The hiring of LL.M. candidates at many of the largest international law firms remains robust, even in the face of economic headwinds. Some large law firms are scaling back hiring as they prepare for a potential global recession, but many are still actively recruiting on law school campuses amid an ongoing war for legal talent.
“Law firms and other organizations greatly value the talent, experience, and educational achievements of LL.M. students,” says Melanie Orhant, Senior Law Career Counselor for LLM Students at George Washington University’s Law School.
LL.M. graduates at GW Law are also recruited by organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and numerous international non-profits, on top of the Big Law firms.
Many of these students are recruited by national and international law firms through NYU's International Student Interview Program, the oldest and largest LL.M. recruiting program in the United States, sponsored by 33 law schools nationwide. Hosted by NYU School of Law, the program facilitates the interviewing of foreign-trained lawyers enrolled in LL.M. programs.
Such law firms are upping the rates of pay to attract fresh hires. “Law firms’ rising compensation rates can help enhance the return on investment of an LL.M. degree, which has the power to transform a student’s career trajectory,” says Cecilia Caldeira, Assistant Dean for International and Non-J.D. Programs at Fordham Law School in New York.
As the fight for talent, many law firms and multinational companies also participate in the LL.M. Practicum program at Miami Law, where students earn academic credits for a semester-long placement at a top firm or company. These placements can be paid or unpaid, and allow students to network, build their practical lawyering skills, and find mentors. They may even lead to future employment.
Networking: essential to landing a post-LL.M. job
“In addition, law firms are hosting receptions specifically for LL.M. students where they can network and learn more about the firms’ culture and practice areas. Some potential legal employers also are participating in fall and spring recruiting and resume collection programs,” says Sandra Friedrich, Miami’s Assistant Dean of International Graduate Law Programs, underlining the efforts that law firms are going to attract the best and brightest candidates.
Some foreign-trained LL.M. students are returning to their home countries on graduation, where they advance professionally, or change their career path and apply for higher roles in different law firms, international organizations, or government departments.
However many LL.M. graduates are interested in staying in the U.S., taking a U.S. bar exam, and utilizing their optional practical training (OPT) post-graduation work permit with the intention of continuing their careers in the U.S. “More LL.M. students are interested in new emerging legal areas such as privacy and cybersecurity, complex compliance, energy law and ESG among others,” Friedrich says, highlighting the changing priorities of graduates.
In South Florida, where Miami Law is based, international law and dispute resolution, entertainment, intellectual property, tax, hospitality, and biotechnology are some of the top legal practice areas.
However, given that some law firms are scaling back recruitment after a hiring spree as the threat of recession increases, what skills do LL.M. candidates need to ensure a long-term career and how can they develop them while studying?
At GW Law, LL.M. students get a strong foundation in the U.S. legal system — which gives them a competitive advantage in their future careers. “All of our foreign-trained attorneys must take a Fundamental Issues in U.S. Laws course, which gives them an in-depth understanding of the common law system and the constitutional underpinnings of the American legal system,” says Orhant.
“Many of our students take additional courses that expose them to the U.S. legal system, including Corporation, Constitutional Law, or Criminal Law. Since students must be able to write clearly and concisely, we require our foreign-trained LL.M. students to complete a Legal Research and Writing course that focuses on writing and research skills that make them ready for a successful career.”
Career support helps LL.M. students achieve professional aims
Outside of their studies, students at Miami Law also can become members of professional organizations and associations and attend conferences, lectures, site visits, luncheons, and other networking events — all of which provide a unique and meaningful opportunity to closely interact with legal practitioners.
Furthermore, the school’s Office of Career and Professional Development offers a variety of services including resume and cover letter workshops, networking opportunities, mock interviews, and career fairs. “Our career advisors work with our students throughout their studies and beyond their graduation date to help them achieve their professional career goals,” says Friedrich.
Experiential learning is also central to achieving professional goals, she adds. “Experiential learning through clinic, practicum, externship, litigation or transactional skills courses, prepare students for modern legal practice by applying theory to real-world legal problems.”