The LL.M. Degree is Not Enough

Many pursue the LL.M. degree as an entry ticket into the U.S. labor market. High hopes rest on the degree, but the truth is that the LL.M. degree in and of itself usually provides insufficient value to an employer.  

One of the most common questions that I have received over the past nine years is, “Do you have a list of employers who hire LL.M. graduates?” When I answer that “there are no employers who hire LL.M. graduates!” they are in complete shock. They fail to see the message in my answer. It does not mean that LL.M. graduates do not find jobs. But when an LL.M. graduate does find a job in the U.S., it is because they hold an LL.M. degree plus something else.

An employer does not hire someone because of her LL.M. degree. But she may hire the applicant because of her experience and particular skillset, which may have been supplemented or even advanced by an LL.M. degree. The myth of the LL.M. degree as a vehicle to employment is quite pervasive. The misconception is the product of a lack of understanding of law firm hiring strategies. It behooves us to acquaint ourselves with the intricacies of the specific market we seek to enter. One who wants to work in the U.S. legal industry must understand which law firms and which companies require specific expertise and for what purpose. This requires a deep understanding of law firms as business entities that decide based on specific business needs and goals.

Suppose someone pursues an LL.M. degree, hoping that it will lead automatically to a position at an international law firm in New York City, for example. In that case, she will find disappointment right around the corner. The LL.M. program is a tremendous experience and holds much value for those who have gone through it. But an employer will look beyond the degree for other things that are important, such as legal skills, business acumen, development prospects, cultural knowledge, language skills, and a strong network. An LL.M. degree without any of these add-ons is not appealing for an employer.


 

Desiree Jaeger-Fine is director of International Programs at Brooklyn Law School and author of "A Short & Happy Guide to Networking" (West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).