Lately, we’ve been hearing the same question from more and more law students – How do I transition to management consulting after law school? This may surprise some of you: after all, why “waste” law school and go into an entirely unrelated field? Or why leave a partner track in a law firm to start over?
The answer? Consulting offers a better experience at a comparable pay scale. Many lawyers we’ve heard from would rather be involved in proactive strategy vs. reactive strategy – being involved in setting a company’s course as opposed to being called in to fix something after it’s gone wrong. Generally speaking, a lawyer’s workload is more narrow and less diverse than a consultant’s; add that in with little to no travel and minimal exposure to different industries, and many lawyers are looking for a change.
Management Consulting straight after Law School
So what are some things you should know if you’re looking to transition to consulting after law school?
The first thing to know is this: if you’re in the U.S., consulting firms will be hiring you at the post-MBA level. Why is this important? It lets you know who you should be networking with (hint: post-MBAs who have been at the firm 1-2 years). These are the professionals who will be reviewing your resume, cover letter, and application, and a recommendation from one of these consultants inside the firm will go a LONG way in securing a first-round interview invite. Not sure how to network effectively or reach out to cold contacts? We created a comprehensive course on how to do it well.
In addition, it’s important to realize that since you’re entering the firm at a higher level, more will be expected of you sooner. Most people with law backgrounds we know make excellent consultants, but not before putting in some serious work beforehand. They generally don’t have the quant or analytical chops needed to succeed in consulting, but have the drive and work ethic to quickly become competent in these areas. We’d HIGHLY recommend you’d begin skilling up in Excel and financial modeling now!
Note: if you are applying to an international office, you’ll enter the firm at the undergraduate level. While the starting pay is less, you’ll also have more time to learn on the job. Be sure to network with the correct professionals inside the firm if applying to an international office!
Another question we’re frequently asked: What are my chances of breaking into consulting from law school? Don’t firms only recruit from top MBA programs? Our answer – your chances at breaking into a consulting firm from a top law school are very similar to the chances of your friend at a top MBA program. The principle remains the same; the better your program, the better your chances. In fact, Harvard Law, Columbia Law, UVA School of Law, and Stanford Law are core recruiting schools for top consulting firms.
Not surprisingly (at least to us), we see almost no one go back to law after entering consulting.
Transition from established lawyer to Management Consulting
There are many of you reading this who are already working professionally as lawyers, and are wondering if you too can make the transition to consulting. Well, you can! It won’t be easy, but it certainly is possible.
The primary thing to keep in mind: you need to begin to have a commercial understanding of your work. Many of our lawyer clients love to explain the legal principles behind their work, but truth is, a firm won’t care much about that. They want to see that you can frame your work in a business context. The further along in your legal career you are, the more different your pathway is. If you are more than 2 years into your legal career, we would recommend that you build – and demonstrate – functional expertise (ex: biotech). Once you’ve been a lawyer for over 2 years, this is the best pathway to break into the industry, and you’ll have the easiest time transitioning over to a partner role in a firm that carries that same functional expertise.
If you’ve been a lawyer for over 2 years, but are haven’t demonstrated that functional expertise yet, you’re in the toughest position to transition over. You’ll have to quickly get caught up to speed on your quantitative skills, prove your analytical chops, and be a master networker since you will have no relevant work experience for the industry. You’ll be in even worse shape than a product manager at GE who’s looking to transition to consulting. Of course, there is an exception to every rule, but you’ll have a real challenge on your hands.
On the plus side? Lawyers have very good reputations inside consulting firms. They’re known as smart and capable, just with no modeling skills. It’s the same issue Medical Doctors face when attempting to break into consulting. If you’re looking to transition, you’ll have to work extra hard at the things that will actually make you a good consultant. However, if you can do it, there is room for you at the top firms! Out of MBB, McKinsey by far hires the most lawyers – not only are they the largest top firm, but also have the best and biggest global training program.
Interested in exploring a transition to consulting? We help dozens and dozens of law school and professional lawyer clients a year receive offers from top firms. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you!