I’m a first-year corporate associate at a large San Francisco firm, and I’m interested in leaving the law and getting into private equity or venture capital. It seems like a pretty easy job with a huge upside.
I know a few people in that business, and they don’t seem super smart (or super cool). So, I have to believe that breaking in is very possible. Any tips on how to land a job in that arena?
I went to a solid undergrad and was in the top 20% of my class at USC Law School, so it’s not like I’m some T3 douchebag or anything. Thanks for your help!
You’re right about one thing, and one thing only: Private equity and venture capital firms, when successful, make lots of money. Unfortunately, you’re wrong about everything else.
First, working at a PE or VC firm ain’t easy. In fact, it’s a lot harder than working at a corporate law firm. These guys work just as hard, if not harder, than lawyers. The only difference is: They get to do the fun stuff, and you get to do the crappy stuff. They make the deals; you paper them.
Don’t kid yourself. It’s not easy to find profitable companies to invest in, nor is it simple to successfully structure and negotiate these transactions. These jobs might be more interesting and glamorous, but they’re certainly not easy. If they were, everyone would do it.
Second, your statement that your friends in this field don’t seem that smart (or cool) sounds sort of idiotic to me. What does that even mean? Unlike you, my friends in this business are incredibly smart. In fact, they’re some of the smartest people I know.
One of my private equity friends went to Princeton and Harvard Law School. Another went to Stanford and Harvard Business School. My VC friend went to MIT and Stanford Business School. On top of being smart, they’re also relentless and viciously competitive.
Okay, I’m done venting. And lecturing. Now for my five tips:
1. DEVELOP AN INDUSTRY EXPERTISE
If you’re an engineer or have a science background, that would help. If not, pick a growth industry you find interesting and jump in with both feet. Go to conferences, read trade publications, talk to lawyers at your firm specializing in that field.
2. DEVELOP SOME FINANCIAL EXPERTISE
Being a lawyer doesn’t train you to be an investor. Lawyers deal with words; investors deal with numbers. It’s a different skill set and mind set. Take accounting classes, read finance books, build financial models just for fun. (No, I’m not kidding.) If you don’t understand finance and accounting, you have no shot. Even if you’re lucky enough get a job, you’ll never last.
3. NETWORK LIKE HELL WITH PEOPLE IN PE AND VC FIRMS
It takes time and energy, but it’s critical.
4. FIND A FIRM PARTNER THAT DOES PE/VC TRANSACTIONS—AND KISS HIS ASS
The best way to get credible exposure is to work with these guys on a live deal.
5. STOP BEING A DOUCHEBAG
The tone of your question is really annoying, so I have to assume you’re annoying in real life. And clueless. In the elite PE/VC world, graduating from a top law school means nothing—let alone top 20% from USC.
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