How do Legal professionals with non-business/non-maths experience manage to succeed at the interview?

background legal nonbusiness
New answer on Apr 30, 2020
8 Answers
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Jihane
Certified
asked on Apr 18, 2020
Experienced consultant preparing for an interview at Bain

Having no academic background in Business, I have been focusing on a legal career for the last 6 years.

Thus, could you please tell me:

- if it is necessary to get courses in business in order to prepare for the interview. If so, what courses would you recommend?

- how do legal professionals manage to succeed at these kind of interviews? What is expected from them ? Do we have to bring our legal knowledge to the table (during the case solving phase)?

Thank you in advance.

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Robert
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replied on Apr 18, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Jihane,

I brought already many candidates into McKinsey - ranging from classical business background over lawyers to military leaders. So yes, definitely a legal background is also fine like any other background.

At the same time, a strong business acum and deep understanding of business topics is a must. At McKinsey, non-business hires will run through a mini-MBA (one of the best MBA programs I know of in terms of both content and efficiency) after hiring - obviously that won't help you preparing for your interviews, but the point I would like to make is that strong business skills are a fundamental prerequisite.

Just imagine that in a real client interaction - it just doesn't make a professional impression if a client hires McKinsey and in the first client meeting it turns out that the McKinsey consultant understood only half of the business talk. The reputation will be gone immediately for somebody charging a low 4-digit daily rate, if he doesn't understand half of the discussion.

Concerning my expectation level for interviews, of course I will have lower standards in respect to business acumen than for classical business-background hires - but I need to clearly see that you are very comfortable with those topics nevertheless.

Concerning legal expertise - not needed to show off with that. If a consulting firm needs legal advice, they will hire their preferred lawyers, so it's not the expectation for the typical interview to discuss legal aspects.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

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Jihane on Apr 18, 2020
Thank you very much Robert ! I definitely understand, and as you explain it I can only agree with your approach. I should definitely not believe that the fact that I come from a different background would lower any of the company's expectations with regards to my business knowledge. Duly noted !
Vlad
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updated an answer on Apr 18, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

As for the first question - you should have basic business knowledge and judgment. Officially, the companies will tell you that business knowledge is not required, but obviously, it's not true. Especially now, when it's so competitive

I have at least 3 candidates with legal backgrounds who got the offers. You are expected to approach the case similar to other candidates. I don't see any way you can apply the legal knowledge.

Business Acumen is all about building proper industry and functional knowledge. Here is how you can do that:

  1. Practice more cases with the other candidates. Try to start with the most common industries - Retail, Consumer Goods, Airlines, Banking
  2. Study the annual reports of the public companies in each industry. They have a good overview of the company and the industry.
  3. Get the industry information from relevant books, magazines, etc. We'll recommend some good reading in the next lessons.
  4. Study MBA cases. They have a good industry overview. You can purchase HBS cases here: https://hbr.org/store/case-studies

For each industry, you should understand:

  • Revenue streams
  • Cost structure
  • Average margins
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Industry trends

Best

(edited)

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Emily
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replied on Apr 18, 2020
BCG Project Leader | 3+ years interview experience for BCG SEA recruiting | Kellogg MBA, NTU, Peking University

Hi Jihane,

I had an ex-colleauge in BCG who was a lawyer before he switched to consulting. He made quite a good consultant and was promoted to project leader before he left for his own startup business. So it is possible to not just succeed in interviews but also in the firm afterwards.

On your questions:

1) While MBA could be a potential route, it is not a must to get courses formally. That said, you would be expected to have business knowledge and to demonstrate business acumen. Not sure if your current legal work gives you enough exposure. There are a few ways you can tackle this:

  • read some business books that are used for MBA classes (or those on their reading lists),
  • subscribe to business journals and news (e.g. HBR, Financial Times etc.),
  • read the articles published by the consulting firms

2) The expectation of a candidate in the interview would be the same, regardless of your prior background, i.e. the evaluation criteria would be the same for someone from legal background as for someone from other background like engineering or business. You don't need specific legal knowledge in the interview. If you happen to have some insights that might be applicable to say risks in a business solution, feel free to mention that, but remember the main focus of the interview should be on business.

3) In addition, if you don't have much math experience, do practice that beforehand. There are a lot of materials on line and you can find on this forum as well.

Best,

Emily

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Jihane on Apr 18, 2020
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer, Emily. I will try to find a listing of the MBA books, and will subscribe to business journals.Will practice my mental math, for sure. Thank you again!
Thomas
CoachingPlus Expert
Content Creator
replied on Apr 18, 2020
150+ interviews | 5+ years experience | Kearney & Accenture | Sold consulting startup| London Business School

This is absolutely possible. Something that is perhaps forgotten as well is that lawyers are trained in finding flaws in arguments. That is a skill that is of great benefit in cases and actual consulting work as critical thinking is one of the main skills as well as the ability to spot flaws and test hypotheses.

An MBA can definitely be helpful, but not necessary. To improve your business acumen I would recommend doing a simple intro to the business course on a platform like Coursera. This will help you get an understanding of some of the concepts. Generally, my experience is that interviewers are more lenient towards experienced hires who have less business background. Nonetheless, do focus on your mental maths skills and building a foundational understanding. You do have to give the interviewer the feeling that you can learn quickly.

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Jihane on Apr 18, 2020
Thank you Thomas! I also believe that the "quick learner" skill could be highlighted through these business case interviews. It is now up to me to show that I've got that skill (among others).
Iman
Expert
replied on Apr 18, 2020
BCG | Strategy& |Roland Berger | Interviewed >100 candidates in formal hiring process

Hi, first of all in my experience your background is never an issue to get into consulting. I happen to work in a project with an ex lawyer and he is doing fine during that project.

There are a couple of things that you can do to prepare:

  1. If you have time, budget and motivation get an MBA from a reputable university. This is the most ideal way to get your business acumen up to speed. You will also find other aspirant to join Consulting and therefore, a lot of case practice partners
  2. If no then another similarly good option is to do an intensive case preparation 3-5 times a week with different people. This will help you familiar with the typical business problem that will be asked by consulting firms
  3. To support alternative no. 2 you need to also practice you mental math at least 5-10 minutes (a lot of usefule online tool to do this) and network with people in your target consulting firm to get reffered (The most effective method to get an interview)

My final advice, in doing case you should ONLY bring relevant knowledge to the table and do not try to force fit previous experience (e.g. legal)

Hope this helps :)

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Jihane on Apr 18, 2020
Hi Iman, thank you very much for your answer. I will definitely use the tips regarding the case preparation and mental math exercises. Very helpful, thank you !
Francesco
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replied on Apr 18, 2020
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.600+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi Jihane,

I helped several people from non-business backgrounds, including former lawyers, to land into MBB. Answering your questions:

- if it is necessary to get courses in business in order to prepare for the interview. If so, what courses would you recommend?

Formally you don’t need any course, but an MBA may help to land an invitation.

Many candidates with law background make a transition into MBB doing an MBA first. However, if you manage to get an invitation, there is no need to do any course per-se (although some may help to develop business acumen).

In order to prepare for the interview itself, you can just work on cases and review the main concepts you may not be familiar with while doing them (eg NPV, breakeven, compound growth..). After 30 cases you should have a good idea of all the key terminology. If you find some industries are more challenging for you (eg financial services or mining) just try to do more cases related to them.

- how do legal professionals manage to succeed at these kind of interviews? What is expected from them ? Do we have to bring our legal knowledge to the table (during the case solving phase)?

The requirements are exactly the same as for any other candidate.

You should be able to pass the fit and the case parts, and show good communication skills (being a lawyer, I assume the latter won’t be a problem for you). You won’t need to bring any specific legal knowledge into the case, but you could use your experience to answer the fit questions at the beginning of the interview.

Please feel free to PM me for more information.

Best,
Francesco

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Jihane on Apr 18, 2020
Hi Francesco, I thank you a lot for taking the time to answer. I will definitely strengthen my knowledge in business through my cases preparation.
Anonymous replied on Apr 28, 2020

Hi Jihane,

Many people with legal background can also build very successful career in consulting. I know quite a few partners with legal background who actually made it to a partner. This happened because of their natural and good structural skills which are applicable in the cases.

Many projects might be associated with regulatory part. So such persons can also use their advantage here, by having solid legal background.


Regarding the question what kind of courses to take — this is not mandatory and most of the candidates with legal or non-math background cover this disadvantage simply by practising. So I would say that these candidates need to practice more intensively than those, coming from typical economic or business background, but they are also highly valued in the firms.

Best,

André

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Jihane on Apr 28, 2020
Hi Andre, thank you for your answer. It gives me hope for my potential future as business consultant.
Antonello
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Apr 30, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi Jihane, no course in business is required. Theory is basic and you can simply fix it by reading cosentino's case in point and some articles here in the platform: https://www.preplounge.com/en/bootcamp.php

Then start simulating cases with coaches / other candidates. A good number of cases to be solved is 40/50

About the math instead it will be important to show confidence during cases. I recommend practicing with:

Hope it helps,

Antonello

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Robert gave the best answer

Robert

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McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author
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