain/give up throughout the process. If you want to work in another country in the longer term you may want to move sooner rather than later, even if this means that you may get paid less initially. I’d focus on the longer term picture, versus the initial pay, as hard as it may sound, but that’s just my personal opinion. Good luck!

  7. Does this article hold true for a corporate attorney looking to move into private equity? Or would you have different advice or is there another, better route to go? (Eg lawyer -> I-bank -> PE? or lawyer -> MBA -> PE?)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say lawyer – IB – PE is a better route though the latter also works.

      1. Other articles on this website have suggested that a lawyer moving to IB generally comes in as an IB associate. However, the general consensus seems to be that it’s difficult to move from IB to PE as an IB associate as opposed to moving from IB to PE as an IB analyst. How does that factor in? Also, would a move from law straight to PE without an MBA be possible?

        1. Yes, it is harder to get into PE as an IB associate. But it is possible, especially if you do it early on (within the first 1-2 years). Going from law straight to PE would be very difficult unless you are moving in at a much more senior level or you are not actually doing investment-related work.

  8. Hi, I am currently pursuing a five-year integrated undergraduate law program (I am in 5th and final year and up on completion I will earn a B.B.A., L.L.B. degree) from a very reputed (top-3) law college in India. However, I want to do MBA from one of the top 5 B-schools in the US after working for 3-5 years in a law firm in India and thereafter, get into Investment Banking in the States.

    Now, that’s a plan for now and because I have literally no background in finance, after reading several of your articles and having realised the importance of having a background and work experience in finance, I am verily skeptical about my chances of making it to the top Investment Banks in the US.

    Thus, I would like to have your advice on the course of action that I should ideally take for the 3-5 years of graduating from my law college and before getting into a B-school so as to ensure that I land my dream job. And for this, I would like to give you a little insight about the existing circumstances with me. Basically, because of my modest grades (4.2/7), I am not likely to land a job in the biggest law firms in India or the magic circle, like some of my friends but I can still manage to get a job in a reputable firm in India assuming that I decide to work in an area like taxation instead of restructuring, etc. However, I have read your articles and I understand that it’s always better for a lawyer, who intends to get into IB, to have a work experience in M&A/restructuring than taxation. Therefore, if this is always the case, then, I want to know that should I go for a lesser known law firms in India where I get to work in core corporate, securities, restructuring and other related matters which overlap with the job profile of an IB or a decent firm where I am working in taxation or yet in one of the Big 4s (I have a job offer form PwC) where although I would get to work in taxation but the company itself has diversified practices including Investment Banking and M&A?

    Also, I know that you don’t appreciate certifications and such other distractions but given the fact that I don’t have a background in finance and the top Investment Banks in US, in addition to an MBA degree from a top B-school also look for a background in finance in their candidates, so, what do you think I should do so as to stand out and increase my chances of getting recruited with them!? Do you think it would be advisable for me to do some course (certificate or Masters) in Finance/Economics/etc.? What about interning with these banks? How can I do that or is there something else that I can do?

    Thanks and wish you all a very Happy New Year 2015!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes this maybe more useful – a lesser known law firms in India where I get to work in core corporate, securities, restructuring and other related matters which overlap with the job profile of an IB

      An MBA at a target school (LSE, Penn, Columbia etc) in your case would help.

      In the future, please limit your questions to below 150 words.

  9. Hey Brian & Team…I wish you all a Merry Christmas (belated) and a prosperous New Year!
    I just got formally introduced to modeling at work; feels like I got face slapped with a sandbag. Was given Wiley Finance on IB; hope it helps. Will it?

    I have been interviewing with a BIG AFRICAN IB Firm; I’m en route to the 3rd round (thanks in no small part to M&I). Its an interview with the MD/CEO; a monster of a banker with a prestigious background. As he could decide my fate with a click of his email send button, how do I approach this interview?

    1. Thanks! Yes, the book will be helpful but you should check out our modeling tutorials to learn more (see: You really need to see someone run through a model in Excel firsthand to understand it.

      I wouldn’t approach the interview any differently. MD/CEO interviews tend to be easier, actually, because they focus more on qualitative questions. So if anything, I would make sure your story is polished and get some practice with public speaking / presentations.

  10. Hi Brian,
    I had a question but not directly related to law > IB since that’s not the path I ended up taking. I have a JD and I’ve been working in M&A Tax at a Big 4 for a couple years – any idea how this kind of thing would/could translate into pitching myself to IBD? Or would there be better initial step to take before trying to make that move?
    Also, when does age become a concern for someone who may be trying to move over as an Associate level (if that’s even possible)?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole maybe useful

      I’d say if you’re past the Associate level, transitioning to IB can be challenging. Otherwise, the transition maybe easier. In terms of the exact age, I don’t really want to give an exact number but I’d say early 30s.

  11. How can a lawyer focused on M&A break into restructuring banking?

    1. Learn about restructuring first (see our previous articles on the topic – there are some good guides online as well such as:

      Then, figure out your story (interest in M&A –> worked on M&A deals –> found restructuring more interesting so learned more about that) and start reaching out to contacts at banks with strong restructuring teams (generally smaller firms – Blackstone, Lazard, HLHZ are well-known but other firms such as Moelis and other boutiques / MM firms also have it).

      And then follow the tips above for interview tips and explaining your deal experience.

  12. I am Company Secretary from India currently working in small corporate Law firm already handling compliance and procedures for Mergers to be made under the Indian company laws.
    I really want to switch to finance but facing difficulties as my work and education is more towards legal side rather than financial.
    I want to know what would be the best short term finance course so that i can get a chance as an Financial analyst in the industry…
    The renowned stock exchanges already provide some courses but i am still confused…i have few options like…
    1. Bombay stock exchange
    2. National stock exchange
    3. ARC school of finance (Wall street training in India )
    4. Copal Institute ( Copal Amba’s training institute)

    Please suggest…thanks

    1. I can’t comment on those courses as I’m not familiar with them, but if you’re working full-time I would strongly recommend something you can do at your own pace and/or after work. I think specialized financial trainers will generally be more helpful than courses offered by the stock exchanges because those tend to be too general.

  13. Brian, you mentioned a couple of times about negativity in the interview. I was wondering if you could sort of flesh that out a little bit. Is this common with lawyers interviewing at banks? Are they negative about their current job, or is it something else?

    By the way, the table of contents in Word function was funny as hell. I think that’s an excellent description of the duties of almost every single person I’ve known that went into law school and then hated their corporate law job.

    1. Yes, it’s common with lawyers interviewing at banks and they tend to be very negative about their current jobs. Common comments are: “All I do is edit documents” or “We just do the paperwork as the deal is closing” or “We don’t make any business-related decisions.”

      While those may be true to some extent, it’s still a bad idea to say things like that in an interview. You should focus on the benefits of the role you’re interviewing for rather than the downsides of your current role.

  14. Great article, Brian. Its like you were present at my interview. Though only an intership position; I was bombarded with questions like “why finance?”, “why banking?”, “do you watch suits?” (though having watched every episode till date, I sensed a trap and answered; NO!) No technical questions; as I pretty much screamed I have no technical skills every time I sensed a related question coming. I was however peppered with current affairs in the industry questions. Your article is an absolute must read for lawyers seeking a switch to IB.

    Now on the job, there’s a real possibility that after my term is up I could win a full time offer. Need to show that I’m the best for the slot. Any links for tips on this?

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks! Amazing that they actually asked you about “Suits”. Winning a full-time offer: I think everything in this article still applies:

      And all the previous summer internship articles. In general, it’s much more about “not screwing up” than doing something spectacular… and it’s much better to get 1-2 strong advocates for your candidacy than trying to get to know every single person there very well, as you just don’t have time for that.

  15. Assuming you work for a “V20” firm, does it matter that much which one you work for?

    1. I think there is a bit of a difference between the top 10 vs. the top 20 – probably not a big enough difference to justify trying to move to one that’s ranked slightly better, but it’s there (I’m basing this on how most transitions I’ve seen were from people at roughly the top 10).

      1. Thanks! What do the resumes of successful candidates have in common?

        1. In general:

          -Top law firm name, or at least one that’s known to banks

          -2-3 deal/client experiences that are spun into sounding relevant to business

          -Evidence of other jobs/internships/side projects that relate to finance somehow

          -Not “cluttered” with too many entries that are relevant for law, but not finance (e.g., short clerkships at smaller firms)

          The resume templates on this site still work, so most of the work involves spinning your work experience appropriately (in particular, adjusting the focus to relatively small details of the case that are nevertheless more closely related to finance).

  16. Does the law school you went to matter?

    1. Excuse me Mara, if I may? I feel it boils down to the individual more than his law school, though a prestigious law school won’t hurt. Prominent bankers like Bruce Wasserstein and Adebayo Ogunlesi attended Harvard Law School (though both attended Harvard Business School as well.) But on the other hand, James Gorman; CEO, Morgan Stanley obtained his law degree from the University of Melbourne (he then attended Columbia Business School). Though it seems a pattern of obtaining an MBA after or before law school has been established, from the above examples; the law school one attends may not matter much.

      1. Thanks for adding that. Yes, an MBA post-law school is a pattern as well, though definitely not necessary to get in.

    2. Maybe a bit, but your law firm matters a lot more. So what Dozie said.

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