I’m Planning to Be a Transactional Lawyer


QI am a 1L at a top-20 law school. I foresee wanting to transition out of law, so I am preparing to be a transactional lawyer. Even though my school is decent (in that all of the elite firms like Cravath, Skadden, etc. come here for OCIs), it is not the traditional feeder for Goldman, or McKinsey. Coming from a school like this, what are the chances of me being able to transition into banking or consulting? Also, what can I do while I’m in law school (aside from getting good grades and getting into a journal)?  Would you suggest taking some classes at the business school? And finally, is there a practice area in transactional law that will be especially helpful for transitioning out of law?

AFirst thing you need to do is stop worrying so much about the goddamn future. How do you even know you’re going to want to be a consultant or a banker five years down the road? Do you even know what they do?  Besides, have you taken a look at Wall Street lately?  Not a lot of opportunities at the moment.

But the real question here is: Why the hell did you go to law school if you already know you don’t want to be a lawyer? You’re already looking for a better party, and you haven’t showed up at the first one yet.

As for making the transition itself, your top-20 school is just fine. It won’t be the thing that gets you the job, but it won’t keep you from getting the job either. I also wouldn’t worry about taking all kinds of extra business school classes—unless you really want to.  In which case, yeah, by all means, take some business classes. Or attend a mergers and acquisitions seminar. Or get an internship at the SEC or NYSE.  All this stuff is “nice,” but again, it’s not going to be the deciding factor in “making the transition.” No one at McKinsey is going to say, “Wow, let’s hire this kid, he took Marketing 101 at Cornell Business School while getting his JD.” These jobs tend to present themselves more organically.

There’s not some “how to” handbook. Work hard, get good grades, land a job at a top firm and go from there. But for now, chill out and don’t be afraid to do something that you actually enjoy. Stop worrying about having the perfect resume and the foolproof law-to-consulting/banking transition plan. There’s no perfect roadmap, buddy.

At some point, you’re actually going to have engage in life—and a profession—to see where it takes you.  You’re looking for a professional guaranty. A risk-free road to superstardom. And it doesn’t exist. Trust me. I know this is terrifying to over-achieving resume junkies like you, but at some point, you’re going to have to roll the dice.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

2 Comments

  1. Al Dickman

    September 30, 2008 at 2:42 am

    Go lighter on this poor asswipe; he’s just trying to figure out where he wants to go and has no friggin’ idea.  In this environment, he is probably better off than others, but not much.  If he don’t know where he’s heading, chances are, the interviewers will be able to detect some lack of focus/attention and dismiss him outright; after all these days, the firms are not hiring a bunch of extras with the hope they can cull out a few winners.  This directionless wonk ain’t going to be one of them.  So maybe this dork just ought to follow your advice–buckle down, work hard, learn something and get some friggin’ direction.  Oh, and don’t forget to have some fun.  There are still women out there looking for men.  Go for it!

  2. TJW

    October 1, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    My favorite party
    “Coming form a school like this, what are the chances of me being able to transition into banking or consulting?  “
    I think your chances are pretty shitty if you can’t use spell check.

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