Law firms with roots in the United States are increasingly tapping master of law degree programs here to recruit foreign lawyers for building out their international networks.
For instance, McDermott, Will & Emery, which was founded in Chicago and now has six offices outside the United States, this year is cultivating closer ties with U.S. law schools that offer so-called LL.M. programs for foreigners in the hopes of luring some of the graduates to its non-U.S. offices.
Specifically, the firm is looking this year for students that it could place in its German offices in Munich and Düsseldorf, said Lydia Kelley, a tax partner at the firm who chairs the recruiting committee.
“As we’re looking for great talent in Europe, there is an increasing desire to have students who have received LL.M. degrees at U.S. law schools,” Kelley said.
Firms are turning to the LL.M. programs as a source of foreign lawyers who have law degrees from their home countries and other requisite credentials, plus an understanding of the U.S. legal system and strong English-language skills, law school officials said.
While some large international firms have been recruiting from the programs for years, they’re expanding their use of them now at the same time that some newly global firms are coming to the idea.
“As these firms have more and more international offices, they look to the LL.M.s that come to America as a potential market of people they can hire,” said Richard Badger, an assistant dean for the LL.M. program at the University of Chicago Law School.
The demand from firms for attorneys from certain countries rises or falls each year, depending on which areas of the world are experiencing the most growth, law school officials said. Firms currently are particularly interested in students from Germany, Brazil and China, said Lidija Rebic, the acting career advisor for the LL.M. program at Northwestern University School of Law.
McDermott is working with a variety of schools, including the University of Michigan Law School and other U.S. law schools among the top 20, with an eye this year specifically on those with more German students, Kelley said.
In the past, many of the foreign LL.M. students simply got their degrees and perhaps took advantage of an automatic option to work for a year at a U.S. firm, but then headed home to a prior employer. Now, there are more opportunities for the students to join a new U.S. law firm employer permanently, school officials said.
The number of law firm participants at New York University School of Law’s annual international student job fair has risen during the past eight years, with 160 employers this year, up from about 100 in 2000, and almost twice as many interviews scheduled, said Clara Solomon, director of counseling and career development at the school.
The law firms and companies vied last year for about 1,300 graduates from 32 participating schools, she said.
While some firms, such as White & Case and Baker & McKenzie, have long turned to LL.M. programs to hire attorneys, such large international firms are now sending attorney recruiters from more of their international offices, Solomon said. Some are even doing more recruiting of the foreign lawyers for their U.S. offices, she said.
“There are a lot of these major megafirms that are expanding their participation,” Solomon said.