You want to earn good money in a deal-driven environment working with big international companies filled with people who excelled academically. Assuming you don't want to work for an international PR agency, that leaves you with two options: banking, or law.
Which one will work you harder?
We spoke to two senior M&A lawyers and the verdict was mixed. Frank Aquila, co-head of Sullivan & Cromwell's general practice group in New York, said bankers and lawyers work equally hard - but that they work differently. "Bankers tend to work harder in the early stages of a transaction, when they're structuring a deal. Lawyers work harder in the later stages of transaction, where they're actually implementing and documenting the deal," Aquila said.
Do lawyers pull all-nighters? Sure, said Aquila. "If you're a lawyer it does happen that you work all night," he told us.
Generally, however, it seems that junior lawyers are spared the excoriating hours of junior bankers. The head of the M&A practice at one major law firm in London said he'd be "very worried" if he found his junior staff working regular 80-90 hour weeks (something that's not uncommon in banking).
"The thing with law is that you have ups and downs - there are periods when you're not so busy. But in banking, they fill juniors' time with all these pitch books for deals which are just a twinkle in their eye. There's a lot of time wasted," he said.
Aquila agreed: "Bankers work very hard on transactions that may not happen. Lawyers mostly work on transactions that actually go ahead."
Nonetheless, no one should go into law expecting an easy ride. The wife of one private equity lawyer told us he works "all night and all weekend" and that the bankers typically go home early during the crucial moments of a deal. "To begin with I married Allen & Overy and then I married one of the big American law firms. I never see him," she said.