What is the best LL.M. program for U.S. jobs?


Are you looking to work as a lawyer in the United States? Many who do, consider an LL.M. program. An LL.M. degree is shorter and cheaper than a J.D. degree and, therefore, the choice of many international lawyers. The first question many thus ask in choosing an LL.M. program is: “Which school and program offers the best opportunities to get hired in the U.S.?” 

The answer is short and simple: None! Before you stop reading, allow me to explain.

The Master of Laws degree is a post-graduate law degree that was designed for international attorneys to receive a U.S. education that could be valuable in their home country. The goal of the offering law school was always to allow international attorneys to enhance their career back home, or in other words, to return home. The LL.M. degree was never meant as a short cut to a U.S. career. If one wanted to practice in the U.S., the J.D. degree was the education necessary for that goal. Things have changed and opportunities arose that now allow LL.M. graduates to take a bar exam (in some states) and become a U.S. attorney. The conclusion many took from that development is: If I can do an LL.M. and take a bar exam, I should also be able to work in the U.S., correct?  

Well, yes. You are technically able to work as an attorney in the U.S. but having the credentials to work does not necessarily make you marketable as an attorney. The U.S. legal market is primarily a J.D. market and LL.M. graduates are the exception. 

The opportunity to become a U.S. attorney with an LL.M. degree does not equal employment opportunities. Law schools are far from able to satisfy this ambition. The entire legal market is constructed around the J.D. cycle (on-campus recruiting etc.) and LL.M. students are an oddity in this structure. Any difference that law school programs may offer in that regard is miniscule and negligible.  

Choosing a law school and LL.M. program based on that goal is, therefore, a fruitless pursuit and can lead one astray. Rather than finding a school and program that offers “best employment opportunities,” one should look for other factors in choosing an LL.M program (learn more in my next post).

Does this mean that LL.M. students cannot find employment in the U.S.? No, it does not. It means that choosing a school and program based on that criteria is not a smart move, since law schools are not in the position to materially assist LL.M. employment as they do for J.D. graduates. In other words, there is no law school or LL.M. program that offers the best opportunities to get hired upon graduation. 


Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired (West Academic Publishing).