Find all the resources you need for your job search.
- LLM Resumes and Cover Letters
- LLM References, Writing Samples & Transcripts
- Resources for Locating Potential Employers
- Public Service, Government, and Clerkship Opportunities
- Non-Legal Careers
- OCS Interviewing Resources
Professional resumes and cover letters are vital for a successful job search process both as a LLM student and beyond. The purpose of these pages is to help you to begin to think about the content and presentation of your resume.
A resume is your written presentation of your skills, talents, and abilities to a prospective employer. Often, it is the first introduction you will make to this employer. You want it to be as active, as strong, and as descriptive of you as possible while in a concise format.
At the same time, you want to understand what it is any particular employer will be looking for in reviewing your resume. In the legal field, there is a standard format to a resume and you will be best received if your resume is designed within that format. With that said, there may be skills and talents that you would emphasize in presenting to one employer that would be less relevant in another context.
OCS offers online videos and written resources on resume writing. In addition, we have a resume review service. Counselors will look over your resume for style and content. You are also welcome to make an appointment with Caroline Ruhle to discuss your resume after reviewing the online materials and participating in the resume review.
Some students enter law school with extensive previous experience, which may include paid employment, volunteer work, writing, other certifications, etc. Others do not yet have an extensive work history. Regardless of which group you fall into, you will be able to assemble a strong resume on the basis of what you have achieved so far. If you have difficulty seeing how to present your accomplishments, make an appointment with a counselor so we can assist you.
While you are in law school, there are many opportunities for you to engage in substantive activities which you can include on your resume. For example, you may get involved in a bar association project, volunteer to work with a committee that is drafting a response to a specific piece of legislation, or help plan a conference on a topic of interest to you. You can participate in one of our student-run legal service clinics, where you can make a contribution to the local community and also gain valuable experience and receive credit for part of your pro bono requirement. You can also join a student group at the law school and organize a panel discussion on a particular subject. These kinds of experiences may help you to build your resume and provide you with opportunities to evaluate your interests and career goals.
The main purpose of your resume in the legal setting is to give employers a vivid picture of you functioning as a lawyer in their particular environment. To create that picture, you will present your skills, experiences, and accomplishments in a way that is specific, dynamic, and appropriate for that particular employer. In U.S. employment searches, the resume serves two basic functions:
First, the resume is intended to awaken an employer’s interest in you. As noted above, it must speak about you and your talents, in ways that are relevant to that employer and the work of that organization. The resume must interest the employer so that the organization grants you an interview.
Second, the resume serves as the basis for conversation during an interview. You want to craft a resume that will generate excellent conversation during the interview about your experience and talents, and you must be prepared to discuss anything that appears in your resume in an interview, in a way that ties your skills to the work of that organization.
In the U.S., there is a standard format to a legal resume and you will be best received if your resume is designed within that format. Be sure to have your resume reviewed by the Office of Career Strategy before submitting it to a U.S. employer.
Unlike a curriculum vitae (“CV”), a resume is not a comprehensive listing of all your educational and professional activities. Rather, your resume provides information about you that is relevant to the position for which you are applying. Your resume must be clear, concise, and attractive in appearance.
A U.S. style resume provides information about your qualifications, but also draws the employer’s attention to you – it “sells” you. For this reason, the resume will emphasize your strengths and talents with specific examples. Don’t be modest. However, boasting generally is not appropriate. Instead, include all information that illustrates your experience or special capabilities, e.g., if you graduated first in your class, or took primary responsibility for a major project.
U.S. employers may not be familiar with the system of education, degrees, or honors in other countries. Whenever you think it may be necessary, include a brief explanation of your foreign degrees, and positions. When possible, you may wish to indicate a U.S. equivalent.
Your resume should not necessarily remain the same for all employers. At times, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of your experience for one employer but not for another. Be prepared to change your resume to make it most appropriate for a particular job application.
When an employer reads a resume, that employer is evaluating the candidate’s potential for the specific kind of work required by that organization. Certain skills and experiences you have may be especially relevant for a particular position or organization. For this reason, it’s often useful to tailor your resume for particular situations. You can either create several different resumes for different types of employers, or have one basic resume which you modify on a case by case basis as you apply for specific positions.
Some examples of information you might want to include for specific employers:
- Permanent address . If you have a permanent address in the employer’s city, consider having two resumes, one with the address in the employer’s city and one with your current address or include both the local address and your school address. Note that it often looks cleaner to have only one address.
- Details of past experience . Certain experiences may be especially relevant for a particular kind of employer. For example, if you’re applying to a tax firm, and you’ve done some accounting work at a past job, you would be sure to emphasize this. If you’re applying to a public interest organization that does environmental work, and you volunteered in college, that should be included.
- Altering description of duties to attract certain employers. Some students may have a wealth of experience in the public interest arena and yet want to explore career options with corporate law firms. To be an attractive corporate law candidate, this student would describe his or her former experience focusing on the skills developed on the job, as opposed to the clients served. For example, “Established music enrichment after school program for children with emotional and behavior problems” becomes “Established music enrichment after school program. Hired, trained and managed 15 specialists, volunteers, and paid staff.” Likewise, students seeking public interest jobs would focus on and emphasize any relevant volunteer activities and their commitment to social concerns and the people served as well as on the skills gained. Please consult the Public Interest pages for further information.
Whenever you send your resume to an employer, it will be accompanied by a “cover letter.” The cover letter you send to an employer must fulfill two important functions — it must stimulate the employer’s interest in you and also express your interest in working for that particular employer.
- Cover letters should be short. Three paragraphs should do it.
- In the first paragraph, clearly state your year in law school and the position in which you are interested. This can be done in one simple sentence.
- In the second paragraph, explain specifically why you are interested in that employer’s firm, business, or organization. It is very important that your statement be as well-informed and focused as possible. This means that you need to do some research about the employers to whom you are applying. We have observed that it is just not productive to do mass mailings to hundreds of law firms. Targeted, well-researched approaches are far more successful than a random blanket mailing. The second paragraph should also make clear how your skills match the employer’s needs, as you understand them.
- The final paragraph should let the employer know what supporting materials you are enclosing and when you will be available for an interview. Include your phone number to make it easy for them to contact you. Thank the person who has read your letter.
- If you are contacting a law firm via e-mail either send your cover letter as the body of the e-mail and attach your resume or in the alternative attach your formally drafted cover letter and resume to your e-mail.
- List your references on a separate page titled in the same way as your resume (name and address in the same typeface and style).
- List your best reference first. If the employer only calls one person on your list, your first reference should be that person.
- Include two or three professional or academic references . Consider asking former employers, former co-workers who have moved on to positions of prominence, former professors with whom you’ve established some relationship, etc.
- List each reference by name, title address and email and/or telephone number, depending on the reference’s preference.
- Include your relationship to the reference, to provide the employer with some context. For example, “Mr. Smith supervised me as an associate at XXX law firm from 2018 to 2020” or “I was Professor Jones’ research assistant from September 2016 to May of 2017.”
- Ask the permission of each person before you put his/her name on your reference list. When you ask if the person is able to give you a strong reference, indicate that you hope he or she will be able to help employers picture you as a competent, dynamic attorney. Ask your references whether they would prefer written inquiries, e-mail, or telephone calls and proceed accordingly.
- Always bring copies of your reference list to job interviews. Please see the sample reference list.
You will also need a writing sample to bring to interviews and on occasion to include in mailings with your resume. Selecting a strong writing sample is very important. In recent years, employers have become more and more likely to ask for written work and to review it carefully as part of the evaluation process.
We encourage you to take a Legal Research and Writing course, and appreciate its importance. You may be able to use a piece prepared for this class as your writing sample when interviewing.
Here are some things to consider in choosing your writing sample:
- Look for a short (5-10 pages double spaced), well-written piece of legal writing that displays your legal analytical ability, perhaps a section of a brief prepared for legal writing class or a memorandum you have drafted. If you don’t have a good piece of legal writing yet, consider a piece of expository writing you did for an undergraduate class.
- Use strong, persuasive writing. Choose a piece in which you advocate a client’s case over a more general memorandum reviewing the law.
- Select a topic which is interesting, but not disturbing or politically charged.
- If you select only a portion of a piece of writing, add a cover page that describes the full piece and sets the stage for what you have provided.
- Always be sure your name is presented clearly on the sample. Believe it or not, leaving off the writer’s name is a common mistake on writing samples.
- In all cases, be sure to obtain permission from an employer before using any document generated in a “real-work” setting.
- Delete or change all names and identifying information of work-products produced for real clients.
- Be sure to use your own work, not work that has been heavily edited by others.
- Never use work you completed for a judge as a writing sample without his or her express permission.
- For U.S. employers, unless you have been told otherwise by an employer, your writing samples should always be in English.
You will want to be certain to have a copy of your writing sample with you on any interviews, and you may decide it is worth the cost to send a strong sample with any resumes and applications you send out.
The OCS counselors cannot review writing samples, but you may ask your legal writing instructor to assist you.
You will not have a transcript to present to employers until sometime in late January. In the meantime, you should plan to send (or bring) your transcript from your law studies in your home country. Most employers will accept a good photocopy of what is plainly an official copy from your home country. You can then send your University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School transcript when it becomes available. If your home country transcript is very strong, you may want to provide a copy to all employers.
Once you get your grades, employers will generally expect to see your transcript. Note that, like many of our peer schools, the Law School does not have a class ranking system or a GPA calculation. Generally, we find that this works to the advantage of our students in the job market. You are not permitted to estimate your academic standing in the class. We will not support any student’s claim to be in a particular percentage of the class.
You do not need an “official” transcript unless otherwise specified by the employer. You should print your grades off Penn InTouch by copying and pasting your grades into a document and adding your name at the top. You may not misrepresent your grades on your transcript. PLEASE NOTE: For security reasons your name is not printed on your Penn InTouch grade sheet. You must print or type the name in yourself. There is an example of this here.
If your academic record is not particularly strong, you may be reluctant to include your grades with your resumes when they are mailed to employers. In any case, though, you should have a transcript ready to present at all your interviews.
Remember that grades are only part of your overall record. Most employers realize that your grades may not fully represent all your strengths and capabilities. We have seen students who struggle to do well on law school exams, but have succeeded in finding desirable jobs because of their impressive background and prior law-related experience. Conversely, we know students who have outstanding transcripts, but were not very successful in the job market because they lacked the ability to relate well to other people.
If you need assistance in figuring out how to discuss your grades with employers, make an appointment with one of our counselors.
Do you need to write a thank you letter to an employer after an interview? There are conflicting views on this point. Most often, the best crafted note will not get you a job you didn’t already have on the strength of your interview, but a lousy thank you note can cost you an offer they were considering awarding to you.
Moreover, thank you letters are not necessary in all situations. We have been advised by many attorneys and recruiting coordinators that 20 minute interviews during the New York Job Fair do not require a thank you letter. With that being said, thank you notes can add to your overall package. They can refresh the interviewer’s recollection of your meeting, refine a connection you made with him or her, and be an example of your clear, concise, and interesting writing style.
Some situations in which you want to follow up an interview with a thank you letter may include:
- Call-back interviews. If you choose to send a thank you note, these letters should be short and can also serve the purpose of explaining your reimbursement request, if they had agreed to pay your expenses.
- Interviews with smaller employers and public sector employers. These interviewers, whether or not they are participating in formal recruiting programs, seem to value the personal effort that a thank you letter takes.
- Informational interviews - you can use this as an opportunity to develop a continuing relationship with the attorney. You could, for example, write or telephone and see if the person would like to meet for further conversation over coffee or lunch or report back on any advice or contact that were suggested.
- When a personal contact has extended himself or herself to set up an interview for you, you should send a thank you note to that person. If this is a person you know well, a personal, hand-written note may be preferable to a formal business letter. You want to maintain, develop, and respect all contacts you have and make during your career development.
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to write a thank you letter is yours. If you do write one, here are some suggestions:
- Emailed thank you notes have become very common. Use your judgment as to whether the recipient of your thank you would deem an email appropriate or not.
- It must be perfect. No misspellings (particularly of the attorney’s or employer’s name), no grammatical or spelling errors, no merge mistakes. Check, double check, and triple check. Mistakes here can cost you a job offer.
- It should be short and appropriate in tone.
- If at all possible, personalize the letter. You can mention something you discussed during your interview (e.g. “I enjoyed hearing about your undergraduate experience studying in Italy…”).
- If you are sending a thank you, do it promptly after the interview (within a day or two of the interview).
If you have visited an employer and spoken with more than one interviewer, you do not need to write them all. Rather, address your letter to one of the attorneys you visited or to the recruiting coordinator, and ask that person to express your thanks to the others you met.
In past years, LLM students have had much more success securing positions in law firms in their home country. Some end up working for a U.S. firm in one of the firm’s international offices located outside the U.S. In addition, several students typically end up working outside the U.S., but not in their home country, often in London or Hong Kong. Every year a small handful of Penn Law LLM students do find permanent jobs with a U.S. (usually New York) office of a law firm. Other students secure a one year (or shorter) internship in the U.S., typically with the help of their home employer or with an employer who will allow for limited practice in the U.S. followed by transfer to one of their non-U.S. offices. However, it is advisable, even if you want to work in the U.S., to search both in the U.S. and abroad. Do not limit your options or you may end the year unemployed and disappointed.
If you are searching for a position as an associate in a law firm in the U.S., focus on firms that will consider employing LLM students and in states where you can take the bar exam. The positions for LLMs at firms in the U.S. are quite limited. Consequently, some LLM students who are set on staying in the U.S. have worked in paralegal or legal assistant positions at law firms, especially in states where they cannot be barred. Another possibility has been to work on short-term projects such as document review for law firms, which are staffed directly by the law firm or through a legal placement agency. Your foreign language skills can be marketable in this context, as document review increasingly encompasses foreign language documents.
New York University Law School will be hosting the International Student Interview Program [“ISIP”] in the spring semester. This job fair includes over 150 legal employers, mainly law firms, from around the world and 32 law schools participate. Although U.S. firms do interview at ISIP, the great majority of positions are for non-U.S. offices. Last year, a very small percentage of the employers were seeking to fill U.S. positions. Interested students submit their resumes to employers who then select which candidates they wish to interview. Not all students who apply will receive interviews. However, all students are encouraged to come to New York for the event. There will be receptions, panels and plenty of opportunities to network.
Typically, legal placement agencies, (also known as “head hunters”) in the United States are paid by large law firms to recruit experienced attorneys. They usually do not work with recent graduates or LLMs. There may be exceptions to this rule (e.g. working with an experienced LLM that will be placed in a foreign office of a U.S. firm). However, any reputable legal placement agency will not charge you a fee. Instead, the employer pays the placement agency a fee once a successful placement is made. The National Association of Legal Search Consultants [“NALSC”] is the professional organization for head hunters. Their website lists member companies by city. Members of NALSC must abide by certain professional standards and any “head hunter” you work with should be affiliated with a NALSC listed organization.
The following lists the most common resources for researching law firm opportunities. You can also link to many of these resources via the Job Search page.
- Symplicity - OCS Data Base of Employers. OCS maintains information on firms who have contacted us to express interest in our students over the past few years. This will provide you with name, address, and contact information for these employers, as well as links to employers’ web sites. You can request a password from OCS to access the database. Both U.S. and foreign law positions are posted on Sympilicity.
- NALP Employer Directory For NALP member law firms, public interest organizations and government. Provides statistics about firm size, salaries, practice areas and other general information about employers. The NALP listing for each employer will include information on whether or not that firm expects to hire LLM candidates.
- Martindale is a national listing service, which collects biographical information on all participating attorneys and firms, and then lists paid advertisements for firms and practitioners organized by cities and states. This resource includes information on firm location, size, practice areas, and the number of and backgrounds of attorneys. It has an excellent advanced search feature. Find and browse lawyers and law firms.
- The Alumni Network lists alumni who have volunteered to talk to students about their practices and their cities. These contacts are mainly JD graduates in the U.S., but we are working to build International and LLM alumni listings.
- Going Global Career and Employment Resources: includes more than 10,000 pages of constantly-updated content on topics such as: job search sources, work permit/visa regulations, resume writing guidelines and examples, employment trends, salary ranges, networking groups, cultural/interviewing advice… and much more! ( Students who want to set up a personal account should be aware that passwords may not be stored securely by Going Global. Please use a unique password and not one that you have used elsewhere.)
- Media sources such as the American Lawyer and the National Law Journal “rank” firms on various bases (e.g., profits per partner, amount of international work — see the November edition of The American Lawyer each year— overall revenue, size, etc.). In addition, ALM Research “ranks” the “Global 100” - the world’s largest international law firms.
- ABA Section of International Law International Internship Program Site contains an online database of international law firms interested in hiring JD and LLM students for summer legal internships. Many firms seek volunteers, but some offer stipends.
Many corporations and nonprofit organizations, of all sizes, employ lawyers on their own staff. These attorneys provide legal advice on issues that impact the organization and its employees. The organization is the in-house attorney’s client; the role of the attorneys in the in-house legal department is to counsel the organization on all issues related to running its operation and to monitor any legal work that is being performed by law firms outside the organization.
As organizations vary in size, so do the legal departments that serve them. A legal department may consist of one attorney or several hundred. In a large corporation, you may find a general counsel, assistant general counsel(s), and staff attorneys. Additionally, in-house counsel will, often or occasionally depending on the organization’s needs, hire outside counsel to assist in specific matters considered too time-consuming or requiring special expertise.
One note: permanent in-house counsel positions are typically awarded to lateral candidates, that is, to attorneys who have acquired experience first at law firms or other organizations. Corporate and nonprofit legal departments are not structured to train recent graduates and very, very few hire lawyers directly from law schools. However, LLMs who have had a great deal of experience practicing law in their home countries may be appropriate candidates. For example, an LLM candidate from South Korea with technology industry experience may be able to market herself to a legal department of a U.S. corporation involved in that sector, especially if that corporation does business in or with South Korea. More generally, students interested in In-House positions need to craft a long term strategy to go in house and would be wise to do the following:
- Identify an industry of interest to you, and learn as much about it as possible.
- Identify which corporations would be interested in someone with your particular experience. Which of your clients have been from the same industry as the corporation in which you are now seeking employment? For example, do you have expertise in the regulation of natural gas pipelines? If so you may become very marketable to businesses doing that work.
A good place to start is here. Other resources include:
- Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the United States , Directory of American Firms Operating in the United States. These books identify international corporations, which due to their business being in both the U.S. and a particular foreign country often seek law students with both an international background as well as knowledge of U.S. law.
- Lippincott Library, University of Pennsylvania. Lippincott is the University’s business library, affiliated with the Wharton School. Lippincott has a wealth of business resources. As a University member, you are welcome to use Lippincott’s resources; the reference librarians are extremely helpful. Additionally, the University Library’s online reference services include relevant sources at its website.
- International Directory of Corporate Affiliations. Lists foreign (non-U.S.) parent companies and their subsidiaries world-wide, as well as U.S. parent companies and their foreign subsidiaries. Also indexed by country.
- Moody’s International Manual. Provides financial and business information on more than 3,000 major corporations and national and multinational institutions in 100 countries. Arranged by country with an alphabetical index by company name.
- Principal International Businesses. Published by Dun and Bradstreet International.
- Zehring’s Corporate Finance Sourcebook. Contains information on organizations such as leasing companies, investment banks and business insurance brokers.
- Zehring’s Corporate Finance Bluebook. Provides detailed descriptions of businesses and corporations, from sources providing financial services to specific organization information.
- US Corporate Directory. List of U.S. Corporations doing business in foreign countries
Visit the Public Interest portion of the OCS website. There you can subscribe to the Public Interest Listserv, view Public Interest Newsletters, and access useful links. One particularly useful online tool is PSJD, which is a national and international database with thousands of public interest and government employers, job listings and fellowship opportunities. In addition, OCS maintains a library of public interest resources including organizational directories, job search guides, and nonprofit directories and guides. In addition, public interest and government jobs are posted on Symplicity. You can also schedule an appointment to meet with the Public Interest and Government Career Counselor.
There may be opportunities to gain experience in public interest and government law by doing volunteer legal work this year through the Toll Public Interest Center. In addition, consider registering for a clinical program, which will also provide you with some “real world” experience.
- Opportunities for noncitizens with U.S. government agencies are extremely limited. U.S. government positions are either in the Competitive Service, the Excepted Service or the Senior Executive Service.
The Competitive Service includes all civilian positions that are not specifically excepted from the civil service laws by statute, by the President, or by the Office of Personnel Management. Hiring for competitive service positions must comply with Executive Order 11935 which bans the employment of noncitizens into Competitive Service positions unless there are no qualified citizens available. It primarily includes positions in the Executive Branch.
The Excepted Service includes some positions in the legislative and judicial branches. In addition, there are certain positions (including lawyers) and certain agencies (including the FBI, the CIA, and the U.S. Postal Service) which are in the Excepted Service by statute. Senior Executive Service is reserved for high-level management positions. Since most legal positions fall into the Excepted and Senior Executive Service categories, their citizenship requirements are of the most interest for LLM students and graduates.
Hiring for Excepted Service and Senior Executive Service positions must meet the requirements of the Appropriations Act and immigration law. The Appropriations Act prohibits the use of government funds to employ noncitizens within the U.S. except for certain groups of noncitizens. These groups include nationals of countries currently allied with the U.S. in a defense effort, as determined by the State Department. These excepted groups may be employed if they meet the requirements of U.S. immigration law. However, many agencies with excepted positions have separate and more stringent agency authorizations relating to citizenship requirements. For example, the Department of Justice hires noncitizens only if necessary to accomplish a particular department’s mission and is subject to strict security requirements. Such appointments are extremely rare. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for employment with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Trustee Program, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Dual citizens of the U.S. and another country are considered on a case-by-case basis. For more information, consult the Federal Employment Information Fact Sheet, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management website here.
Unlike the federal government, foreign nationals may be eligible for employment positions in state and local governments. LLM students typically overlook these jobs despite the vast array of opportunities available to work in a myriad of fields, including housing, labor relations, taxes, public utilities, health care, municipal finance, and criminal law, to name a few. A resource to get you started is State Local Gov. However, keep in mind that some state and local governments may be less likely to value the international perspective that you may bring to a position
Another possible route to explore is clerking or interning for a judge. Clerking (a paid position) or interning (a non-paid position) for a judge can be an invaluable experience, offering unparalleled access and insight to the U.S. legal system and can be an entry into later employment opportunities. However, there are substantial barriers to clerkships for non-U.S. Citizens. Moreover, these positions are usually filled a year in advance or even earlier. For more clerkship Information for non-citizens, click here,
State court judges are not typically bound by the citizenship requirement. However non-citizens face significant barriers nonetheless. Most non-citizen LLM students are in the United States on a student (F-1) visa. Under that visa, a student, after graduating from law school, can usually stay in the United States for a year doing Optional Practical Training (OPT). There are strict rules regarding the timing of OPT. OPT must begin within 60 days of graduation and last for no more than one year. Therefore, if a student graduates on May 15, the OPT timeline starts running on July 14, 60 days later, and ends the following July 14. However, judicial clerkships typically last for one year and start in August or September, making it impossible for students with F-1 visas to complete a clerkship. Extension of OPT beyond one year is now available but only for those foreign nationals for whom a petition for H-1B has been filed requesting a Change of Status, if the petition has been selected for processing. This is an unlikely scenario for clerkships.
Many students look to the H-1B to stay in the United States after graduation. However, in the clerkship context, this visa is little or no help for several reasons. First, the judge would have to file on behalf of the applicant and pay significant fees, currently $1,570 to $2,320. Few courts or judges have the budget to pay these fees. Moreover, H-1B visas have annual quotas, so there is no guarantee that a petition will be selected for processing. Lastly, most non-U.S. citizens cannot apply for an H-1B visa until the April after they graduate from law school, so they will not know if they will get one at the time a judge is hiring, often a year before a clerkship starts.
In contrast, a judicial internship with a federal or state judge is an excellent choice for an LLM student who wishes to stay in the U.S. for a year or less after graduation. Internships tend to be more flexible in the application timing and length of internship, thus allowing for non-citizens to utilize their OPT.
It is worth noting that LLM students interested in Corporate Law should consider clerking or interning for a Delaware Chancery judge. The Delaware Court of Chancery is widely recognized as the U.S.’s preeminent forum for the determination of disputes involving the internal affairs of the thousands upon thousands of Delaware corporations and other business entities through which a vast amount of the world’s commercial affairs is conducted. Its unique competence in and exposure to issues of business law are unmatched.
If you are interested in pursuing an internship or clerkship with a judge, make an appointment with Christine Fritton as soon as possible.
There are many ways that legal training can lead to employment, and a creative approach to this process may develop into real opportunities. Employers outside the practice of law often find that employees with legal training bring value to their organizations. Assuming your visa requirements allow you to do so, you may want to pursue opportunities in fields outside of traditional law practice as well. In fact, working outside the traditional practice of law expands your opportunities to work within the U.S. exponentially as you are not limited to working in one of the few states that allow LLMs to take the bar exam. There are links to various resources on alternative careers at the Alternative Job Search page.
Consulting firms are hired by organizations and other businesses to evaluate situations, analyze optimal ways of managing projects, performing tasks, setting up businesses, etc. Legal training is an excellent beginning for this work. However, consulting firms also often look for prior experience in a particular field that is related to their clients’ businesses. Accordingly, they will pay particular attention to candidates who bring additional professional expertise as well as study of the law. For example, if you did human resources work before your legal training, or have an engineering background, or some other in-depth business knowledge, consulting firms may very well be interested in you.
Obviously, a firm doing business with companies in your home country would be interested in your legal and business knowledge of your home country.
Information on conducting a consulting job search can be found here.
In good economic times, investment banks have looked to candidates with legal training. They, too, are particularly interested in those with relevant prior experience (they are accustomed to hiring MBA candidates, most of whom will have prior work experience). One division of banks looks for legal training without as great an interest in prior experience, and that is the department that manages the assets of high wealth individuals and occasionally small businesses (perhaps called “Private Client Services”). These departments look for candidates who bring a knowledge of tax and estate law as well as some counseling competence. However, due to current economic conditions, this sector has been hit particularly hard and there is very little opportunity available for anyone.
The time frame for applying to some of these employers is somewhat different from the law firm hiring season. These organizations, which typically hire primarily MBA candidates, will be on the MBA time frame: companies typically look at students who will be graduating their program (i.e., LLM and 3L law students) in November and students for summer programs (i.e., 1L and 2L law students) in January through March just prior to that summer.
This is a much different search than a search for a position with a U.S. law firm. As with law firms, you must know as much as possible about what the employers do and what it is you want to do for them. You also need to know about the financial issues of the day. You need to be well-versed in business, in banking, and in that particular organization’s role in business. If you don’t know, read the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and other business press REGULARLY.
It is also a search that thrives on contacts. Informational interviews are commonplace in these industries. You want to develop contacts and then ask to arrange a convenient time for you to speak with your contact for 10 to 20 minutes about the industry, his or her background, and what advice he or she would have for you in terms of your attempts to break in. Think carefully about when you call: do not call traders in the early morning, or in the hour prior to the market’s close, since these are their busiest times of the day. Review the “Networking” section of this Manual for more details on informational interviewing and how to network in general.
- Vault.com. This company (started by a Penn Law JD/MBA grad) provides career advice to business and law job seekers. They have a wealth of resources, including publications such as Industry Guides in both the Investment Banking and Consulting field. Start at Vault’s website.
- Wet Feet Press. Like Vault.com, Wet Feet was started by some business school grads who wanted to share their career advice with other job seekers. They, too, have some great publications, including “So You Want to Be A Management Consultant” and “So You Want to Be An Investment Banker.”
- Harvard Business School Finance Guide and Management Consulting Career Guide. The most recent copies of these guides, which list names and addresses, are in the OCS Library.
- Company Web sites . Most companies have a wealth of information about job opportunities and the business itself on their Web sites.
- Informational Sessions . Some employers will be coming to the University campus to do informational sessions for students from Wharton and other schools on campus. Attend as many of these as possible. Bring your resume and business card. Meet the speakers, ask questions, develop relationships, and follow up. To learn about these programs, consult the Daily Pennsylvanian and the weekly Wharton Journal, both widely distributed throughout campus.
These jobs all require or utilize legal training, but do not require the attorney to be licensed. Some popular non-traditional employers/positions for lawyers include:
- Legal publishing company either in editing or sales (e.g. Westlaw Representative, researching articles for ALR);
- Law libraries in an academic or law firm setting;
- Associations (non-profits, voluntary and cooperative professional organizations) - positions range from administrative to fund-raising to lobbying;
- Non-legal positions in academia, including administration, career development, admissions, financial aid, academic counseling, and alumni affairs;
- Continuing legal education providers (planning and creating CLE programs);
- Business vendors to law firms (selling and supporting products that law firms use);
- Compliance analyst (helping companies comply with various regulations); and
- Litigation support analyst manager (assist in managing email discovery).
There are links to resources here.
One of the best ways to both test your interest in this career path and to begin developing a strong relationship with faculty is to serve as a research assistant to a faculty member while you are in school. You may wish to contact one of our faculty members to see if he or she is interested in hiring a research assistant. Perhaps a faculty member has an area of research that he or she is actively pursuing at that moment in time and you could work on a specific project, or a faculty member may have casebooks or course materials that he or she is developing, and the student works on checking citations, updating, and organizing the materials. In seeking out these positions, consider:
- your own intellectual and research interests;
- faculty whose research and work is in these areas; and
- faculty you have enjoyed studying with.
Approach a faculty member and inquire if they plan to hire research assistants. Give the faculty member a copy of your resume and a writing sample. Once you have your transcript, you ought to include it as well.
If you have any questions about how to develop your career in academia over the short and long term, please consult with Chris Fritton. It is a specialized process that requires significant guidance.
Your first and best resource for finding a job is your own personal and professional contacts. Networking works!
Finding a job in the U.S., as in many other places, often depends on personal contacts. People who you know can help you find out about employment opportunities and can also act as a liaison, so that you will have some personal connection at a law firm or business. You are more likely to be offered a job if there is some personal connection, rather than just by sending an anonymous resume.
The process of using your contacts in your job search is known as “networking”; your acquaintances will each have a “network” of their own contacts and information sources which they can make available to you.
Who can help you in this process? Your contacts can include anyone you know who has anything to do with the legal profession or with some business related connection to the U.S. This may include people you know who are lawyers or are in business, former professors, parents of friends, neighbors, friends of friends, etc. Your contacts may be in the U.S., in your home country, or in other countries.
Start by developing a list of contacts. Brainstorm and list anyone you can think of. Be overly inclusive, you can always edit it down, if necessary. Keep in mind the benefits of networking: (1) your contacts can help you to gather information, and (2) they can look out for you in the future.
Start by sending a letter or email introducing yourself, and mentioning how you obtained his or her name and/or what the connection is between you, e.g. you attended the same university. Explain that you are a Penn Law LLM student, that you are seeking information about the practice of law in the U.S., and that you would like to speak with him or her for about 10 minutes by telephone or in person for an informational interview. You can also offer to meet the potential contact for coffee. Let him or her know that you will call to schedule this informational interview at his or her convenience. Then follow up with a phone call within 10 days to arrange the meeting. Allow the potential contact to select the time and location of the meeting. It is important to be clear that you are not asking a contact for a job, but instead for their advice.
A typical rate of return on this type of approach is to get a favorable response from one in twenty requests. That is, you may ask twenty people for an informational interview, and one will say yes. Therefore, you need to spread a wide net to be successful.
Once you arrange this conversation, you want to have an idea of what you would like to accomplish during your conversation. Ask any relevant questions you have. If you are not sure where to start, ask about your contact’s practice, how it has evolved, how she got started, where she began her legal career and where she has practiced, what she likes best and least about the profession. Ask what she would advise for someone with your background, and what she thinks you may be able to offer that would be special to a U.S. law firm. Ask what changes she foresees in the profession that will affect LLMs, where she sees continued growth, where she anticipates a slow down. You can ask if she is willing to review your resume and if she has any suggestions. You should ask if she knows anyone else who might be willing to speak with you. Asking advice is appropriate, directly asking your contact for a job, which will come across as pushy, is not appropriate. If the contact mentions that there is a position within his or her firm, it is okay to express interest.
Once you have had this conversation, send a personal note of thanks. If the relationship seems like one you would like to cultivate, ask if you can meet with her again, perhaps for lunch or coffee. See if you can develop the relationship.
You may find this process uncomfortable or difficult; you may hesitate to make demands on your contact’s already busy schedule. But your contact person may be more enthusiastic about sharing his or her knowledge and experience than you expect. Imagine yourself in that situation ten years from now when you are more established. You might be willing to spend a little time to give some guidance to an upcoming lawyer who is struggling in a foreign country. Moreover, if you approach networking correctly, it should not be awkward because you are not asking your contact for a job, instead you are requesting advice . Almost everyone enjoys giving advice and talking about his or her own experience.
Even when networking may appear ineffective, it can be very helpful in the long run. Often a contact will remember you and recommend or offer you a job in the future. Networking in the U.S. can help with job opportunities here and abroad. Even if you are planning to return home after graduation, do not neglect the opportunity to network while you are in the U.S. Ultimately, you will need to network to generate business and opportunities for your future employer throughout your career. Now is the time to get started.
As you proceed, we encourage you to make use of the many resources via the Networking and Interviewing page.
If you are unsure of how to approach networking, schedule an appointment with the Office of Career Strategy, and a career counselor will help you get started.
- Be yourself.
Talk to everyone:
- Introduce yourself.
- Mention that you are in the U.S. getting an advanced degree in U.S. Law (not everyone knows what an LLM degree is or may assume it is in tax).
- Mention that you are looking for a one year position (or whatever type of position you seek).
- Letters or emails introducing yourself (“Mr. Jones told me I should contact you.”)
- Letters or emails as follow up to a meeting (“I spoke with you last week at the Mexican Day Parade…”)
- Letters or emails to someone who authored an article you read or spoke at a seminar you attended.
Try and identify who you want to meet and where you might find them.
- Research an area you are interested in and identify attorneys active in that practice. Then attend the organizations or programs where they will be. You may be able to meet them or others who are interested in the same areas of law and they may have an opportunity for you.
Don’t stop networking
- Wherever you are and whatever you do, there are opportunities to be networking at some level.
- If you made a contact follow up with a letter or phone call, especially if they ask you to contact them.
- Never use someone’s name unless they have given you their permission to do so.
- Never ask directly for a job; instead ask for advice.
- Don’t be put off if you seem to have talked to hundreds of people and nothing has come of all those conversations. You only need one person to know the right person to get you a job.
Practice/ Role play with friends
- Pretend that you are waiting in line at the movies and go through the conversation that you might have…or practice what you would say to someone at a Bar Association meeting who you have just learned is working on a big case with a company located in your home country.
Key points to remember as you begin networking:
- Networking goes beyond your immediate job search. It is the way you will obtain business and future jobs.
- Networking is a two way street. Effective networkers are always thinking of how to help and support members of their network. This can range from forwarding an article of interest, acknowledging the accomplishment of a contact or being a supportive listener during a difficult time, and making time to speak with someone a contact refers to you.
Interviews are a very important part of the job hunting process. In the U.S., job offers are rarely extended based on review of a resume alone. Interviews are usually intended not only to explore the candidate’s skills and qualifications, but also his or her personal characteristics such as leadership, interpersonal skills, and sense of humor. Interviews are also used to assess the candidate’s command of spoken English and ability to articulate complex concepts.
As you begin preparing for the interview, it might be helpful to first think about the hiring process. To better understand how you can excel in an interview, put yourself in the place of the interviewer. You can prepare for interviews by considering what you would want to know if you were the hiring officer: What is it that you are looking for? What skills do you hope to observe in a candidate? What talents will he have? What potential business will she bring to our firm? What personal attributes will make him a good fit for your work environment? How can her knowledge of law in his or her home country help our firm? In some business environments, employers have examined these questions scientifically. They have quantified the skills, talents, and personal attributes that make employees successful in their environment. They then build interview scenarios and prepare questions that seek to test whether or not candidates have those skills, talents, and personal attributes.
In the legal field, not all interviewers or employers have strategically planned their interviewing process so that they ask relevant questions that test a candidate’s ability to do the job. Perhaps lawyers just feel they “know a good thing when they see it.” Perhaps they are (overly?) confident about their ability to recognize talent and those who will “fit in” at their organization. In any event, some legal job interviews, particularly those with law firms, may be less structured. They may be more informal than you would imagine, seeming more like a conversation than a true interview. In many cases a screening interview will be conducted by a young associate with partners entering the process only at a later phase.
This is both good and bad. It may be difficult to talk about your skills and talents and what you might contribute to this employer if your interviewer is more interested in having a pleasant conversation. But, because these interviews are often less structured, it does give you more control. With some advance planning, you can decide what skills and personal qualifications will be needed by this employer and how you can demonstrate your match - in response to whatever questions you are asked.
Interviews with businesses, public interest employers, and government agencies tend to be more structured, perhaps because these employers are very clear on their organizational missions. Interviews with these organizations are often more pointed: they may include hypothetical questions designed to test the interviewee’s commitment to the area of practice or occasionally even knowledge of law in a particular area.
As mentioned briefly above, interviews with business employers, such as investment banks, full-service accounting firms, and consulting firms, are often very structured. They have often done analysis of their employees to identify the qualities that make one a “star” performer, and they have developed questions designed to draw that information from their candidates. If you will be interviewing with these companies, be sure to consult the resources in OCS here on business interviews prior to your visits.
Regardless of the type of interview situation you enter, your pre-interview preparation is absolutely key to your success.
There will be a program on interviewing in January as well as an opportunity to have a mock interview. You can also schedule a mock interview with a counselor in OCS.
Here, your goal is to convince the employer that you are particularly suited to meet its needs, that your unique background and expertise make you an outstanding candidate for that employer. You need to convey this information to the interviewer regardless of what questions are asked. Decide ahead of time what essential information you want to provide about yourself and be prepared to focus the interview on these talents.
In addition, you have an opportunity to gather information for yourself. The interviewer will often be observing you to see if you ask insightful questions about the organization. Think in advance about questions you might ask of the interviewer.
It is also important to let the interviewer find out what you are like as a person. You should be professional but not neutral or cold; allow the interviewer the opportunity to see you as a competent yet personable individual.
A typical interview will follow a certain pattern:
A greeting. You should greet the interviewer in a friendly manner, with eye contact (in U.S. business culture, it is very important that the listener maintain eye contact with the speaker) and a firm handshake. Your interviewer will be making judgments about you just from this brief part of the encounter.
Exchange of information. The interview will typically begin with the interviewer reviewing and asking you questions about your resume. Many times employers want to “break the ice” and initially ask questions about the Interest Section on your resume. It is permissible to take time before you answer. You may even say, “That is an excellent question. Let me consider my answer for a moment” and then take a few moments to prepare your answer. You will most likely be asked about future plans or goals, why you are interested in this particular firm, and what you have accomplished in the past that would make you a “good fit” for the firm.
Know your resume. During your interview you may be asked questions about a past job experience or about some aspect of a thesis you once wrote. Make sure that you are prepared to answer any question that may arise out of information you have included on your resume.
Your questions. You may be given the opportunity to ask questions about the firm. This is entirely appropriate and, in fact, almost expected. You should always come prepared with questions. However, it is generally not appropriate to ask questions during a first interview about job benefits such as salary or vacation days.
Conclusion. The interview will come to a close, again with eye contact and a firm, friendly handshake. It is appropriate to ask when you might expect to hear from the firm.
Contacts. If you have contacts at the firm, notify them before you arrive that you are coming for an interview, and ask if you might stop by while on the premises. If they say yes, you might let the person organizing your interview know that you would like to stop at the office of your contact to say hello during your visit.
Bring multiple copies of your resume, transcript, reference sheet, and writing sample with you. Although you may not be asked for all, or any, or these documents, you need to be prepared
In addition, interviewers will often ask you to speak directly about your personal strengths and accomplishments. Provide concise, direct answers that highlight your strengths. Employers in the U.S. are not impressed by modest, self-effacing behavior which might be expected in some other cultures. However, general boasting is not advisable. Instead, provide specific examples that illustrate your talents. Interviewers might also ask about your weaknesses or limitations. The best response to this tricky question is to describe an area where your lack of a skill or characteristic posed a challenge and what you did to rise to the occasion. No one is perfect, but employers value the ability to learn from mistakes and overcome obstacles.
The questions you ask during an interview are critically important — some interviewers tell us they are more important than almost any other part of the interview. Ask questions that demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the employer, and that show you are not just interviewing randomly. Ask questions that show your analytical ability, your thoughtfulness, and your personality. And, of course, ask questions that will help you to get the information you need, to clarify the nature of the position and to decide whether this is a desirable situation for you, given your own personal goals and preferences.
Prepare by doing thorough research about the employer. Use any relevant online resources. Talk with any personal contacts who may have inside information. Read carefully any information provided by the employer, and make sure that you do not ask for information already covered in that material. Use the information provided as the basis for further specific questions. Interviewers will appreciate your asking for clarification or further elaboration of the information they provide.
Interviewers also appreciate interesting and original questions. Remember that interviewers see many candidates, sometimes day after day. Often interviewers hear the same questions repeatedly. If you do know people with connections to the organization, use this to help you develop stimulating questions. For example, “Mary Brown suggested that I’d make a good candidate for the firm given my experience with licensing in my home country and the firm’s licensing work here. Can you tell me about that department?”
We list below a number of general questions that you might want to ask at an interview. Again, make sure that the questions are not answered in literature you receive from the organization.
How would you describe the organization? What makes it different from others that provide the same services? How do you determine your priorities? How do you get your clients? What do you see as future areas of growth for the firm?
See the Resumes, Cover Letters, and Supporting Materials section for information on when and how to send a thank-you note after an interview. A sample thank you letter (or email) is included in the Sample Resume, Letters, and List of References section.
Your behavior and appearance during the interview are very important. The interviewer will form an impression of you which will influence his or her evaluation of you as a potential employee. The below information reflects what U.S. interviewers expect.
- Please refer to our Tips for Successful Interviewing
In addition, your appearance is cruci al:
- A well tailored business suit is expected and a dark suit is preferable.
- Although a plain white shirt is not required, avoid flashy colors, patterns or jewelry.
- Shoes must be polished.
- For men, a tie is required and any facial hair should be neatly groomed.
- For women, hair, make-up and jewelry should be professional and neat. Skirts should be around knee length. Professional pantsuits are acceptable.
- Do not chew gum.
- Perfume and cologne, if used at all, should be very subtle.
- More important than the clothes themselves, however, is how comfortably and professionally you wear them.
- If you have any questions about appropriate attire, please ask a counselor.
Physical presentation during the interview :
- Be sure your cell phone and other electronic devices are turned off prior to entering the room.
- Walk firmly and directly toward your interviewer.
- Offer a firm handshake. This sounds basic, but means MUCH. Interviewers have told us that candidates have lost their attention the minute they walked in the door by offering a poor handshake. You might want to keep a tissue or handkerchief in a pocket to dry your hand before shaking hands if sweaty palms are a problem for you.
- Maintain a confident posture.
- Maintain eye contact, particularly when the interviewer is speaking to you.
- Do not cross your arms in front of you as it appears unwelcoming.
- Stay animated without overdoing it.
- Avoid physical habits like foot-tapping.
Use of voice :
- Speak slowly and calmly.
- Keep your volume up if you are generally soft-spoken.
- Use your voice to express your interest and enthusiasm.
Use of language :
- Use a professional vocabulary, avoiding slang.
- Try to be careful about your grammar when speaking, but not too careful; it is more important that your content be strong than that you speak in perfect English.
Demonstrate your ability to listen carefully :
- Never interrupt the interviewer.
- Be responsive to the questions asked.
OCS offers a series of programs for LLMs to help you prepare for interviewing. These programs include:
- Interviewing Techniques Presentation
- Mock-interview session with JDs.
- By appointment - mock interviews with a counselor.
- In addition, students are encouraged to schedule a mock interview with their attorney mentors.
InterviewStream: online mock interviews
InterviewStream is an online mock interview program that allows you to conduct mock interviews in your own environment and on your own time. Practice your interview skills online by choosing interview questions, conducting practice interviews, watching your interviews, and, if you are interested, requesting feedback from OCS. It is easy to get started:
Login or Create a Free Account
- Access InterviewStream here: http://upennlaw.interviewstream.com.
- For the first time you go to InterviewStream, click the orange box that says Create Account.
- Enter your Name, Penn Law email or Penn Law alumni email, create a password and then click Sign Up.
- Once you have created an account, you will be able to login with your email and password in the upper right corner of the page.
- Click Conduct Interview if you have a webcam and are ready to pick your interview questions.
- If you don’t have a webcam, email email@example.com and we will schedule a time you can use one of the webcams in the OCS office.
- Select from a pre-built interview and click Choose This Interview.
- You can select questions to prepare you for a clerkship interview, government agency interview, law firm/OCI interview, civil legal services interview etc. There are also question sets for 1Ls, LLM students, and transfer students.
- Or, click Customize Your Own Interview to access a drag and drop interview creator where you can choose from over 1500 interview questions.
- Click each folder to open that category. Then click the question and drag it to the My Interview column on the right. When finished scroll down and click Begin.
Select Webcam & Microphone Settings
- Select your webcam.
- Select your microphone.
- Click Test and check that everything is working.
- Speak on the microphone normally and drag the bar up to make sure you pass yellow levels.
- As soon as you hit the target levels, the Continue button will light up.
- If there is no microphone activity, click Change Settings and pick another.
After a brief video introduction, the interviewer will ask you the 1 st question. The timer will count down 3, 2, 1 before your webcam starts recording your response.
- The time bar will give you 2 minutes to respond to each question.
- The Recording sign will light up green indicating your webcam is on.
- Click the mouse anywhere when you’re done and it will stop recording.
- Review- you will watch your response to the questions.
- Retry- this will erase your previous response and you will be asked the same question again.
- Continue- your response will be saved and you will be asked the next question.
Watch Interview and Email Link
- You will receive an email with your interview link after your interview is complete.
- Click Watch Interview when you return to your user dashboard.
- Click each question to see and hear that response.
- Count your filler words—Ummm, Like, I mean, You know
- Click Send to email your link to anyone that you would like.
- If you are interested in receiving feedback from our office, please send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will watch the interview and get back to you by email or phone with our evaluation.
In the United States, lawyers who graduate from law school are not permitted to practice law in any jurisdiction until they have passed a certification examination, known as a bar exam, in that jurisdiction. The jurisdictions are defined by the various states and territories of the U.S. There is no national bar exam, so if you are interested in practicing law in New York, you need to take the New York bar exam. If you later move to California, you would have to take and pass the California bar exam. The bar exam is a difficult examination; not every test taker passes it the first time.
Foreign attorneys can be admitted to practice law in some jurisdictions in the United States. Most states require a JD law degree from a U.S. law school to sit for the exam. Some jurisdictions, including New York, California, and the District of Columbia, do permit foreign law graduates to sit for the bar, but only under certain circumstances.
Most LLMs take the New York bar exam. For the complete rules of the NY Board of Bar Examiners, please refer to their website at .
The bar examination consists of two, or in some jurisdictions three, days of testing. One day consists of multiple choice questions in a format similar to the TOEFL. This part of the bar exam tests knowledge of general principles of U.S. law, and is known as the Multi-State Examination. The other day or days of testing include essay questions and sometimes additional multiple choice questions that test applicants on various aspects of law that apply to the particular jurisdiction in which the applicant seeks admission, e.g. New York State.
Almost all students (including JDs) take an intensive review course in preparation for the bar exam. This review course is offered by several competing private organizations and begins several months before the exam is offered and is specifically tailored to each state bar examination. Students usually begin the review program soon after graduating from law school. We do not recommend beginning your bar preparation prior to completing your class work as it might adversely affect your grades and full participation in what the law school has to offer. In addition to the major review courses, e.g. BarBari , some students report having benefited from taking supplementary bar review classes, e.g PMBR , which focus on the multi-state portion of the exam. Bar review courses are expensive, sometimes costing in excess of $2,000; the exam fees themselves run $200 and up. However, very few students will pass the bar without at least one bar review course.
Be sure to consult the complete rules of each jurisdiction to see the current version of special provisions or requirements that apply to you.
In addition, please note that requirements may differ for Canadian law graduates, who are sometimes treated similarly to graduates of U.S. law schools.
In determining whether you are eligible to take a particular bar exam, you can consult the specific state’s rules .
The Law School cannot be held responsible for information regarding individual state bar exams, determining your eligibility or submitting your application. You are responsible for contacting the Board of Bar Examiners in the state in which you wish to sit for the exam to verify the specific requirements applicable to your situation and file an appropriate application. For links to bar information for all states, go here.
That being said, the Law School will make our best effort to assist you upon request.