10 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Hired as a Foreign LLM

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Getting hired after you complete your degree is difficult for any student.  As a Masters of Law (LLM) graduate, getting hired after law school is daunting.  The legal job hunt the sort of task that requires perseverance, networking, and luck.  It may take a few months.  It might even take a year.  If you’re stuck not getting hired you may want to consider the below reasons for the difficulty you’re facing.

  1. You’re not in the United States.  Location matters. It’s no secret that being physically present in the United States is a significant advantage when job hunting. While some firms do hire from abroad and provide visa sponsorship, this is not the norm.   Unless you have exceptional networking skills or are involved in some nepotism, you are highly unlikely to receive a job offer with sponsorship when you live abroad. Networking and connections can make a huge difference. Engage in networking events, online communities, and leverage any personal connections you may have.
  2. You haven’t passed the bar exam. If you haven’t passed the bar exam, it can limit your opportunities to practice law as an attorney. But that’s perfectly fine! It’s crucial to be realistic about the job prospects without bar passage. Consider gaining experience in other legal roles or explore alternative career paths. Yes, JDs get hired out of law school without having passed the bar exam first.  That’s not usually a viable path for LLMs.  Passing the bar exam and being admitted to the bar will significantly improve your employment opportunities.
  3. You’re targeting the wrong law firms. Your LLM degree likely focuses on U.S. Law, making it challenging to specialize in a specific area of law. To enhance your prospects, consider taking extra classes or obtaining a post-graduate certificate in your desired field. Alternatively, explore firms with an international presence..  These firms often have LLMs already employed there and can understand your journey.
  4. You’re in a highly competitive job market. DC, New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles are known to be tough markets to crack.  The job market for legal professionals can be highly competitive, especially when you’re up against JD graduates. Persistence is key. Keep applying for positions, expand your network, and reach out to your career services department and alumni network. Sometimes, all it takes is the right connection or opportunity.
  5. Your resume is letting you down. Your resume is your first impression, so ensure it shines. Pay attention to formatting, highlight your American experiences, and showcase your permission to work in the United States. Seek advice from attorneys or legal recruiters on how to enhance your resume’s appeal.  Is your resume free of typos? Is your resume clear that you’re in the United States and have permission to work here?  Have you asked an attorney or legal recruiter for tips on how to improve your resume?  As yourself these questions before you send out your next resume.
  6. You need visa sponsorship.  Securing work permission in the U.S. is an uphill battle, especially in the era of tightened H1-B visa regulations. While obtaining visa sponsorship without passing the bar exam for a legal job may seem daunting, it’s not impossible. Be persistent, explore firms open to sponsoring foreign talent, and keep your eye on potential changes in immigration policies. Your determination can make a difference.
  7. You need to improve your interview skills. The good news is you’re getting interviews.  The bad news is you’re not advancing from there. Seek assistance from your career services department to arrange mock interviews and receive valuable feedback. Practice makes perfect, and refining your interview skills can boost your confidence and improve your chances of impressing potential employers if your career services department doesn’t offer this service, as an attorney friend or mentor to help. You should also look into the STAR method for job interviews.  There is also a wealth of interview tips on YouTube.  Lastly, there are services you can pay who will conduct mock interviews for you.
  8. You don’t have any American job experience. The catch-22 of needing American job experience to gain American job experience can be frustrating So, even though you may have been a highly educated solicitor or advocate in your home country, you may need to take a step back here and do an internship, externship or be legal assistant or paralegal.  While it may seem like starting from scratch, these experiences can lay a strong foundation for your American legal career.
  9. You haven’t applied for enough jobs. Have you cast a wide enough net in your job search? Finding employment should be treated as a full-time job in itself. Two approaches to consider: tailoring each application meticulously to a specific job or adopting a rapid-fire approach by applying to numerous positions. While the latter may save time, be cautious about potential mismatches with your values. Basic research before applying can prevent surprises down the road.  I’m prone to the rapid-fire job application approach.  I will easily send off 20-30 job applications in a day.  Of those jobs, I may find 1-2 that I’m particularly interested in, so I will especially tailor my resume and cover letter for that job.  All of that takes precious time.  And thought I would like to do that for all the jobs I apply for, realistically it’s tedious and there’s not enough time.  Most of the jobs I apply for receive a generic cover letter and standard resume. For me, it is a numbers game.
  10. You haven’t developed your unique selling point.  Differentiate yourself from JD graduates by identifying and showcasing your unique skillset or area of expertise. Develop your “elevator pitch” – a concise, persuasive statement that highlights why hiring you is a smart choice. Explain how your specific skills and experiences can bring value to a prospective employer in 20 seconds or less.

Remember, your journey to a successful legal career in the United States may have its challenges, but with determination, the right strategy, and a bit of luck, you can unlock incredible opportunities.  Whilst you’re searching for a job consider submitting to the 10 List.  We’re now seeking submissions.  Part portfolio, part law journal, the 10 List showcases the 10 best and brightest Foreign LLM students in the United States. 

In the meantime stay positive, stay persistent, and keep pursuing your dream of becoming an esteemed legal professional in the U.S. We’re rooting for your success!

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10 List Admin
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Profiles and scholarly writing from the best LLMs in America

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