Ex-magic circle lawyer moves to a hedge fund
BD trained at a magic circle firm and then moved to a US firm. At two years’ PQE he moved to an in-house role at a hedge fund. He talked to us about the switch and why he prefers his current role to private practice.
mtl: Hi BD, can you start by telling us about your background in private practice.
BD: I qualified into corporate at a magic circle firm and stayed for nine months PQE, at which point I left to join a smaller US firm based in London.
Law, Cambridge University
Training contract and corporate assistant, magic circle firm
Corporate assistant, US firm
Moved in-house to a hedge fund
I enjoyed working at the US firm and stayed for 16 months. It is a US firm with a small London office and at the time there were only 12 of us in corporate. I had a lot more client exposure and involvement at a higher level in deals that I may not have had at a larger firm
mtl: What prompted you to leave private practice?
BD: I reached the point of getting frequent calls from headhunters about in-house roles. Some of the roles started to sound interesting and so I decided to find out more about them. I also talked to some international recruiters about working in Australia.
One of the opportunities that came up was an in-house role at a hedge fund. The sole general counsel was recruiting an assistant. At the time I knew very little about the sector but it sounded like a good opportunity. A friend of mine told me that the job was at one of the top European hedge funds and the more digging I did the more appealing it sounded. The idea of being involved at a more commercial level sounded very interesting.
I went to a few other interviews at the same time as I was interviewing at the hedge fund, as once I had considered moving I decided to research properly what else was out there. In the end my decision came down to getting on really well with my current boss. The interviews with him were laid back and that is a reflection of the environment here which is professional yet fun. My colleagues are very driven people but they are also laid back.
mtl: How was the transition?
BD: It was quite hard at first because it is so different working in-house. In private practice you work in a team with a partner, you bill your time and your days are regimented. In comparison, working in a hedge fund with one other lawyer is a completely different experience. I report to my boss but beyond that there are no strict formal reporting lines. Once people knew who I was, they came straight to me for direct advice.
It is a very informal environment, so I have to be self-motivated and organised and also very good at prioritising as everyone wants their work done straight away. I have never done the same day’s work twice and find the variety fascinating. I advise on everything from private equity style deals to employment law, data protection, trading, derivatives and whatever else comes up. A colleague may want to buy a mine in Uzbekistan one day or a plantation in Uganda the next.
I really enjoy my job and it suits me as I like being involved in the deals. I have more influence in commercial decisions than I used to as rather than just documenting what has already been agreed, my advice will help to shape a commercial deal. I feel like I have found my niche. Gone are the days of staying in a job for life and if you don’t want to be a partner (which I didn’t) then you have to leave law or make it work for you in a different environment.
My hours are good – I generally work from 8:30am – 6:30/7:30pm unless we are having a shocker. The basic pay is about the same as general City rates and a discretionary bonus scheme is operated.
mtl: What should lawyers think about if considering a similar move?
BD: You are likely to be working in a small team if you move to a hedge fund. There is not the same level of business support as private practice in terms of document production or typing, so it is a different way of working. You need to be able think on your feet and enjoy a diverse range of work, so try to understand these differences in advance.
I used First Counsel to move to this role, and I liked them because they weren’t pushy. If you get an interview then, like for any job interview, really read up on the firm and their funds in advance. This can be tricky as there tends to be little information available, so if you have contacts within this world then ask them for the inside track. I was lucky to have a friend who knew a great deal about my firm and I really think that extra knowledge helped me get in.
mtl: Thank you for your time BD.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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