What Goals Should LLMs Have?

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).

 

The new year is the time for many to set new goals. While I am not a proponent of new year’s resolutions, I can understand the appeal of using a calendar change as a source of motivation. I hope that LLM students and graduates pursue a set of well-defined goals and that they do not wait for external circumstances to align to set such goals.  

What goals should you, as an LLM student or graduate, have? The details depend on your career objectives, but there are foundational goals that every LLM should pursue no matter what career they choose or in which country they plan to practice in the future. 

One of the biggest mistakes an LLM can make is to select the goal “anything.” Many students answer my question, “What would you like to do after your LL.M.?” with: “I really just want to find anything.” In this context, anything equals nothing: If an LLM is pursuing anything, she is pursuing nothing at all. Anything is not a goal; it is the absence of one. 

Let us look at some goals all LLMs should consider pursuing:

  • Build a Global Network
    LLM students should build and cultivate relationships within the global legal community before, during, and after the LLM. Nothing, absolutely nothing can excuse refusing to foster a network. Any attempt to justify having failed to do so shows one thing only: That this person does not understand what it takes to be a successful global legal professional. Not networking is self-sabotage. 

 

  • Get Solid Grades
    Grades are crucial, albeit not as important as for JD students. Grades, however, should not be an excuse to disregard networking. 

 

  • Pass a Bar Exam 
    Some LLMs contemplate taking a US bar exam, and I encourage every LLM to do so. Two months of study will lead to a license in the United States. Not being authorized to practice law in the US may mean that we leave opportunities on the table for a future we know does not always turn out to be as we have planned. I have met many LLM graduates who did not take the bar exam and now find themselves in a situation where they need or would benefit from it. 

 

  • Garner Experience
    We often define experience in too a limited way as “working for money.” But valuable experience is much broader than that. It includes internships, externships, volunteer opportunities, clinics, committee work in bar associations, journal participation, and more. Even if someone finds herself not employed, she can still be busy adding experience to her resume. All that is necessary is proactivity and creativity. 

 

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These goals are necessary for a successful exit from the LLM program. Any weakness in any of these will make success afterward difficult.