After writing on 2 of the “Big 3” topics I hear about the most from foreign-educated LL.M. applicants and students (jobs in the U.S. and bar exams), I asked LL.M. graduates in my LinkedIn network to answer a poll question: what do they wish they knew more about before starting their LL.M. degrees. I provided four options (the maximum on LinkedIn): jobs in the U.S., scholarships, courses/extracurriculars, and networking with alumni/J.D. students. The results:
The results show me the importance of Beyond Non-JD and helping people find more information before they begin their LL.M. studies. In the interest of providing more help on Post-LL.M. Careers in the U.S., I encourage readers to check out my post on this topic.
Some additional points I hope help those searching for more information on the job search in the United States:
- Understand the makeup of the program. Is the program primarily designed for foreign-educated lawyers to get exposure to the U.S. legal system or specific subjects for practice in another jurisdiction? This is a traditional view of LL.M. programs for foreign-educated lawyers, and schools continue to offer great programs that provide the credential, pathway to bar exams, cultural experiences, and education with this in mind. Or, has the school shifted resources into focusing the program on employment (either short-term or long-term) in the U.S.? Or does it depend on degree? Work experience/authorization of the student?
- When researching Specialized LL.M. programs with an eye towards working in the U.S., you’ll want to know as much about the U.S. job market for that Specialized LL.M. as you do about the curriculum, faculty, programming, etc. Are you securing an LL.M. in an in-demand area of law where there is a big demand for lawyers? Having worked in the world of Tax LL.M. programs for 3 years, I have seen how great a market there is for experienced foreign tax attorneys after a program.
- Pathways to Employment. When speaking to law schools, you’ll want to know how their students secure jobs. Is there recruiting/hiring directly through the program? This is another reason Tax is so great. There are specialized hiring events for Tax LL.M. students, including for the foreign-educated ones. You’ll want to figure out what big pathways to employment exist in your specialty.
- Timing Matters. Timing is crucial for the job search, especially for F-1 students who will learn about the OPT clock. Ideally, you secure post-graduate employment before the LL.M. program ends. Why? If you will study for a state bar exam over the summer, you’ll want to focus your energy entirely on that. Bar prep is tiring for J.D. graduates (including me in 2013!), and you’ll want to focus on that. Balancing a demanding bar prep with a demanding job search may spread you too thin. To the extent possible, having your OPT begin as far out as permissible is great because you can focus on bar prep and not worry about balancing starting OPT/work and bar prep. You’ll also want the certainty as you may need to plan a move. Again, this is why I encourage readers to review the initial post on what you can do to best position yourself before enrolling in an LL.M. program.
- Understand Legal Hiring in the U.S.: When comparing law to STEM and other “hot” disciplines, you learn the challenges for legal hiring. The newest Above the Law rankings has a great chart that explains this well! According to ATL, “25.8% of 2021 graduates did not secure a ‘real’ lawyer job.” This is referring to J.D. students, which does not even include LL.M. students seeking to work in the U.S. There are important caveats to what they mean by “real” lawyer job (you need to use the ABA Employment Outcomes terminology) and the timing (this is a snapshot of 10 months after graduation, and things change after that). But this is what causes some of the tension. It can even be hard for some J.D. graduates to secure post-graduate legal employment in the U.S., with three years of education.