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Rising Stars: Frat Banker Turns Contract Lawyer

By Lucas Laursen

Michael found his prestigious investment banking firm wasn't all it was cracked up to be. He went back to school for a law degree and has a big office as a corporate lawyer in Lower Manhattan than before, with more respect and responsibility.

Name: Michael
School: Dartmouth
Major: Government
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Associate

First Steps

"My first job was as an analyst at a major investment bank. It brought me into a corporate mindset, which I use today. I understand the way we do business.But I didn't like it.I always knew I wanted to go to law school, so I studied for the LSAT the first year and then went back to school."?

Banking just wasn't for him, Michael said. "The hours are terrible, first and foremost. I think I disliked the political nature of banking. You've got to work the system, regardless of your performance. Who you know and how you deal with them matter a lot."

"There's this whole myth that you're at the top, part of a team, and that what you're doing is very important. But that's just a way of demanding loyalty. It takes up all your time, and even after hours you're with the same people. One of the others was from my college fraternity, so I kind of got the impression that it was a continuation of the frat. But that was wrong. When we went it out it was like being at work."

My Experience

"At the bank I worked with five analysts in a total group of twenty people who worked very closely together. My typical day was building financial models using Excel and pitch books using PowerPoint.Now, as a lawyer, I negotiate contracts. The partners allow me a lot of responsibility. I'm often dealing with partners from the other firms. Clients trust me and seek my advice and so far it's worked out. That's rewarding.I think I'll stay here. The people are fantastic. But I'd consider going in-house elsewhere, doing corporate law for another firm or a bank."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

"I don't think I ever thought I'd be a lawyer. I think people look at law school as a continuation of college. People want to make sure they leave the door as wide as possible without stepping through it.You start law school thinking you'll go into non-profits, maybe government, something like the Peace Corps or UN, but the reality is once you start looking at the payscales, you realize that maybe law isn't such a bad opportunity.I tried a summer internship. I liked the pay, the work, and the people. It's worked out."

Advice for Others

"My attitude is very negative against investment banking. They really don't care about your personal life. It kind of goes with the territory. They wouldn't mind if you never took your vacations. It makes it very hard to plan your life.In corporate law, you are in control of your life. There's much more teamwork. They give you something to do and if you do it, they don't care when you do it. People expect the best from you. They're willing to give you as much responsibility as you can take."

"That said, one of the big regrets I have is that I passed up an offer to work for a small investment bank in Boston. Maybe I would have liked it better there. I had the opportunity and I basically went to a bigger, prestigious firm in New York because, why would I go to a small place when I could go to New York? Prestige matters a lot less than we think it does when we're getting started. People don't really care as long as you do good work."

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