How Do I Start My Job Search As An LL.M. Student?

How do I start my job search? This is the question I am asked the most, and the question I find most difficult to answer in just a few sentences. 

No job search is the same and, unfortunately, there is no easy 10 step-guide to conducting a job search as an LL.M. student. Of course, a lot of advice that is true for domestic job seekers is equally true for an LL.M. student. However, the LL.M. student needs an extra scoop of mental stamina and force.

I think many LL.M. students are surprised with my answer to this question and are often a bit disappointed. We are very much accustomed to getting an easy manual for doing things; don’t know how to cook quinoa? Just find quick steps online. 

No matter how many articles you read online, your every day job search will look very different from your colleague’s job search, but two ingredients will always be the same: proactivity and persistence.

Let’s start with persistence. Many LL.M. students tell me they are networking and that it doesn’t work. When I then ask them to tell me a bit more about what exactly they have done they tell me that they went to three events at the New York City bar association and also followed up with a few people afterwards. They are always quite proud of this statement. Then they follow up with: But nothing happened, Desiree. Networking just doesn’t work for me. I need to find an employer that hires LL.Ms.  

Of course, nothing happened, is my response. If it were that easy we would not find any unemployed legal graduates, neither J.D. nor LL.M. I would not have a job, law schools wouldn’t need career service centers and recruiters would be unemployed. Just go to events and ask random strangers to help you with our job search. Welcome to Neverland. Networking’s essence is building strong relationships for mutual benefit and building relationships simply takes time. Using people for our own benefit and tainting connections is done much faster. But that’s not networking. 

Every LL.M. student should start right now building meaningful relationships anywhere and everywhere they encounter people. You should build relationships by offering something to the legal community without asking for anything in return. And most importantly, keep doing this persistently day in and day out without fail. Sometimes it is the simplest things that are the hardest to do. I promise you that if you do this persistently in a non-selfish or self-centered way, you will achieve more than you could ever imagine. The most successful LL.M. students are the ones that understand how to handle people. It is that simple.

Being persistent in one’s job search includes persistently working on one’s strategy. What strategy? Your job search strategy, of course. I know that only a handful conduct their job search on the basis of a well thought through strategy, while the majority do a few things here, a few things there and wonder why nothing is working out. “ I just want to find anything in international law, I just want to find something” is the most common LL.M. job search approach. 

A job search strategy includes a well defined goal that takes into account your desires as well as your strengths. A strategy includes a time-line with intermediate goals. And a strategy includes a month-to-month, week-to-week and day-to-day action plan. Do you have a job search schedule? Why not?

Sticking to your strategy persistently while adjusting to account for mistakes and setbacks is simple but powerful. An LL.M. student’s time in the U.S. is governed mercilessly by a running clock. Time is not your friend, so make every action you take as efficient as possible. Drifting through your job search and hoping for someone to finally give you what you deserve will not work. The definition of persistency includes action over a “prolonged period”; if you start to concern yourself with your job search in the month you graduate, you simply can’t be persistent. You are starting your job search on one leg.

Let’s talk about proactivity.  I don’t know how many times I receive requests along the lines: “Hey Desiree, would love you to send my resume around to your network.” Hey Desiree, can I hire you to pitch on my behalf to employers?” Hey Desiree, let me know if you have a job that suits my credentials, really want to stay in the U.S. My resume is attached. Thanks.”  I wished I were exaggerating but unfortunately, this happens almost every day.

How many LL.M. students have you heard found a job through a recruiter or headhunter? I don’t even know a handful. The recruiting part of a job search does not work so well for foreign LL.M. students. And not because, like many LL.M. students believe, recruiters are not doing a good job. They are great at what they are doing but LL.M. students are simply not part of their market. If they had a chance to place you and earn some money with you, trust me, they would. They simply don’t. Employer’s are not lining up to hire LL.M. students and that is the brutal truth.  And yet LL.M. students are getting hired, how can that be? 

Those who get hired are the ones who proactively manage their job search. They created opportunities whenever and wherever they could.  Opportunities that many would not have seen. They are not obnoxiously aggressive, but they understand that they are an underdog who has to do a little more  One on my clients got hired by a U.S. court with H1B sponsorship. I have never heard of such a thing before. Do you think he responded to a job posting? He did not, he made the impossible possible by hustling.

I know you are disappointed, you don’t want me to say these things. You want me to tell you exactly what you should do. Of course, I have many tips and tricks that I can and  do suggest. And doing these will help. But what is more important than this is that you first understand these two very important concepts that I mentioned here. Persistently and proactively creating opportunities where others are not seeing them.

I have clients who found a job and received their H1B in 2015 and are starting or already started their amazing new job.  Not a single one of them responded to a job posting. This should make you think.


Desiree Jaeger-Fine, Esq, is a regular contributor to The National Jurist and principal of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, The Hub for Foreign Legal Talent™ - helping foreign lawyers seek employment in the U.S.