Character traits of a successful LLM graduate

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine

One of the beautiful aspects of the LLM program is the diversity of the student body. But even though LLM graduates are a beautiful mixture, there are some universal traits that constitute a successful LLM graduate. Here are some specific attributes associated with the successful LLM graduate:

A successful LLM graduate is a master networker. She understands that networking is one of the most important parts of a successful career.She understands that building and nourishing relationships is not only the key to success but also to a happier professional lifestyle.

A successful LLM graduate has mastered the ability to delay gratification. She understands that not every deed can produce results right then and there. A successful LLM graduate acts despite the absence of an immediate benefit. She is comfortable knowing that the benefit may crystalize a long way down the road or not at all. It’s not about each individual deed but the bigger picture.

A successful LLM graduate has mastered the blending of self-help with guiding hands. A successful LLM graduate understands that she is never permitted to pass along responsibility for her professional endeavors. She seeks guiding hands, not secretaries. A successful LLM graduate understands that she is and always will remain responsible for her career and her happiness. She does not seek someone who does for her what only she can do for herself. A successful LLM graduate seeks opportunities embedded in advice and expertise, because advice and expertise promote personal growth. She understands that others can only help us help ourselves, and never says of another that “she is not doing anything for me.”

A successful LLM graduate understands that she is both mentor and mentee and knows when she is which. She understands that because learning is a lifelong journey she will never outgrow the need for a mentor. She also appreciates that she has things to offer, regardless of where she is in her career, so it is never too early to become a mentor herself.

A successful LLM graduate enjoys conversations and understands that everyone is superior to her in some way in that others know something that she does not yet. She enjoys learning through conversation. She understands that attentiveness is a source of knowledge and free education.

A successful LLM graduate does not burden strangers with her problems, does not use small-talk to unload frustration. A successful LLM graduate never introduces herself by saying that she is stressed and struggling to find a job and asking whether the other could offer help.

A successful LLM graduate understands that no matter her position, she has always two things to give: praise and gratitude. And she should offer these liberally.

Does this mean that we have to be all of the above to be successful LLM graduates? Of course not. But striving for these attributes makes us not only better professionals, it also makes us better people.


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).