How to Parlay a Law Degree into a Career in Business/Finance

Q: I am entering my second year in law school. I'm not too sure I want to practice law when I get out. I would like to enter the finance or corporate fields (investment banks, financial planning, etc.) but not as a lawyer. How would I go about educating myself in these fields and how would I look for jobs and actually get them?

A: Many lawyers these days would like to parlay their law degrees into a career in business. A good way to educate yourself about these fields is to obtain a guide such as The Harvard Law School Guide to Careers in Finance which will give you a good overview of the options. Another good way to do research is to find out if your law school or undergraduate institution has a business school with a career planning office. Your law school can then arrange for you to meet with a career counselor at the business school, and possibly also grant you access to their job listings and resources.

Some of the law grads I know that have gone into business have been successfully hired as Management Consultants, Investment Bankers, and Stockbrokers. They often went right into training programs with the MBA grads. I have also known lawyers who have gone into business development positions at Internet companies, or successfully started their own businesses. Lesley Friedman, for example, who I interviewed for Alternative Careers for Lawyers, started Special Counsel, one of the largest temporary agencies for attorneys, on a shoestring, and later sold it for approximately twenty million dollars! Since you are still in law school, you might want to take as many corporate courses as you can, and then highlight them on your resume in a "relevant course work" section. That may also help you talk about transferable skills in interviews.

As with any job search, networking will be a critical component of your success. Talk to everyone you know to try to identify personal connections within the industries that interest you. Don't be shy about asking for an introduction. Joining professional associations within the field you are looking to enter and participating in subcommittees and other activities can help introduce you to a community of potential employers. You can arrange informational interviews to speak with professionals in the positions that interest you. Their insights can help you develop your career direction, while also establishing contacts in the industry and an awareness of you as a motivated force within the profession.

Volunteering or interning with organizations is another way to get an inside look at the work and can provide valuable practical experience to help develop your resume and strengthen your argument that you are the best candidate for positions that arise. Subscribe to trade journals or read articles on developments within your target industry online. The better your understanding of your desired position, the better your efforts to market yourself will be. As you educate yourself begin to narrow your focus and check back with FindLaw for other resources to help you determine the career direction that will be most satisfying.