From LLM to US Job: The Ultimate Obstacle Course

When the world still made sense, pre-Covid, I ran a Spartan Race. A Spartan Race is a run with obstacles of varying distance and difficulty. You have to make all obstacles or else suffer the hell of thirty burpees for each unfinished obstacle before you can move on. I had no ambition to place on the podium; all I wanted was to finish the race with my dignity intact. It turned out that my dignity flew out the window at obstacle two when I panicked on the top of a cargo net due to my fear of heights.

I finished the race by traversing 20 obstacles over 5 kilometers.

Some months after the race, after the humiliation of the cargo net incident faded, I realized how much that race resembles the path from an LLM to a US job. And here is why:

Anyone who has walked the path from LLM to US job knows about the obstacles they had to traverse along the way: grades, bar exam, immigration issues, networking, informational interviews, internships, family matters, cultural issues, administrative issues, financial issues to mention just a few. Anyone who landed a job in the US exhibits one common characteristic—the willingness to traverse each and every obstacle on the course. Just as I did not run the Spartan Race to win, few run the job race to be the best LLM in history. Most of us run the race to reach the finish line—a good job. The only way to finish any obstacle race is to traverse every single obstacle. 

No Spartan racer would dare to discuss with the event manager or other racers the fairness, appropriateness, or difficulty of a particular obstacle. Everyone closes their eyes, takes a deep breath and swims through the hole under the wall in the muddy water. Some LLM graduates, however, feel inclined to discuss the fairness or usefulness of certain obstacles, such as the most prominent of obstacles—networking. They do not realize that the only way to get a job is to deal with this obstacle. If they choose not to, their race is over. In real life, there is no burpee shortcut. When it comes to our job search as LLM graduates, the only way to reach the finish line is to traverse all obstacles whether we are afraid of heights or not. You may scream a little along the way, just like I did on top of the cargo net, but eventually, you have to get over it and move on.

Desiree Jaeger-Fine is director of International Programs at Brooklyn Law School and author of "Pursuing Happiness: One Lawyer’s Journey (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming summer 2021), “A Short & Happy Guide to Networking" (West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).