Job hunting season

By ivan2006 in NYU - Class of 2007 on Mar 21, 2007

Although I have been actively participating in the discussion board during the past few months (one of the posters even suggested that I do not have much work to do here at NYU), the truth is that I left my blog aside for a while. The reason was the following: I knew that my next entry should be about the job search process, and I wanted to gather as much information as possible before writing. This is not an easy issue: many people in many schools have different opinions about this issue (just take a look at the “Employability” thread - http://www.llm-guide.com/board/24884 -, where many interesting discussions took place recently), and there may be disagreements. Consequently, maybe the best way to do that is by making reference to my own job search story:

1) Should you begin your job search since Day 1? No. You should begin your job search before Day 1. And that´s the golden word: “networking”. Do as much networking as you can in the first days of your LL.M. Tell your plans to as many people in your home country and in the US as you can – maybe some of them can know somebody here in the US that could help you in a near future. Among these contacts, the most valuable are your professional contacts: in my case, I relied heavily in my former law firm (I came to the US with no strings attached, but I have always had a great relationship with my former partners), and this was essential for me in my job search process. If somebody that knows you well writes an enthusiastic e-mail about you to someone here, it might help you to get a screening interview. And that´s the best way to get your foot in the door! In my case, two of the offers I received came from Law Firms to which I have been recommended by former colleagues! So do not underestimate the power of contacts! In addition, it is convenient for you to have your resume and a sample cover letter ready asap: preparing a decent resume and CL takes a lot of time, and it is not something you can do in one afternoon. You should prepare a first draft, submit it to the Office of Career Services and introduce the modifications they find necessary. The whole process may take a lot of time.

2) The first Big Thing – the Job Fair – the job fair frenzy begins very early in the Fall term. First, a list of the Firms that will interview on-campus is released. Then, you have to submit your resume to them for pre-screening purposes. Note that at this point, no transcripts are requested – they will select you based on your resume. The following kinds of firms come to the job fair: a) Foreign firms that are looking for candidates for their own country; b) American firms looking for interns/ international associates; c) American firms willing to hire international students for permanent positions, d) American firms with offices overseas that are willing to hire LL.Ms to return to their home jurisdictions. My opinion about this: as an international LL.M. you should pick as many interviews for positions in your home country as you possibly can, even if you desperately want to stay in the US. You may ask why. I would say: why not? It is a way of knowing partners in the big law firms in your country, and even though you may not accept their offers, if you impress them during the interviewing process, they will always keep the doors open for you. And if, after a couple of years in the US, you finally decide it is time to return to your home country – you will be able to call some people, and great job opportunities may come up. It is not a waste of time at all. Regarding the US firms, the truth is that most of them come to the job fair looking either for international associates (for 1-year internships) or for candidates for their offices overseas. Most of the times, the candidates that finally manage to get a permanent position offer will not have initiated their interviewing process in the job fair – since there are few US law firms that interview regular associate candidates in the job fair.

3) Finding a job is not easy at all… US Law Firms are pretty selective when it comes to hiring, and although you may say that you were #1 in your home country, it means little here. If you want to work in the US, you must have succeeded in a US environment. And this means grades. As I said in a previous entry, grades are essential in a job search. If you have excellent grades, you will have many screening interviews; if you don´t, your chances will be slim, unless you have excellent contacts. If you have a B- or C in your transcript, your job search is probably over, even if you graduate from a Top 5 school – try to get the best job you can in your home country, where your LL.M grades do not matter that much. Maybe you can work for an American firm therein and you could be transferred to the US in a couple of years! At the end of the day, many paths may lead to the same end result.

4) How long do you want to stay in the US? Although many people say that they want to stay in the US “forever”, the question arises: is staying here in the US really that great? There are a lot of arguments to defend it is: in few places in the world you will have the same pay (an entry-level associate in NY makes 160K a year) or the same prestige. In addition to that, the road to the partnership is shorter here: while in many European countries an entry-level associate may have to work 13 or more years to become a partner, in the US, it only takes 7 years. However, there are downsides: a) forget about your personal life. You are paid like a prince, but you should be ready to live like a slave – the hours are really long here, and it is hard not to get burned out; b) by staying in the US for a long period, you may lose your connections with your home country – and this could have terrible consequences. Let´s take the following example: when I arrived in NY, I met a girl from my country that had been living (and working) here since 2000. She came to NY immediately after graduation, and she had no work experience in our country. Even though she was still very young (below 30), she would become a partner here in a couple of years. Sounds great, isn´t it? Yes, if you really want to stay here “forever”. In her case, she wanted to return to her country. But this was hardly a real possibility: she never worked there and she was not acquainted with local law, and no firm there would convalidate her US work experience. What´s more, after so many years of hard work in the US, becoming an entry-level associate again was out of question. So what could she do? Complicated scenario. When she told me that the maximum period a foreign lawyer could stay in the US without jeopardizing his/ her career chances in their home country is 2-3 years, I though she was right. And I decided to follow her advice.

5) Regular associate or international associate – depends on how long you want to stay in the US. If you believe you want to stay here for a long period, you certainly might want to pursue a regular associate position. If one year is enough for you – you may be interested in returning to your home country -, then an international associate one will suit best your needs. However, it should be noted that there are different interviewing rules: obviously, if you are interviewing for a permanent position you should talk about your intention to stay in the US for a longer period. Certainly, a permanent position is a long-term plan, and you need to convince your interviewer that despite the fact you are a newcomer to this country, you want to pursue the American dream… On the other hand, you cannot tell the same thing if you are interviewing for an international associate position… In my case, I had 2 or 3 different speeches – and all of them seemed to work, as I was lucky enough to get offers both for permanent and international associate positions… It makes me a good liar, I guess.

6) What do firms expect from international associates? - First of all, we should ask ourselves why would any law firm would pay 160K to a foreign lawyer that will only stay for 1 year? I will give you an example: think of a US law firm that has clients that are often involved in deals in a South American jurisdiction. This firm has no offices of their own there, and when an issue comes up, they have to rely on advice from local firms. Sometimes, some communication problems may arise, and they need someone here in NY that knows the laws and language of that jurisdiction to make sure everything is fine and no issue is overlooked. In addition to that, it is an investment in public relations: by hiring bright foreign lawyers that will return to their home countries to work for the best local law firms, they are expanding their network. In the future, if they have a deal in the same South American jurisdiction, it is very likely that they will use professionals from their “alumni” network. On the other hand, one of their alumni may involve them in his/her own future deals. This is the reason why you cannot say in an interview for an internship that you want to stay in the US for a long period – it is NOT what they are looking for. I would describe the profile of an ideal foreign associate candidate as follows: someone from South America or Asia, specialized in corporate law or capital markets who´s been working for more than 3 years in a big law firm in his/ her home country and who is on a leave of absence from the mentioned firm.

Well, I realize I wrote a lot of stuff and that I probably forgot a lot of important aspects... But I will try to review this later and make some additional comments!

Cheers

Ivan

Comments

Helen Nives, Sep 05, 2007 22:49

I am an recruiter currently trying to find a tax attorney, preferably with LL.M, for a position within one of the Big 4. Is there any vehicle by which I would be able to reach alumni of the program to determine whether there are any interested candidates?
Helen Nives
(203) 267-4255

fernando, Aug 27, 2007 07:03

Hi,

D1, I can provide some advice for your questions. I´m a 2006 graduate of the Int tax LLM in Michigan.
It is probably too late, but in any case I have to say Michigan is an excellent School and that is a really good program (especially the tax LLM), the faculty is outstanding and the reduced number of alumni is clearly an asset.
As for the job search, despite of the fact I had excellent grades, I´m afraid I was less lucky (and probably smart), than Ivan. Oddly enough, I´m Spanish too, and I felt US law firms had no interest whatsoever in hiring a foreign trained lawyer like me (for somebody from Eastern Europe, South America or Asia the scenario is quite different).
So I returned to Spain, where I was immediately hired by the biggest Spanish law firm.
Ivan, I´m truly impressed that you got offers for both
permanent and international associate positions. Congratulations. Out of curiosity, which one did you accept?
Take care,
Fernando

D1, Jul 31, 2007 00:55

Hi Ivan, Thanks for all your posts, they are so useful. I need your advice plsss. I am applying to University of Michigan and I want to decide whether to apply to thier intl tax law progrram or thier general LLM. My hesitation is because I hear they take only 10 people for the tax LLM. I have only about a years experience and a specialised LLM (in petroleum tax and finance from a uk uni.)

What do you know about the LLM at American Uni (WCL).

Thanks!

ivan2006, May 23, 2007 00:38

Michael, I agree with you when you say that in some places/ firms in Europe you can make 160K or its equivalent in Euro/ GBP - although not in that many places. Perhaps Sullivan & Cromwell in Paris, or some firms in the UK pay that much, but I would not say it is the general rule. In any case, I agree with your reasoning - in Europe you may live better and you might not have the tremendous rent expenses of NY (for instance) -, and, as a matter of fact, I will probably return to Europe in late 2008... I fully agree with your points 2, 3 and 4 as well.

Michael, Apr 30, 2007 00:23

This is a great informative topic, ivan, and kudos for explaining to future LLM all the details about job search.

I have one disagrement though. You said :

"is staying here in the US really that great? There are a lot of arguments to defend it is: in few places in the world you will have the same pay (an entry-level associate in NY makes 160K a year) or the same prestige"

I have to disagree here.

It IS possible to make 160k a year in Europe, and yes, as an entry level associate ! Some U.S. law firms are looking to recruit LLMs for their European offices, and are willing to pay the price for that.

I was hired by a top U.S. firm and will work as an entry-level associate for 160k per year + will get an annual bonus for accepting to go back to Europe (over 40k).

Although I am aware there is a certain "prestige" in having in your resume that you worked in the US, this solution allows me to :
1) you get to earn over 160k
2) the work hours in Europe are slightly better than in NY (no idea on this, this is what people say, I guess I will have to find out myself)
3) I do not lose my connections with my home country and will remain very marketable should I decide to change company
4) Should I decide to change my mind, I can easily go to the NY office and work there for a while.

There, I just wanted to point out that choice number d) that you mentionned (American firms with offices overseas that are willing to hire LL.Ms to return) can also be a great and exciting opportunity, and may be preferable for some people than staying in NY. I think this solution is overlooked by quite a lot of people, which is too bad as it offers quite a lot of possibilities. Of course, what is "better" depends on each person's preferences, family reasons, career objectives, etc, I am in no way trying to assert this solution is the best for everyone.

ptrio, Apr 16, 2007 18:17

Hi, Ivan! Thank you so much for your information.
I'm beginning the LLM at NYU this fall and, for personal reasons, I'm interested in moving to Boston afterwards. Could you provide an idea of the employment scenario for international lawyers over there?

bohdan, Mar 30, 2007 02:30

great job! thanks a lot!

Jaan222, Mar 25, 2007 21:03

Hey ivan dear u r great giving us all these valuable information for free.....lol...really it is great thank u
Hafiz.
egypt/pakistan

V-2007, Mar 23, 2007 14:53

Thanks, Ivan! I should agree - tax lawyering is very specific indeed... And I did not realize that there are so few major US-based international law firms in Spain... as opposed to Russia.. we have (apart from those named by you) skadden, cleary, akin, hogan, etc...

ivan2006, Mar 22, 2007 17:44

Hi, thanks for your comments! Where I am from is no secret - I am from Spain.
Well, once you are here you will apply to any position available - if in the job fair a firm is interviewing international lawyer candidates, you will interview for this position. On the other hand, you may send letters to firms that did not come to the job fair applying for a permanent position. That´s how I did it - and there was no overlap at all.
I will clarify my statement. That girl I am acquainted with is a tax lawyer, and a tax lawyer work relies heavily on your technical knowledge of the local jurisdiction´s laws. I also have a friend (also a tax lawyer) who´s in the US since 2002 and faces the same problem: too senior to start all over again in Spain...And unfortunately, there are not many US firms with offices in Spain (I think only Jones Day, Baker & McKenzie and Latham are there).

Best,
Ivan

V-2007, Mar 22, 2007 09:54

Bravo, Ivan!

Thanks for this, very helpful indeed! I am from Russia (working in a boutique American ILF) and I am going to Columbia this summer.

My question is how you decide whether to apply for international associate or foreign associate position? Obiviously, you cannot apply to both at a time... What is the decisive factor?

Additionally, I do not really agree with the following statement :

"...But this was hardly a real possibility: she never worked there and she was not acquainted with local law, and no firm there would convalidate her US work experience...."

As for Russia (I guess most East European and Asian countries have the same practice) -- it is just a wonderful opportunity to return back to your home country as an American associate (probably, with American salary)... Many American law firms do have 1-2 American associates working in Moscow offices on major M&A cross-border transactions... meanwhile she could pick up home country law and that would open an in-house pass... I see it as an truly unique possibility!!

BTW, Ivan, where are you from (if not a secret, of course).

best,
V


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