In House Practice
At some point in a small and non-public company’s existence, its executives may decide that it makes business sense for the company to hire an in-house lawyer. The reasons may include the expense and inefficiency of using outside counsel for all legal matters or the desire to include a mind with legal training among the company’s decision makers. Depending on a lawyer’s level of experience and that lawyer’s anticipated role within the company, the lawyer may be hired to manage and oversee all legal relationships—internal and external to the company—or, in some less frequent cases, to perform a more narrow function, such as administering commercial contracts.
- Some common responsibilities for this type of in-house position may include:
- Setting up the appropriate corporate structure for the company, whether it be a C corporation, subchapter S corporation, limited liability company, or partnership, and reviewing use of subsidiaries to limit liability and obtain favorable tax treatment.
- Making sure that the company is complying with all corporate formalities, such as by-laws, board meetings, board minutes, resolutions, annual meetings, state filings, and stock issuance, to name a few.
- Ensuring that all company assets are properly protected (particularly intellectual property) and that patents have been filed, trademarks applied for, and copyright labeling properly utilized by the company, particularly with regard to its sales and marketing function.
- Developing and implementing a code of conduct and employee policies, including training and employee agreements, in areas such as sexual harassment, confidentiality and non-disclosure, ethics, government relations, bribery, conflict of interests, and so forth.
- Complying with state and federal employment laws.
- Reviewing tax status and coordinating with the finance department’s tax group.
- Complying with applicable federal, state, and international regulations, including obtaining any necessary licenses to conduct the company’s business such as service authorizations which, in a regulated industry, take on great importance.
- Documenting all legal relationships with written contracts, standardizing frequently used agreements and forms, and implementing an approval process for decision-making.
- Managing litigation, generally handled by outside counsel, particularly if it involves substantial risk or assets.
- Overseeing outside counsel, determining what to outsource, managing the legal budget, and supervising staff, if any.
The in-house counsel for a small company thus serves as a jack-of-all-trades and should be prepared to handle everything from first-year associate-like matters to problems that senior law firm partners would typically handle. Because a company will usually seek as its first lawyers people with experience and demonstrated abilities, and because those lawyers will not be robustly surrounded by legal colleagues and supervisors, the opportunity to serve as a company’s first several lawyers will likely come after several years of legal practice.
To grow, a company needs capital. A company can take many avenues for obtaining that capital: it can seek to go public by listing its stock on an accredited exchange for purchase and trading by the general public; it can sell shares in a private placement; or it can exchange equity for capital from venture capitalists. To go public and for most private placements, a company must comply with the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). That means the company needs lawyers.
As a company prepares to sell part of its equity to raise capital, the role of the in-house lawyer is enhanced. In taking the company public, the general counsel will work with outside counsel to coordinate preparation of all filings with the SEC, comply with state blue sky laws, as well as work with investment bankers and underwriters as applicable. At this point, the attorney’s primary client is probably the company’s chief financial officer, who is generally managing the fundraising process for the company. Additionally, the company may be ready to expand its legal department as its day-to-day legal requirements increase and become more varied.
A lawyer with only a few years of experience may be well-suited to one of the secondary roles in a growing company (typically known as an assistant or deputy general counsel). In addition to the benefits noted above, a lawyer joining a company at this stage will have the experience of working and networking with the legal and investment communities in a concerted effort to take the business to a new level.
Large companies, such as Fortune 500 companies, will have many in-house lawyers. Headed by a chief legal officer or a general counsel, the legal department in a large company may have numerous associates or attorneys holding the rank of assistant general counsel, and perhaps 100 or more staff attorneys working to service the needs of the company.
The responsibilities of an attorney in a large in-house legal department vary depending on the department’s structure. The department may be centralized, with attorneys working in groups supervised by an assistant general counsel and ultimately the general counsel. In this structure, each group is typically given responsibility for certain discrete areas, such as litigation, corporate governance, tax, contracts, regulatory affairs, or employment. In the other model, the attorneys are decentralized and each division or business unit of the company may have lawyers who handle a wide range of general issues involving just that particular division, with the division legal head reporting dually to the division business head and the corporate legal head.
In many cases, a significant part of an in-house attorney’s time in a large company is spent interacting with outside legal counsel. As a result, it is critical that an in-house attorney has excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, and business savvy.
An individual consulting assignment, called a case, study, project, or engagement, can last for many months, and sometimes years. For longer engagements, such as implementations, individual consultants are usually rotated off prior to the engagement’s conclusion, in order to ensure that they gain a breadth of experience. On average, a typical assignment lasts 3-6 months. Due diligences will run shorter, and implementations and transformations will run longer. There is some variance among and across consulting firms, but in general a consultant is expected to be present at the client’s location for a large portion of the engagement, often between Monday and Thursday of most working weeks. As a result, consulting work can involve a tremendous amount of time away from home. However, offices and industries will vary substantially in the amount of travel required. For example, a financial institutions consultant based in New York may travel very little, while an oil and gas consultant in that same office might be taking a flight to Texas, Louisiana, or the Midwest almost every week.
In contrast to legal practice, which can involve a more solitary working style, consulting is generally collaborative by nature. Consultants will typically work in the “team room” with other consultants and their manager, with multiple formal and informal touchpoints throughout the day. They will also collaborate directly with clients. Moreover, they will frequently brainstorm hypotheses with their engagement team, partners, and the client.
As with law firm attorneys, there is no standard schedule for consultants—if a big presentation or deadline is looming, consultants are expected to put in the overtime to get the work done. The conventional wisdom is that consultants generally tend to work a similar amount of hours to large law firm associates, but with more travel. However, many people will also note that many of these hours spent working by management consultants come in a more predictable schedule (frequently involving a far higher percentage of protected weekends and evenings) than for their large law firm associate counterparts. Moreover, consultants typically bill by the week, rather than by the hour, effectively meaning that they are incentivized to work as quickly and as efficiently as possible, and that working extra-long hours goes, from this perspective, unrewarded.
With this hard work also comes a high salary. Entry-level associates at a major consulting firm can expect to earn salaries similar to their colleagues at the larger law firms, with the expectation that their compensation will grow at a faster rate. For example, a new associate hired to an elite consulting firm may start with a base salary of, e.g., $165,000 or more plus an approximately $25,000 signing bonus plus a performance bonus at the end of the year between approximately 15-30% of the base. While consultants earn similar cash compensation to law firm associates, consulting firms tend to have stronger fringe benefits, typically in the form of automatic 401(k) contributions worth approximately 5-10% of their salaries, along with excellent healthcare plans at, frequently, no employee contribution. Unlike most law firms with lock-step salary structures, compensation for consultants is largely performance-based. Salary increases and bonuses for consultants can vary widely by their third or fourth years with the organization, though this also varies by firm.
Early Preparations for Students Interested in Exploring Consulting
Most consulting firms do not hire 1Ls for summer internships, and those that do generally only do so in a very limited fashion. While you can of course apply to consulting firms that accept 1L applications during your 1L year, consider using your first law-school summer to pursue employment that will help you to develop useful skills in preparation for interviewing with consulting firms in the first part of your 2L year. More specifically, and if possible, try to pursue experiences that bolster your analytical ability, particular quantitative skills, and ability to work in collaborative teams. Working for a corporate law firm or as an intern for a legal or non-legal department of a corporation are two good choices.
In addition, take some time during your 1L year and summer to reach out to alumni who are in the consulting field through some of the resources mentioned above. If you do not already, you may wish to start reading The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times business section, Fortune magazine, and other business publications. If you do not already possess strong analytical and quantitative skills, consider taking a few courses at the Yale School of Management (SOM), including strategy courses, corporate finance, and economics. You also may wish to consider the possibility of pursuing a joint JD-MBA degree, whether with SOM or another business school.
Also keep your eyes open for events, programs, and opportunities at the law school, many of which are organized by CDO and the Yale Law & Business Society, that are designed to introduce students to the world of management consulting; connect them with alumni who work in this space; and familiarize them with some of the unique aspects of the management consulting recruiting process.
Student Application Timeline
Consulting firms tend to recruit law students for summer and permanent positions in a window that spans summer through early winter (usually between July and December). Be sure to check the websites and career-related portals of all consulting firms in which you are interested over the spring and early summer prior to your application window in order to familiarize yourself with their application deadlines and procedures. CDO will also circulate information about some of the recruiting timelines and application deadlines for those consulting firms that regularly recruit YLS students.
A note on the navigating the timing of legal employers’ and consulting firms’ sometimes-different application processes: Depending upon the recruiting timelines of the consulting firms in which you are interested, legal employers to which you have also applied for summer or full-time post-graduate employment may have acceptance deadlines that fall prior to when you have received clarity about the status of your consulting firm applications. In some cases, offer acceptance deadlines from legal employers may fall prior to when you have even been able to apply to consulting firms in which you are interested.
Under the YLS CDO’s office Recruiting Policies, CDO now expects law firm employers recruiting at YLS to extend deadlines to accept employment offers until April 1 for student candidates pursuing positions in business on the condition that the candidate is holding open only one law firm offer. Accordingly, for example, 2Ls can obtain a law firm job offer and then ask that law firm to extend its offer’s acceptance deadline to accommodate their management consulting job searches. Another option for those looking for summer employment is to consider is accepting a law firm offer for half the summer and then continuing to seek consulting opportunities for the other half. Should you have questions about the application of these Recruiting Policies to your own particular circumstances, please speak with a CDO counselor.
Consulting firms seek candidates with strong analytical and quantitative skills, teamwork capability, leadership, interpersonal skills, presentation skills, energy, flexibility, maturity, and creativity.
Most of the large consulting firms want candidates to submit their applications online, usually through an application portal on the firms’ own websites. During that process, you will often be asked to, e.g., upload a résumé; provide information about your SAT, LSAT, and other standardized test scores; indicate which office locations are of interest to you; describe your foreign-language skills; and perhaps answer an essay question or two. Even if the consulting firm wishes to receive your application online, it is still extremely important that you first work your network. It is always preferable to get a foot in the door by reaching out to alumni, students, or others who have a relationship with the employer.
When crafting your résumé for consulting applications, be sure to mention your standardized test scores, even if you are also providing them to the firm in other parts of your application. Law students’ management consulting application-geared résumés generally contain the following sections: (1) Education; (2) Experience; (3) Leadership/Activities; (4) Technical Skills/Skills; and (5) Interests. Use bullet points for your descriptions, rather than paragraph form. Keep the bullet points short and start each bullet with an action verb.
You will also want to make sure to pay attention to the descriptions in your résumé’s Experience section. More so than with law firms, you need to use this section to focus on your accomplishments. Whenever possible, quantify the results of your work—demonstrate the direct impact of your contribution. Because leadership is important to consulting firms, use your résumé to highlight the leadership roles you have taken on, both in the workplace and in school. You may also wish to include a list of courses you have taken at the YLS or at SOM that demonstrate your quantitative skills, if they are not already transparent. Whenever possible, keep your résumé to one page.
See here for a sample résumé that is based upon the résumé of a YLS student who obtained a 2L summer position with a management consulting firm.
Interview and Assessments of Candidates
There are typically two rounds of interviews for consulting firms, consisting of behavioral and case interviews in each round. In the first round, there are typically two interviews with senior consultants or managers, each consisting of behavioral and case portions. In the final round, there are typically two or three interviews with partners, each also consisting of behavioral and case portions. Final-round interviews typically emphasize behavioral components and subjective “fit” more than prior interviews, and are more unpredictable. Each interview can last anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, with final-round interviews typically running a bit longer.
The behavioral part of these interviews contain questions about you, your résumé, and your accomplishments. Be prepared to answer questions related to your interest in consulting, especially as it relates to your decision to attend law school. Take the opportunity to highlight experiences that demonstrate your leadership ability, as well as your communication and teamwork skills. Consulting firms are most interested in your ability to manage conflict, persuade, and lead teams that deliver real results.
Next, the interviewer will present you with a business case and ask for your opinion. This is commonly referred to as a “case interview.” Your job is to ask the interviewer questions in order to obtain information that is ultimately sufficient for you to make a recommendation about the business case. The case interview is not about coming up with the correct answer, but instead about how you think on your feet, analyze the problem, and articulate a solution. The case interview is also meant to test your analytical, verbal, and presentation skills.
Case interview questions will often be constructed from real engagements, and are designed to be as reflective of the actual work of consulting as possible. Keep in mind as you prepare for case interviews that consulting firms are looking for a “top down” communication style, also known as the “pyramid principle” or “answer first.” The idea is that in executive-style communication, consultants are to lead with the most important part of their message—the conclusion—and then to build a logical supporting structure behind it.
Case interviews are key components of the consulting job search process, and your performance on them will be critical to your candidacy’s success. It is critical that you prepare and practice for these interviews. In addition to books like the widely recommended Case in Point and Case Interview Secrets, which prepare students for case interviews, many of the large management consulting firms including McKinsey, BCG, and Bain have practice cases available on their websites.
Also keep your eyes open for workshops and programs at YLS geared toward educating law students about case interviews or careers in management consulting more generally, which CDO regularly organizes in conjunction with the Yale Law & Business Society – as well as events convened by the larger management consulting firms that are geared toward teaching potential applicants how to successfully navigate the case interview process. In addition, you may wish to consider connecting with the Yale Graduate Consulting Club or with the Yale SOM Consulting Club, both of which provide student candidates with case interview practice and other preparation geared toward the unique management consulting-style interviews.
Some consulting firms will, in addition to the behavioral and case interviews, incorporate a problem-solving assessment as part of the interview process. This may be a written test or an online “game,” the purpose of which is to evaluate a candidate’s abstract thinking and analysis.
Investment banking is a notoriously tough industry. There is a strong emphasis on hard work, ambition, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is also an industry that revolves around money. While not everyone is comfortable with that type of environment, for some people it can provide an excellent fit. Not unlike a corporate law firm associate, the life of an investment banker revolves around the deal and is thus quite unpredictable. When the deal heats up, everyone on the team will be working at full throttle. When the market is soft, the work schedule can be a tad more reasonable. Although there can be some travel (especially as associates take on more responsibility with client meetings and road shows) it is not the same type of travel-intensive job of a management consultant.
It is sometimes said that investment banking associates work longer hours than law firm associates and management consultants (investment banking associates on average work 80-100 hours per week), and at a more hectic pace. In exchange for all this hard work, however, come hefty salaries. While there is some variance in compensation levels among and across investment banks, including elite boutiques and bulge bracket employers: Generally speaking, base salaries for associates at some of the larger and/or most esteemed investment banks can range from $110,000-190,000 per year, often with a significant signing bonus. With end-of-year bonuses, associates can often double their base salary after their first full year at the banks, although those end-of-year bonuses are discretionary. Vice presidents typically earn $500,000 or more per year, and directors can earn several million. Given the discretionary nature of banking bonuses, however, bankers’ overall incomes are very susceptible to market forces.
Preparations and Timeline for Students Applying to Investment Banks
Commence your investment banking job search by learning everything you can about the investment banking industry and particular employers. Visit employer-specific websites, many of which offer information about an employer’s hiring process, advice for résumés and cover letters, a calendar of career events sponsored by the organization, and more. If you have not before, start focusing on current financial news and industry information by reading the Wall Street Journal and New York Times business sections, watching CNN, and the like.
Once you have some knowledge of the industry, start networking with YLS alumni who work in investment banking. You can use The Courtyard, as well as other alumni networks, to identify alumni whose careers have involved investment banking. It will also be helpful to identify those investment banks where YLS students have recently worked for summers or immediately after graduation; Career Management System (CMS) contains resources including YLS student summer employment lists and a list of recent business employers of YLS students.
Because investment banks typically do not hire first-year law students for summer jobs, you should use your first summer to gain some general finance experience. Working for a law firm on corporate finance and M&A matters, if you are able to secure such summer employment after your first year of law school, is a good option. Another is to consider working for a public interest employer or governmental office or agency that works in a subject area related to that of investment banking.
In the fall of your second year, and in the fall and spring of your first year, attend employer events at the Law School and those open to YLS students at other Yale schools. Continue networking with upperclass students, alumni from YLS, and other Yale alumni with banking experience, and consider trying to set up “coffee chats” with alumni who are working for the investment banks that most interest you, as well as other employees of those banks. Also be sure to participate in recruiting-related events that are convened by the investment banks that interest you. As a general rule, interactions with prospective investment-banking employers and employees are often very important for a student’s candidacy, and, among other things, can be viewed by investment banks as indications of applicants’ interest levels.
Given that investment banks seek candidates who exhibit analytical and quantitative skills, business sense, and knowledge of finance, you should also look into taking courses at YLS and/or at Yale’s SOM to enhance your knowledge. Some YLS students who wish to work at investment banks also consider pursuing a JD-MBA, with SOM or another business school. Feel free to discuss this possibility with a CDO counselor.
While some investment banks have been known to modify their recruiting schedules for law students, investment banks have typically expected summer intern applications from current 2Ls in the fall, conducted interviews in the winter, and made final hiring decisions shortly thereafter. In the past, this has resulted in some students interested in pursuing both this route as well as law firm opportunities for their 2L summers having to make some challenging decisions about how to conduct their 2L summer job search, as the recruiting timelines of the employers with which they were recruiting did not always align well. However, under the YLS CDO’s office Recruiting Policies, CDO now expects law firm employers recruiting at YLS to extend deadlines to accept employment offers until April 1 for student candidates pursuing positions in business, on the condition that the candidate is holding open only one law firm offer.
Accordingly, for example, rising second-year students can obtain a law firm job offer and then ask that law firm to extend its offer’s acceptance deadline to accommodate their investment banking job searches. Another option for a student interested in experiencing both types of employers in the 2L summer to consider is accepting a law firm offer for half of the summer and continuing to seek investment banking positions for the other half. Students can also contact investment banks early in the fall, and inquire whether they might engage in early application processes that match a typical 2L summer law firm hiring cycle (reaching out to alumni may be effective in this regard). Please feel free to speak with a CDO counselor about which option(s) make the most sense for you.
If you do not have luck securing an investment banking position as a student, consider working for a few years in a corporate group at a law firm and then transitioning into investment banking practice thereafter.
One additional note for law students considering investment banking summer positions: As compared with most large private-sector law firms, whose return offer rate for summer associates tend to be nearly 100%, some investment banks will consistently provide only about 60% of their summer associates with return offers, while others will give return offers to approximately 90% or more of their summer associates. If this is important to you, inquire during your interview about how the organization approaches the issue, or consider splitting your summer between a law firm and an investment bank, if that is a feasible option given the employers from which you hold summer offers, in order to obtain a bit more security in terms of post-graduate employment options. Feel free, as well, to discuss these matters with a CDO counselor.
Many investment banks have online application forms or portals. In filling out these initial application materials, you will likely be asked to provide information about your academic background, results of standardized tests, language skills, and your preferences for practice areas. You will also be asked to upload a résumé, along with, possibly, some specified additional application materials.
It is important to note that even if the investment bank wishes to receive your application online, it is still extremely important that you first work your network. It is always preferable to get a foot in the door with an investment bank by reaching out to alumni, students, or others who have a relationship with the employer.
Generally speaking, it is critical for the following four attributes to come across in your application materials for a banking position: your quantitative and analytical ability; your drive for results; your communication skills; and your team-player mentality. Revise your standard law résumé to exemplify these attributes. Be sure to include any test results and grades that showcase your intellectual and quant-related abilities. Include relevant courses taken at YLS, as well as, e.g., at Yale SOM or as an undergraduate, to highlight your financial acumen.
Investment banks prefer the bullet-point résumé format, especially in the experience section. Use the bullets to provide information on results you achieved in the position and be sure to keep them short. Start each bullet point with an action verb. Make sure to highlight any leadership positions you have held, and, wherever possible, to quantify aspects of your prior experiences (e.g., how many students you taught as a TA; how many clients you regularly worked with, or team members you supervised, in a prior position; the rise in participation level head-counts for events you organized through work for an undergraduate student organization). Whenever possible, keep your résumé to one page.
See here for a sample résumé that is based upon the résumé of a YLS student who obtained a 2L summer position with an investment bank.
There are certain finance topics that are likely to come up in your banking interviews. These include valuing a company; discounted cash flow; market multiples; financial ratios; financing strategies for companies; general accounting information; and stock analysis. . As with most professions, investment bankers have their own lingo. Your interviews will go more smoothly if you familiarize yourself with banking job-related terms.
In preparing for your interviews, you may want to take a look at the content on industry recruiting-focused websites, for example, Breaking into Wall Street, which provides a free financial modeling tutorial, as well as a wealth of information on all aspects of preparing for and succeeding in the investment-banking recruiting process, including how to craft your story as an interviewee.
It is also critical that you know what is happening on Wall Street and with the investment bank to which you are applying around the time of your interview, including details of some of the bigger recent deals that have taken place. Going into these interviews, you should have in mind a few deals about which you can speak with your interviewer with a good amount of depth and detail.
A typical first-round investment banking interview is a 30-minute résumé review and informal get-to-know-you session. This interview will involve questions related to your prior work and school experiences, your knowledge of finance and banking matters, your interest in a career in banking, and, perhaps, some recent deals that have been interesting to you. You may also be asked a brainteaser question, like “how many golf balls would fit in this room?” For these types of questions, the key is not in the answer itself, but in your deductive reasoning skills in coming up with the answer.
Mirroring the life of investment banking, your interview is likely to be fast-paced and aggressive. It is important to keep in mind that investment banking jobs are more sales-oriented than law firm jobs—demonstrate that you have those skills by selling yourself in the interview. It is critical that you take the lead in demonstrating your analytical ability and your interest in this career path. Keep in mind that, given that you are in law school, your interviewers may be skeptical, or at least curious, about your interest in this career path. You will want to articulate to your interviewer why you are interested in investment banking positions and, as well, demonstrate within the interview conversation that you have a thorough understanding of what investment bankers do.
If you make it through the initial interview round, you will be invited to second-round interviews, which are generally convened at the office to which you have applied. These interviews are typically half-day to full-day events. You may be seated in a conference room with a group of bankers at various levels in the organization interviewing you, or you may be shepherded around to individual offices. Interviews may be one-on-one, two-on-one, or in a group setting. You will likely be taken out for a meal. Some banks conduct a third-round interview in the office prior to extending offers.
As you prepare for this interview process, keep your eyes open for workshops and programs at YLS geared toward educating law students about business and investment-banking careers, which CDO regularly organizes in conjunction with the Yale Law & Business Society. In addition, consider connecting with the Yale SOM Finance Club, which, among other things, provides student candidates with investment-banking interview practice and other preparation geared toward investment banking-style interviews.
Additional Finance Careers
Venture capital firms are dedicated to investing their own capital in companies in return for a share of stock and future profits. That capital can come from the partners themselves, or from private or institutional investors. 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. Some venture capital firms focus on working with entrepreneurs at the inception of a business idea. Others invest in ongoing businesses that need additional capital for some purpose. The clients of venture capital firms are the investors, and the goal is to achieve a high rate of return. Venture capital firms typically set up shop in hot spots for technology and new growth, including, e.g., Silicon Valley and New York City.
The work of a venture capital firm involves sourcing and selecting investments; doing the deals; and managing the investments. It is critical for a venture capitalist to select the right investments—those ideas or companies that are going to be the next Google or Facebook. To make these decisions, venture capitalists must know everything about the technology, the market, and the entrepreneurs in which they are investing. In structuring their deals, venture capital firms take great care to protect their equity stake and maintain a leadership role in the company. Managing the investment requires experience, expertise, and connections within the business community to provide sage advice to the new company to help it thrive.
Notably, the most successful candidates for venture capital firms – particularly when they are JDs – will likely have some experience in management consulting, investment banking, investment-focused more work generally, or expertise in a specific industry served by the venture capital firm and have contacts in that industry. As a result, and while as a law student you are always welcome to explore this career path, absent relevant pre-law school experiences that may situate you as a strong candidate for venture capital employers, you may have better success breaking into this field after a few years with another financial industry position.
Most venture capital firms are quite small, ranging in size from one to around 40 people, and the entire industry represents only a very small portion of people in the field of finance. Many firms are top-heavy, with only partners and administrators, although some also have analysts and/or associates who provide support to portfolio companies. The responsibilities of an analyst or associate will likely include:
- performing research and strategic planning
- attending Board of Directors meetings
- helping to locate and screen potential additions to a company’s management team
- convincing new recruits that they should work for the portfolio company 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
- reporting to the rest of the venture capital firm on changes, problems, and triumphs
Because venture capital firms are typically small, the lifestyle and the culture of these firms can vary, and are often driven by the attitude and work style of the partners. Typically, people who work at these types of employers are known as workaholics who thrive in the competitive nature of their industry. Unlike investment bankers who are often working very hard on one deal, venture capitalists often have several deals going at one time, requiring the ability to juggle numerous projects simultaneously.
Generally speaking, associates at venture capital firms can expect to be well compensated for their hard work. They are likely to earn total compensation amounts of $100,000-300,000, or more, while senior associates, vice presidents, and principals can earn somewhere in or above the $200,000-$400,000 range. Partners typically split a management fee of about 2-3% of the assets of the fund, and split approximately 25% of the returns on their investments (with the investors taking the rest). For well performing firms, this formula can add up to millions of dollars in income to partners.
Ultimately, the key to landing a job with a venture capital firm is networking. There is no typical hiring cycle for these positions. They do not normally interview on campus at business or law schools, relying more on contacts to meet their hiring needs. Start networking with YLS alumni in the field through resources including The Courtyard and other alumni networks.
Although the terms venture capital and private equity are sometimes used interchangeably, strictly speaking, venture capital refers to the raising of funds for new and developing businesses, while private equity is typically associated with the investing in companies going through difficult times. The goal of the private equity fund is to improve the performance of a company and then sell its 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. Typically, the first step is for the private equity firm to raise money for a fund, often from pensions, endowments, corporations, and very wealthy individuals. Once the fund reaches a certain amount, the firm will begin looking for deals. The businesses that private equity firms purchase are called “portfolio companies.”
One of the largest private equity employers is The Blackstone Group, which has investment professionals in New York, London, Mumbai, and Hong Kong that manage general funds as well as specialized funds. Another large firm is Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR). They have over 200 investment professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including strategy consultants, operations managers, and specialists in corporate finance. Other private equity firms are significantly smaller and often more specialized. Leading investment banks such as Goldman Sachs also have private equity units that are prominent players in the private equity industry.
As with venture capital firms, the most successful applicants to private equity employers – particularly when they are JDs – will likely have some prior financial-industry experience. As a result, and while as a law student you are always welcome to explore this career path, absent relevant pre-law school experiences that may situate you as a strong candidate for private equity employers, you may have better success breaking into this field after a few years in another financial industry position.
Jobs at private equity employers are typically divided into distinct areas, including number crunching; appraising and executing deals; originating deals; and support roles such as investor relations. Number crunchers are junior staff brought in on short, often approximately two-year contracts. Their main purpose is to look at the accounts of the companies in which the fund is thinking of investing and to build financial models to calculate how much those companies are worth. Once the number crunchers have worked out how much a company is worth, appraisers are brought in to determine whether the company is worth investing in at the asking price, and whether the fund is likely to be able to sell its investment in the company at a profit in the future. If the price is right and a future profit looks likely, they will then help execute the deal, which can involve anything from arranging the right legal documentation to negotiating the right price. The people who are involved in execution and appraisal are more senior than the number crunchers, and are generally known as principals.
A private equity fund’s partners, or originators, are responsible for finding new companies for the fund to invest in, and overseeing deals while they are being put together. In pursuit of deals, they must build strong relationships with company senior managers and advisors, and often spend a lot of time traveling. Partners also play a role in nurturing the companies in which their firm has invested. This can involve taking a position on the company board and steering a strategy that will lead to higher profitability and ultimately increase the value of the fund’s stake. When a fund sells its stake, it typically keeps about 20% of any profits made above an agreed-upon baseline. The remainder is returned to investors.
Other roles in private equity are more peripheral to the business of selecting companies to invest in and executing deals. One of the most important is investor relations, which involves communicating with investors and raising money for future funds. Investors in private equity funds include pension funds, wealthy individuals, and insurance companies. Private equity funds can typically have a lifetime of only about 10 years, at the end of which all investments are sold.
Private equity employers make their money by selling their stakes in portfolio companies to corporate buyers or floating their stakes on the public market through initial public offerings (IPOs). In addition, they also make money through their annual management fees, which are typically 1-2% of the total amount of the fund. For example, if a firm has raised $1 billion, it could receive $20 million in management fees alone each year.
The world of private equity funds is extremely competitive, and, as mentioned above, these funds don’t employ many people and when they do, they expect at least two years of experience in investment banking or strategy consulting. For junior number-crunching positions, a strong financial background is required. For more senior roles, it is also helpful if you can build a strong rapport with company executives and if you have some experience with strategy and the day-to-day requirements of running a business. Some of the larger private equity funds hire summer interns. Some also hire new associates for two-year terms. Many provide the opportunity for you to apply online. Before doing so, remember, as with other finance jobs, networking is the key. You can start networking as a student with YLS alumni in the field through resources including The Courtyard and other alumni networks.
The term “hedge fund” was originally used to categorize institutional investment partnerships that, unlike mutual funds or traditional institutional stock and bond funds, were able to hedge market exposure by shorting stocks or using futures, options, currencies, or commodities. The most basic form of hedging is to purchase a long position and a secondary short position in a similar security to offset market fluctuations. Unlike mutual funds, these pools were intended to be employed only by sophisticated wealthy individuals and institutions, and so were, and are, lightly regulated (although the appropriate regulatory framework for hedge funds has attracted a lot of scrutiny over recent years, and is likely to continue to do so).
Hedge funds have evolved over time to employ a wide range of investment strategies, from long/short equity to absolute return (coined by Yale endowment head, David Swensen), to currencies; to commodities; to fixed income, convertible, merger, and other arbitrage strategies; to individual industry sector funds (like technology or healthcare); to distressed securities; to quantitative strategies; to emerging markets. To understand more about a particular hedge fund, it is important to determine the fund’s investment strategies.
Hedge funds are usually structured as limited liability entities in which investors invest discretionary capital after analyzing many factors, including the manager’s strategy, risk management, and back office capabilities. Although hedge funds are lightly regulated compared to mutual funds and ERISA fiduciaries, and while there are certain exemptions, the SEC does regulate many hedge funds under the Investment Advisors Act. Registered investment advisors are subject to surprise audits by the SEC and must have various procedures that ensure the manager minimizes conflicts and acts as a good fiduciary when managing discretionary funds. The increase in legal scrutiny of hedge funds has led to more funds hiring general counsels, or in some cases entire legal departments, to manage compliance, HR, investor relations, fund marketing, insider trading, and other securities law issues, and to work with the analysts to research and execute complex transactions.
Many hedge funds are not inclined to hire graduate and professional school students, including MBAs and JDs, straight out of school. Instead, they tend seek investment professionals (usually called analysts or traders) with experience. Given this, you will likely need experience in another finance area before making the switch to a hedge fund. When in pursuit of making a pivot to hedge fund positions, as with other finance- and business-sector jobs, it is important to network with as many people in the industry as you can, including YLS alumni. You can start networking as a student with YLS alumni in the field through resources including The Courtyard and other alumni networks.
Investment professionals are recruited based on the particular strategy the hedge fund employs. A long/short equity hedge fund might prefer analysts with deep industry relationships and valuation expertise; a distressed-securities firm may want a corporate finance banker or former private equity analyst with legal/negotiating experience; a currency or fixed income arbitrage hedge fund might prefer a macroeconomist; a quantitative fund may recruit for PhDs in applied math.
Most JDs who are interested in hedge funds are best suited for analyst roles. In general, analysts are expected to analyze and make trading recommendations on their own instead of as part of a large team. Although the portfolio manager(s) of a fund will have authority to choose and size positions according to the fund’s overall portfolio objectives and risk tolerance, experienced analysts are expected to take primary responsibility for decision making and overall investment analysis at a much earlier stage in their careers than, e.g., in private equity, consulting, or banking. This can lead to immense job satisfaction, insomnia, or both. Since the fund’s performance is known minute-to-minute as well as year-to-year, an analyst gets plenty of direct feedback.
In general, strong math and finance skills are a plus for hedge fund analyst candidates, but since investing is an art, not a science, pure brain power is necessary but not sufficient. Brilliant academic minds can be flummoxed by the markets, while a college drop-out who counted cards in Las Vegas immediately prior to joining a hedge fund might do very well. Making good investment decisions requires opportunity identification, risk analysis, and assessing the probabilities of various outcomes that involve human decision making.
Hedge funds vary in size from having as few as two employees to having as many as 1,000 employees. Assets under management can be as little as $1 million to over $70 billion. Some studies estimate that there are currently over 10,000 active hedge funds. Some years ago, a hedge fund manager (also referred to as the principal, president, or portfolio manager) might have been the founder and key person in charge of overseeing the business and the portfolio investment process. Now, to attract the best investors (endowments and foundations), hedge funds must have highly trained analytical, accounting, legal, investor relations, and trading personnel. A typical hedge fund will tend to have at least the following departments: operations; accounting; trading; and risk and investor relations. The responsibilities of the employees in these departments vary tremendously depending on the size of the hedge fund and its work environment.
Because hedge funds vary widely in size and structure, it is hard to provide general information about lifestyle and culture. For small hedge funds, the culture of the firm will undoubtedly be dictated by the management style of the hedge fund manager. In addition, the type of investment strategy used by the firm may have some role in the office’s culture. A fund involved in statistical arbitrage is likely to have on staff people who enjoy sitting in front of their computers crunching numbers, while a global macro fund is more likely to have people openly sharing ideas and watching the markets from the trading floor.
Employee compensation structures vary widely at hedge funds, but most investment professionals at these employers earn a modest salary and a larger bonus, which becomes tied to their performance and/or the overall performance of the firm as the professional takes on more responsibility over time and shows consistent investment performance. In most hedge funds the analysts and traders are the key investment professionals and performance generators.
As with private equity, a hedge fund manager’s compensation tends to be performance-based. The manager earns a fee on assets, but limited partners pay the manager a percentage of the profits the fund earns, usually annually. This compensation scheme can be very lucrative for the manager while appealing to investors because they do not pay managers unless those managers make money.