Opportunities in the U.S. legal market for international LLMs

November 1, 2007Duke Law News

November 1, 2007 -- With jobs as varied as the paths they took to get there, LLM alumni Patrick Voigt ’00, Tomer Schwartz ’06, and Jean-Gabriel Peuchaud ’07 offered advice last Friday to current LLM candidates interested in careers in the U.S. legal market. Sponsored by the Career Center and office of International Studies, the luncheon panel was part of Duke Law School’s International Week activities.

“What I did in my first semester was focus on getting good grades and on building a good resume,” said Schwartz, explaining that good grades often demonstrate a proficiency in the English language to future employers.

Now a corporate attorney specializing in private equity and mergers and acquisitions at Weil Gotshal & Manges in New York, Schwartz studied law at Cambridge and was admitted to the Israeli bar before coming to Duke Law. “If you are interested in firm jobs in the United States, first, get a good resume,” he said, sharing the strategies he used to gain three job offers. “You can use [it] for mainstream attempts to get a job, like career fairs.

“Second,” he continued, “use every possible opportunity to network and build as many contacts as you can.

“And third, be active in networking. Reach out to people who might be interested in you because of your nationality, because of your Duke degree, of whatever reason you can find,” Schwartz said, noting that the job offer he accepted at Weil was cultivated through contact with a Duke Law alumnus there.

Voigt, who is serving as legal counsel for UNICEF in New York, had to return to Germany after receiving his LLM for a few more years of required legal training. He started his career at the United Nations in a German-sponsored junior professionals program. “Recruitment in the UN system is based on academic background and also professional experience,” Voigt said. “Without professional experience, there is no chance for someone to get in at the professional level.”

“What I did do was write ‘LLM’ in bold behind every signature to signal that I had a background in two different legal systems — civil law and common law,” Voigt said. “I would advise [you] to do that, especially when asked what strengths one has. Particularly for the international public sector, it sounds good and is also true.”

Voigt also advised careful review of job requirements when applying for a position at the UN. “It is a very formalized, bureaucratic system and they are publicly funded, so there is a lot of oversight in recruitment,” he said. “The vacancy announcement will usually say exactly what they are looking for.”

Peuchaud worked as a lawyer in his native France and then as a legal consultant in Japan before coming to Duke Law. “Start building your network now,” advised Peuchaud, who is now employed as in-house counsel for Red Hat, Inc., an international tech company located in Raleigh. He landed the position through an internship he found at the Duke University job fair.

“Also, use the resources you have here — like [assistant dean] Jennifer Maher and [associate dean] Judy Horowitz,” Peuchaud continued. “They can help you a lot.”

Peuchaud also urged LLMs to “control the information about yourself on the Internet.” He mentioned that many companies and firms will do a Google name search and some look at Facebook profiles. “No one really needs to know what you did Saturday night at five a.m.,” he said.

For LLMs looking to stay in the United States, Peuchaud offered both a suggestion and reassurance. “You can focus on New York, but be aware that there is more than just that one major center,” he said and indicated that he had classmates with jobs in Los Angeles and Dallas, among other places. “Most of my class already has good jobs that they wanted, here or in their own country.”