You are more than an LL.M. student

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine

The term “personal branding” is on everyone’s lips and sends shivers down the spine of many LL.M. students. Personal branding is the process of establishing an image in the mind of others about oneself. Let’s have a look at how current LL.M. students miss out on a great opportunity here.

I remember the first weeks of my LL.M. studies. I was so proud to be an LL.M. student and finally having my dream of studying in the U.S. come true that I was quick to change my LinkedIn profile header to “LL.M. candidate at Fordham Law School.” Before my arrival in the U.S., I was working at Price Waterhouse Coopers Legal in Germany. But what I did back home was overshadowed by my pride in what I was doing now.

Many LL.M. students introduce themselves as an “LL.M. student at ...” I know why they do it. They are proud of being admitted to a U.S. LL.M., something they may have dreamed about for a long time. They use their school provided business cards and before long their whole identity is wrapped up in their student status.

While this is an understandable instinct, is it wise? It is true, we are law students but we are much more than that. We are fully educated and, often, fully licensed attorneys in our home country. It is a mistake to brand oneself as a mere student, when we have additional important professional qualifications.

Furthering your education does not negate your accomplishments, it adds to it. So, rather than introducing yourself as an LL.M. student, you should introduce yourself as a “German, Chinese, Argentine” attorney currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in “Intellectual Property, International Justice, Corporate Law” or the like. Using this phrase starts the process of establishing an image in the minds of others about you: An image of an international attorney.

Using this phrase will cause a shift in your mental attitude as well. LL.M. students often tell me that they are insecure about the value they could possible add to the US legal market as a mere student. “I am a student, what could I possibly offer an employer?” This is a distorted view of one’s career.

Again, furthering your education does not negate your accomplishments, it adds to it. You will likely know much more about the laws and regulations in Europe or Latin America or Asia than the person you are talking to. Your international legal acumen is certainly something that can add value.

Don't forget the road that lead you to your U.S. LL.M.

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 Networking" (West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).