How an LL.M. grad can work in the U.S. for only a few months or years

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine

What options do you have as an LL.M. graduate if you want to work as an associate in a U.S. law firm for only a few months or years? Many LL.M. students would like to complement their LL.M. study with some work experience. For those who are on a student visa, the optional practical training (OPT) makes this dream possible. From the employer perspective, this “deal” sounds a little less appealing. Hiring is very expensive and the employer invests a great deal of time and resources into recruiting and onboarding the new hire. If the new hire has the intention to leave after a few months, these efforts may not be worth the investment.

But there is some good news: Many law firms have Foreign Associate Programs for which they hire foreign associates for a limited time period. The name of these programs is different from firm to firm; some call it International Associate Program, some Visiting Attorney Program, others Foreign Associate Program, but the idea is the same.

The programs are designed to provide non-U.S. lawyers with meaningful training in substantive areas of U.S. law, as well as experience within a multinational law practice, after which the attorney will return home. It is important to emphasize that the program is designed for those who plan to return home. If your intention is to find long-term employment in the U.S. with visa sponsorship, these opportunities are not for you.

The exact requirements differ from firm to firm. Some require that you come from a certain country, speak a certain language or are or will be employed in their office or an affiliate firm in your home county. It is important that you do your research on the exact requirements before you submit your application. The mere fact that you are an LL.M. graduate will rarely suffice.

How can you find these opportunities? A Google search with lead you to a few law firms that advertise these programs on their website. But even those firms who do not advertise it, could potentially still be interested in a comparable arrangement. A LinkedIn search will reveal who is currently working as a Foreign Associate and in which firm (this requires that you have sufficient LinkedIn contacts, more on that in a different article). This information is a good starting point for your inquiry.

                                                               ***

Foreign Associate Programs are a fantastic way to complement your LL.M. study with practical experience. As with anything else, this opportunity does not come easy. You will have to put work into identifying and seizing it.


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) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).