Are you a law student or newly minted lawyer who is having trouble landing an associate position in a law firm?
If so, be assured that you’re not alone.
Scarcity of entry-level attorney roles is an endemic problem of the current legal hiring market.
Why is it so hard to land that first job out of law school? And, even more importantly, what can you do about it?
Law students and recent graduates may turn to contract attorney work, predominately e-discovery and document review, even though, unfortunately, legal employers place little value on that work.
There is another way…
Advantages of Work in Management Consulting
Now comes the good news: there are places to build technical and real world skills necessary to succeed as a lawyer outside traditional law firms — management consulting.
These management consulting firms:
- Are typically highly regarded, name-brand employers
- Hire entry-level employees throughout the year
- Provide phenomenal technical on-the-job training
- Build real world problem-solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills
- Offer cross-disciplinary exposure to wide variety of industries, business models, business problems, and legal practice areas
- Value your JD or other law degree, and yet
- Do not require admission to the bar
Management consulting firms usually offer a wide variety of experiences and options for new lawyers who are unsure what type of law they’d like to practice. They can take the time to explore before making the commitment that many law firms require.
As bonuses, those same employers also often value international and multicultural backgrounds — including language and cultural influences. They may offer domestic and international travel and can be the place where non-traditional or second-career law students are more successful than in the traditional hierarchy of many law firms.
Something to remember when considering working at a management consulting firm: you won’t be practicing law.
Benefits of Work in the Management Consulting World
By working in a management consulting firm, you will learn:
- How businesses (the bedrock clients of most law firms) actually work.
- How executives and managers think.
- How federal laws and other legal issues impact business.
- How different business models operate.
- How different departments or divisions within a business interact.
- How changes in economic, geopolitical, and technological landscapes affect business.
- How compliance, risk management, and other concepts play out.
This is, of course, just a brief listing, but I hope is sufficient to show why launching your legal career in a management consulting firm can make you a more attractive candidate for law firms (and corporate legal departments) and help you later compete in the job market as a lawyer.
How Management Consulting Firms Work
At the risk of oversimplifying, management consulting firms help other businesses run better.
They analyze a business’s problems, develop a plan to address those problems and move the business forward, and then help implement that solution.
Those businesses can be in any industry, from healthcare to entertainment to real estate management. They can be any size, from Global 100 / Fortune 500 companies to regional players.
The business models range from massive public companies traded in multiple stock markets to closely held, family-owned businesses. Some have sprawling, de-centralized networks of subsidiaries, joint ventures, and business alliances with vertical and lateral presences. Others are tightly-focused centralized singular entities.
Like any business, these organizations may be growing or shrinking. They can be any business with any problem — and that’s exactly why management consulting companies hire and train many types of professionals at different levels and skill sets, including entry-level lawyers and graduating law students.
How to Launch Your Legal Career in a Management Consulting Firm
Some of the biggest consulting companies are names you’re likely already familiar with: Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, EY, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, McKinsey, Booz Allen, Capgemini, and Accenture, to name a few.
Guess what? They hire attorneys.
The first step to working in a management consulting firm as an attorney or law school graduate is to find a firm that is a good fit for you.
You’ll want to do some research:
- Start by comparing the various rankings for consulting companies. Look at both overall rankings for best consulting firms, as well as rankings in industries that interest you, for example financial consulting.
- Next visit the website of each consulting firm. Most of the websites I’ve checked contain a tremendous amount of valuable information for a prospective employee: locations, news, and more. Look at their areas of expertise.
- If the website has a career development section, take a look. See the types of roles available (they sometimes have their own job boards, other times, you’ll need to use a consolidated job board).Don’t limit yourself to looking at jobs with “attorney” or “lawyer” in the job title; remember that in a management consulting firm you won’t be practicing law.
- Search Google using the firm’s name plus other terms like “reviews” or “revenue growing” for more information about the employer. See 50 Google Searches to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers to get a sense of what the rest of the world thinks about the firm.
- Head over to LinkedIn, and do an advanced search for employees with JDs.
See what positions they hold within their consulting firms, and use their individual career journeys as an instruction guide their positions.
- When in LinkedIn, search for current and former employees of the firm. Check out their backgrounds, job titles, schools and education, years with the firm, and other details that interest you.If you are connected to anyone in the firm (current or past), you have an opportunity to reach out and ask for more information. Current employees may give you a referral for a job.
- Then, search Facebook for the firm’s name and, again, to find current and former employees. Learn more about the organization and, again, possibly to connect with an employee referral.
- When you identify someone who could be a good contact, reach out. An informational interview can be a good way to learn about the firm and others in the area as well as providing more contacts.
Once you’ve investigated, apply!
At a management consulting firm, you will have gained an invaluable inside look at companies — a perspective your former classmates who went directly to law firms will not have. That perspective and experience will not only open law firm doors, but other potential career paths.
The Bottom Line
Starting your legal career by working for a management consulting firm can be a very good option that serves as a prelude to your career in a law firm or as a corporate counsel for a business. Or, once you launch your career in consulting, you may never look back — leveraging your legal education for a career in an interesting field which values that knowledge outside of a traditional law career.