Overview of Services
UIC John Marshall Law School has a full-service, professional Career Services Office (CSO) open to all students. We provide a wide array of services ranging from career planning advice to electronic resources accessible from anywhere in the world. Students receive access to Symplicity, our web-based career services system, where they can access online job listings and other resources. We also offer a series of career development workshops.
We plan a series of popular events for our students, including programs that we co-sponsor with the various centers to offer career programming for LLM and Master’s students. We are committed to helping you in your job search and career development. Recruiting and hiring practices require that career development be an ongoing process. However, a job search requires the active participation of the student. You can start by familiarizing yourself with the resources and services provided by the CSO. Also, we hope that you will utilize the full range of services offered by the law school, especially those provided by the center of your particular field.
LLM and Master’s students will receive many services through their centers; however, students may make appointments with a career counselor, at which they can discuss:
- The legal job market
- Electronic and web-based research sources
- Contacting employers
- Review resume and cover letters
- Interviewing strategies
The CSO offers students the opportunity to practice interview skills through a “mock interview.” The counselor will critique your performance, so that you will perform at your best in an actual interview.
The CSO library
The CSO library has a wealth of information on a variety of topics relating to your career search, including general career search information, legal job search resources, specialty practice area information, employer recruiting materials, public sector resources, and legal news publications. We encourage you to spend some time browsing through our resources.
Two computers and a stand-alone printer are available in the Career Services Office. Students may use these to research employers, locate John Marshall graduates, and write and print resumes, cover letters, and other job search correspondence.
A fax machine and copy machine/scanner are free to students and alumni using the office for job-related purposes.
Symplicity is the Career Services Office’s online resource center, which provides 24-hour access to a wide range of CSO resources.
Learning the Job Market
The U.S. job market is very competitive and has been tough during the past few years. If you are returning to school to distinguish yourself with an LLM or Master’s degree, you need to familiarize yourself with the job market, so you will know the value of your degree and how to market yourself.
LLM and Master’s degrees are especially helpful to students who want to specialize in a particular field. Students should research that field and not only consider legal placement, but non-legal jobs where that specialty area is vital. We encourage you to read as much as you can about the job market. The American Lawyer and the National Law Journal magazines are useful resources for LLM students. We recommend that Master’s students read The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times business section. Read with the following in mind:
- What are the hiring trends?
- Which practice areas are expanding and which are not?
- How are my skills marketable in the market place?
- How can my network help me reach employers
- What can I contribute to a particular employer?
As continuing students, many of you are familiar with the employers in your field and have identified potential employers. However, before starting your job search, it is crucial that students evaluate where they want to work. In making that decision there are a few things to think about:
- Geographic Location: In what city/state/country do you want to work?
- Practice Area: What type of law or business do you want to practice? Do you want to practice law or use your degree for something else?
- Setting: Do you want to work for a private law firm, a public employer, or some other type of employer?
Private Law Firm Practice
Private practice is the most common background of our entering LLM students and is the most common field into which LLMs return upon graduation. If you would like to practice in a firm, you will need to decide what type of firm best suits your interest and personality. Firms range from small (2-15 attorneys) to large (more than 100 attorneys). These are things to consider:
Small firms may range in size from 2-15 attorneys and practice areas tend to vary greatly. As a general rule, small firms offer greater responsibility and more personal client contact. They also may have greater flexibility, but a lower starting salary. Small firms hire on an “as-needed” basis, generally when someone leaves the firm or when the firm is growing.
Medium firms range in size from 15-100 attorneys and are more flexible in terms of hiring than large firms, though they may place greater weight on academic credentials than a small firm would. Medium firms value candidates who have good client development skills and prior clerking or clinical experience.
Large firms generally have more than 100 attorneys and, as a general rule, require more billable hours (1,800-2,500 annual billable office hours), but offer higher salaries. Students who show the drive and commitment necessary to succeed are attractive to these firms. Grades are also extremely important to large firms and factor greatly into their hiring process.
Corporations and non-profit organizations of all sizes employ lawyers on their own staff. These attorneys provide legal advice on issues that impact the organization and its employees. Legal departments vary in size based on the size and structure of the company. 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. Additionally, sometimes corporate and non-profit employers hire lawyers or individuals with legal expertise into compliance or other quasi-legal positions that do not require a J.D., but which benefit from the special knowledge and training that LLM and/or Master’s students acquire.
Business careers are viable opportunities for both LLM and Master’s students.
Consulting firms are retained by organizations and other businesses to provide expertise in the organization, operations and management of a given business. Legal training is an excellent skill to have for this industry. 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 experience in the financial field; your skills may be of value to a consulting firm.
Legal training is also useful in the financial industry and some international financial services organizations hire professionals with legal training. A background in tax and client counseling are especially useful, because employees most often sell financial products to individual and business customers.
Tax Consulting with International Accounting Firms
Accounting firms hire lawyers and people with legal training. Attorneys with the major accounting firms typically do consulting work with the firm’s clients, particularly on tax issues but occasionally on other business development issues, as well. Some background in finance, economics, accounting, or tax is helpful.
Non-Legal Career Opportunities
For LLM and Master’s students looking for non-legal careers, it is important to know how to find employment and when hiring occurs. Non-legal employers, which primarily hire MBA candidates, will be on the MBA time frame. The hiring season is different than that of legal employers. Many companies hire during November (for fall graduates) and January through March (for spring graduates).
This is a much different search than a search for a position with a U.S. law firm. As with law firms, students should research the employers thoroughly to familiarize themselves with the language of the industry, current industry issues, and the working of the particular company. Publications such as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and other business press are useful and should be read regularly.
Effective use of your network is vital in the non-legal job search. Informational interviews are commonplace in these industries. You want to contact friends, family, alumni, and other business associates to set up informational interviews. In the interview, you want to ask questions to learn more about the day-to-day activities of the job, what skills are relevant to the industry, and how to best market yourself. Please see our job search guide for more detail.
Many LLM students express an interest in teaching, whether at a law school or an undergraduate institution. Careers in academia are very competitive, and require a great deal of work and dedication.
For most schools in the U.S. becoming tenured requires that the person have teaching experience, service to the community and university, and publish scholarly articles. The steps necessary to obtain tenure are outlined in a bi-annual spring volume of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law entitled “Breaking Into the Academy: The 2000-2002 Michigan Journal of Race & Law Guide for Aspiring Law Professors.”
If you plan on entering a career in academics, you will want to build a strong academic record and to develop close professional relationships with your faculty (who will ultimately serve not only as your mentors but also as your recommenders) during law school. You will want to write one or more scholarly articles of publishable quality related to your area of scholarly interest. You might also want to obtain a federal clerkship and to have relevant employment experience.
It is important that students who want to teach establish a scholarly agenda. Law schools are interested in hiring academics who demonstrate a sincere interest to a particular area of law. You must have an agenda for your own academic work; you must be able to describe the field to which you would like to contribute through your research and teaching, and the scholarly direction this contribution will take.
In creating your agenda, it is wise to consider areas where there is a greater need for teaching. For example, popular areas such as constitutional law and criminal law rarely have open teaching slots. However, areas such as property law and corporations often experience shortages.
The Hiring Process
The screening and hiring process for positions in law schools has been largely standardized by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The AALS holds an annual faculty recruitment conference each fall (typically held in late October in Washington, DC, at a large conference hotel). Most law schools and representatives from faculty recruitment committees will attend and interview potential candidates.
The AALS also maintains a faculty appointments register, in which it collects information about candidates interested in law teaching positions. The register is then circulated to law school deans and hiring committees several times throughout the year. For more information, visit www.aals.org.
Information for International LLM Students
Working in the U.S.
International students often need to work during their studies to gain valuable practical experience. Your visa allows you to work on-campus for 20 hours a week (or full time when school is not in session, such as during holidays or annual vacation), but you may not work off-campus during your first year of study. After the completion of your first year of study, you may apply to the USCIS for a work permit that authorizes you to work off-campus, but you must demonstrate a special need (and work no more than 20 hours per week, except when school is not in session). Students are allowed a total of 12-months employment for professional training. You should discuss employment with Designated School Officer Sylvia Rodriguez. Your accompanying spouse and child may not accept employment.
Bar Examination Information
In the U.S., you must first pass the bar exam of that state in which you’d like to practice. Many states require that the lawyer first graduate from an accredited law school in the U.S. There is no national bar exam, so if you are interested in practicing law in Illinois, you need to take the Illinois bar exam. If you later move to California, you would have to pass the California bar exam. The bar exam is a comprehensive exam that takes months of preparation, and many people do not pass on the first try.
Some jurisdictions in the U.S. will admit foreign attorneys. Some jurisdictions, including Illinois, New York, California, and the District of Columbia, permit foreign law graduates to sit for the bar under certain circumstances.
The American Bar Association’s annual publication, Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements, provides additional information on bar admission requirements in these and other jurisdictions. To access this publication go to http://apps.americanbar.org/abastore/index.cfm?section=main&fm=Product.AddToCart&pid=529008712ED
Taking the Bar Exam
The bar examination varies from state to state, but has a similar format in every jurisdiction. Most states have a two-day exam, but a few jurisdictions, including California, have a three-day exam. One day consists of multiple choice questions in a format similar to the TOEFL. This portion of the bar exam tests knowledge of general principles of U.S. law, and is known as the Multi-State Bar Examination. The other day(s) 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. the District of Columbia or New York State. In some jurisdictions, such as California, a third day of testing requires applicants to answer essay questions regarding certain practice procedures in that particular jurisdiction.
The examination is held two times a year: once in late July (which is when most U.S. JD graduates sit for the exam) and once in February. Additionally, most states require an applicant to pass another, shorter examination known as the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The MPRE is administered in November, March, and August, and is a two-hour, multiple choice exam. For details, please visit: www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mpre/.
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. Students usually begin the review program soon after graduating from law school. For foreign attorneys, the review courses taken by U.S. lawyers may not offer adequate preparation for the bar exams (consider whether an eight-week review can provide the depth of familiarity with U.S. law which students here gain over a three-year training). In general, students from countries with a common-law heritage tend to fare better on the exam. In addition, some foreign students are not experienced with the multiple choice format of the exams. Bar review courses are expensive, sometimes costing in excess of $2,000, and the exam fees run $200 and up.