Private equity, hedge funds, boutique banks and other alternative asset managers all want the very best people. If you scan the profiles of individuals employed by the majority of these organisations you will find a pattern in those they hire. Most went to elite universities before attending exclusive institutions in their respective sector before winding up where they are today. These professionals are the highest paid, the brightest and the most compelling, the top 1% of the market.
How does a fund successfully attract a candidate with that profile? In the legal world it isn’t particularly difficult to find well credentialed candidates interested in a move in house. What is hard is finding not just someone who went to a great law school and worked at the most prestigious firm but finding someone who has the right mix of experience, seniority, personality, who comes in on budget and is interested in your fund at the moment you have an opening. If you do find someone like this the chances are they are going to have other options open to them, how do you differentiate your offering to them?
Finding an in house legal role at a reputable hedge or private equity fund has not been this hard since 2009. Legal roles within funds are some of the most sought after across industry, they are the most lucrative and selective institutions that hire in house counsel. Certain asset managers and boutique banks straddle the marketplace in terms of how they operate (often taking a multi-strategy approach) and can also provide fantastic opportunities for fledgling in house lawyers.
It has never been easy to find work as a lawyer in the funds space, however a confluence of factors have materialised over the past 10 years that have made securing a coveted position more challenging than ever before.
Supply and demand; this is the broadest and most all-encompassing explanation as to why it is now more difficult to find a legal role at a top alternative asset manager.
If you are a lawyer reading this now the chances are you have been working hard for a long time. It isn’t easy to become a lawyer, it takes time, persistence, academic intelligence and finance, what’s more in most cases you have to decide and commit to it by the time you are only 19 or 20 years old.
You can’t ever relax and check out even as a university fresher if you want to be in big law. Forget first year pass / fail, all your academics will be scrutinised and if you aren’t on top of your game someone else will be there ready to take your spot. Now we could put this down to population increase and globalisation making markets more competitive, after all this is the case in a lot of fields now at entry level. As a lawyer the treadmill of hard work, time and devotion doesn’t end at the offer of a training contract, it is only just beginning.
Everybody wants to work for a fund.
If you trained and worked as an associate in “big law” with a focus on financial services the prospect of working for an investment manager one day as general counsel would most likely be an appealing proposition for a number of reasons:
1) The money at the top is similar to equity at a major firm
2) You work closely with the business instead of focusing on client attraction
3) The quality of work is often high and mentally engaging
4) It is less bureaucratic and hierarchical than big banks/law firms
5) There is less oversight and restriction on compensation than at a bank