Hedge Fund Lawyers
Education and Training Requirements
To prepare for a career in hedge fund law, take classes in business, finance, economics, accounting, psychology, and mathematics. Since many hedge funds do business internationally, it’s a good idea to take a foreign language to increase your attractiveness to potential employers. Finally, lawyers must be excellent communicators and debaters, so English and speech classes, as well as participation in the debate club, will be useful.
Many aspiring lawyers first earn a bachelor’s degree in prelaw or legal studies before heading to law school. Since hedge fund law is especially complex, many undergraduates earn degrees (or pursue minors) in finance, business, or accounting in order to round out their experience. Be sure to take advantage of any alternative investment courses that are offered by your college.
Most law schools require that applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The Law School Admission Council offers detailed information about preparing for and taking the LSAT at http://www.lsac.org.
The American Bar Association has approved more than 220 law schools in the United States. A degree of juris doctor (J.D.) or bachelor of laws (LL.B.) is usually granted upon graduation. Some law schools offer course work in alternative investing. Attendance at an elite law school and top grades are prerequisites for employment in the hedge fund industry.
Some lawyers choose to earn a master of laws (LL.M) degree, an advanced law certification that helps them advance professionally. LL.M programs, which typically last one year, are offered in many areas—such as banking and finance law, business law, corporate law/corporate governance/corporate compliance, intellectual property, litigation/trial advocacy, and securities and financial regulation. A first law degree is required for admission to LL.M programs. Visit https://www.lsac.org/llm-other-law-program-applicants for more information. Visit https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/llm-degrees_post_j_d_non_j_d/programs_by_school for a list of LL.M. specialties and the law schools that offer them.
Other Education or Training
Many lawyers stay up to date on developments in the hedge fund industry and practice issues by taking continuing education classes, which are offered by professional associations. For example, the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division periodically offers alternative investment–related webinars. It also provides career development videos and webinars such as Volunteering to Enhance Your Career, Keeping Pace with Technology: Technology Tips and Practice Advice, and Millennial Lawyers: Improve Your Professionalism and Jumpstart Your Career. The Association of Corporate Counsel provides in-person and online continuing education. Topics include compliance, contract negotiation, ethics, litigation, and basic practice skills. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Lawyers must be admitted to the bar of the state where they want to practice. Applicants must graduate from an approved law school and pass a written examination.
A lawyer who has extensive compliance responsibilities might consider earning the chartered regulatory counsel designation from the Regulatory Compliance Association, the certified compliance and ethics professional credential from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, and/or the chartered regulatory counsel designation from the American Bankers Association. Contact these organizations for more information.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Participating in an internship in the alternative investment industry will improve your chances of landing an entry-level job. General counsels need five to 10 years of legal experience in lower-level positions at a hedge find, private equity firm, or related employer to work in the hedge fund industry.
The Association of Corporate Counsel surveyed chief legal officers regarding the non-legal skills they would like their legal department employees to develop. Fifty-one percent of respondents cited “executive presence” as the most-important skill. Business management (cited by 50 percent of respondents) ranked second, followed by communication/listening and project skills (both tied at 48 percent). Other important traits include strong negotiation, problem-solving and organizational skills, and knowledge of the hedge fund industry and investment strategies.