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Alternative Legal Careers

Typically 10% of YLS graduates are working in a business setting five years after graduating law school. The opportunities in business vary greatly from being an attorney within an in-house group to pursuing a non-practicing business role. Alumni are encouraged to speak with a counselor in CDO to discuss the particular business role they are interested in and to create a job search strategy specific to that industry and role. The following section briefly discusses the most popular business careers pursued by YLS alumni, including consulting, finance, and non-profit management. For a more detailed discussion about each of these careers, refer to the Lawyers in Business Guide

Careers in Consulting
In the simplest definition, consultants give professional advice. In the broadest sense there are three types of consulting firms. First are the large management consulting specialists that offer primarily strategy consulting but are not specialized in any specific industry. Second, there are boutique firms which have consulting expertise in specific industries or technologies. Finally, there are large, diversified organizations that offer a range of services, in addition to a strategy consulting practice.

At the large management firms consultants start as generalists and may specialize in later years. Business models at firms vary, but for many firms a large portion of the engagement, up to four days a week, is spent at the client’s site. Therefore, consulting involves a large amount of travel; however most firms will fly consultants home on weekends when feasible.

Consulting firms seek candidates with strong analytical and quantitative skills, teamwork capability, leadership, interpersonal skills, presentation skills, energy, flexibility, maturity, and creativity. Because the large consulting firms have offices around the world, they are also interested in candidates with strong foreign language skills.

Selected Resources (Visit Resources for a complete list of CDO Resources): 
Lawyers in Business Guide
Vault Guide to Consulting Careers, Vault / 2014
Vault Guide to the Top 50 Management & Strategy Consulting Firms- 2009 Edition, Vault / 2015
WetFeet Insider Guide - 25 Top Consulting Firms, WetFeet Inc. / 2008
WetFeet Insider Guide to Consulting for PhDs, Lawyers, and Doctors, WetFeet Inc. / 2008
Consultants News 
Top Consultant  
Association of Management Consulting Firms (US)  
The Management Consultancies Association (UK)  

Careers in Finance
The world of finance is appealing to some law graduates, typically those with business backgrounds, strong quantitative skills, and no fear of working long hours. Among the areas of finance that YLS alumni have been drawn to include investment banking, venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds. Each of these is discussed briefly below. 

Investment Banking
Investment banking positions are known for their competitiveness, work pressure, prestige and huge salaries. The responsibilities of investment banking associates are similar to those of a corporate law firm associate in that bankers negotiate on behalf of their clients, draft documents, and conduct due diligence. However, bankers also pitch new ideas for transactions and focus more on valuation and therefore get involved in transactions at an earlier stage. Generally speaking, investment banking associates work longer hours than law firm associates and management consultants (on average work 80-100 hours/week), and at a more hectic pace; however total compensation is usually higher. Analytical and quantitative skills are highly valued by these employers.

For alumni interested in investment banking the first step is to learn about the industry. Keep abreast of current financial news and network with fellow YLS alumni in the banking field using YLS Career Connections. Networking is extremely important to finding a position as an investment banker. Take stock of the banking clients you have worked for and the connections you have made. These will be invaluable when considering this transition.

Venture Capital
Venture capital (VC) firms invest their own money in companies in return for a hefty share of stock and future profits. Venture capitalists are more than financiers; they provide guidance, services and support to the business in which they’ve invested, and expect to be treated as partners. The work of a venture capital firm includes selecting investments, completing the relevant transactions, and managing the investments.

Most venture capital firms are quite small, ranging from one to 40 people, and the entire industry represents a very small portion of people in the field of finance. The responsibilities of an analyst or associate often includes performing research and strategic planning, negotiating and working with investment bankers and acquirers of the company, raising more money from other equity sources, and negotiating with banks for debt financing.

Ultimately, the key to landing a job with a venture capital firm is networking. The most successful candidates will have experience in management consulting or investment banking, or expertise in a specific industry. As a result, you may have better success breaking into this field after a few years with another financial industry position.

Private Equity
The goal of the private equity fund is to improve the performance of a company and then sell their stake at a profit. This may be done through an initial public offering (IPO) of the company’s shares, a sale to a private buyer, or asset stripping where the company is broken up and its assets are sold.

Jobs in private equity funds are divided into distinct areas, including: number crunching; appraising and executing deals; originating deals; and support roles such as investor relations. Private equity firms make their money by selling their stakes in portfolio companies to corporate buyers or floating their stakes on the public market through IPOs. In addition, firms make money through their annual management fees, which are typically 1-2% of the total amount of the fund.

Private equity funds do not employ many people and when they do, they look for experience in investment banking or strategy consulting. For junior number crunching positions, a strong financial background is required. For more senior roles, it is helpful if you can build a strong rapport with company executives and you have experience with strategy and the requirements of running a business. As with other finance jobs, networking is the key to securing a position. 

Hedge Funds
The term hedge fund was originally used to categorize institutional investment partnerships that were able to hedge market exposure, but have evolved over time to employ a wide range of investment strategies. Hedge funds vary in size from as little as two employees to as many as 500 employees. A typical hedge fund will have the following departments: operations, accounting, trading, and risk and investor relations. The responsibilities of the employees in these departments vary depending on the size of the hedge fund and its work environment.

Most recent graduates interested in hedge funds are best-suited for the analyst role. In general, analysts are expected to make trading recommendations on their own instead of as part of a large team. Employee compensation structures vary widely, but most investment professionals at a hedge fund earn a modest salary and a larger bonus, which becomes tied to their performance and/or the overall performance of the firm.

Most hedge funds seek to hire investment professionals with prior experience. Ultimately, you will likely need experience in another finance area before making the switch to a hedge fund.

Selected Resources (Visit Resources for a complete list of CDO Resources): 
Lawyers in Business Guide
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews, Vault / 2008
Vault Guide to the Top Financial Services Employers, Vault / 2009
Vault Guide to Investment Management- 2009 Edition, Vault / 2009
WetFeef Insider Guide - 25 Top Financial Services Firms, WetFeew Inc. / 2008

Non-Profit Management
Attorneys seeking non-legal roles with non-profit organizations often consider management positions. In general non-profit managers are responsible for administering non-profit organizations and increasing profits—not for investors and shareholders, but for the individuals to whom the organization is dedicated to helping. Because non-profit organizations often have limited resources senior management is valued for their ability to manage cross-functionally. Successful managers require strong leadership skills as well as an understanding of basic business concepts, such as accounting, marketing, and business administration.

Non-profit organizations will seek candidates that are passionate about the mission of their organization. In addition they value strong management, leadership and team-building skills, as well as strategy and/or consulting experience.

Selected Resources (Visit Resources for a complete list of CDO Resources):
Financial Support for Public Interest 
Rhonda Joy McLean, JD '83 —Deputy General Counsel, Time Inc.
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