Fraud warning: Money traps for LL.M. students

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine

I have been stunned to learn about services that various companies offer to supposedly help international law students. For every helpful service, there are five that want to take advantage of the hopes and dreams of international LL.M .students and applicants. Here are the most common money traps to avoid:

LLM Application Assistance

There are many companies around the world that provide assistance in preparing LLM applications. While it is important to get support if you are struggling with your application, there is a limit. The first is to what extent someone else drafts the application for you. If all you need to do is submit your transcript and answer a few questions, and someone wants to be paid to draft your application, it is very questionable conduct. Receiving help with your application or having someone else draft the personal statement, resume, etc., in their entirety, are two different animals. If you are seeking to study in the US, you should consider the application process part of this experience and suck it up. If you are unable to pull together your application on your own, you will not succeed in the rigors of US graduate law study.

The second example is the horrendous fees companies charge to help you apply for a US LL.M. I have heard ridiculous sums in the thousands of dollars that are not justified. My consultancy has been offered a split fee of thousands of dollars to help students with their LLM application — students who “would pay anything” —according to the person pitching me. I do not fall for this questionable behavior and neither should you.

The third example is the service that comes with a guarantee of admission. No company can guarantee admission to a law school in the US. The admissions office, or LL.M. office for some law schools, decides who is admitted to the program. No one other than someone in that office can guarantee admission.

Visa Assistance

I was just asked by a French law student interested in an internship in the US, and in need of the necessary J1 visa, whether it would be better for him to use a company in France rather than in the US. The company claimed that an applicant would have better chances of receiving such a visa with a sponsor in their home country than with a sponsor in the US. This is wrong!! An organization that is accredited to be a J1 visa sponsor does not have to be in your home country. The American Bar Association, for example, offers the International Legal Exchange Program (ILEX) to international visitors. It is by the very fact that they are J1 sponsors that they serve international students. Who else? Americans don’t need a J1. Why then would a foreign sponsor have greater chances obtaining such a visa for their nationals? This is a clever way to get your money but these representations simply are false.

H1-B Fraud

I have seen job postings that specifically mention the possibility of H1-B sponsorship for qualified candidates. At first, I got excited and then I noticed a similar posting by a different law firm using almost the same language. A couple of days later, I noticed yet another posting by a third firm using similar language. I reached out to someone who had applied to this position and he told me that he was asked to bring his passport to the first interview. I am very glad that he took this demand to be the red flag that it was. Visa fraud is not new, but the ways in which that fraud is perpetrated changes fast. No job applicant should ever bring her passport to an interview or fill out forms for visa applications. It is important that LLM students and graduates become familiar with their visa requirements — F1, CPT, OPT and H1-B — so that no one can take advantage of their lack of knowledge. Please read the article on different visas here.

Whenever someone promises you to make an application process or a visa process easier, faster or more successful, you should be on the lookout. 

Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of A Short & Happy Guide to Networking (West Academic Publishing).