I’m a Foreign Lawyer in the U.S. Job Market


QI am a foreign-trained lawyer with four years of experience in “high-profile” Anglo-American firms in France. I recently graduated (LL.M.) from a top-10 law school, passed the NY Bar in July and am currently looking for a job in law firm in NYC. I would like to know if in spite of (i) my foreign credentials and (ii) the current state of the economy, do I still have a chance to get a decent job (preferably not first-year tasks) in a decent firm? Do you have any tips as to how I should market myself (e.g. downplay my foreign education or, in contrast, emphasize it; mark myself as a 5th-year associate; be flexible, etc.)? Many thanks.

AChief Justice Roberts would have a hard time finding a good job right now, so my advice is: Be flexible. Like real flexible. Think Chinese gymnast. Be open to new practice areas, pay structures and titles. But don’t worry about playing up or down your foreign experience/education. Lawyers at top firms see through that BS pretty quickly. Just be yourself and be willing to bend. Do some yoga before your next interview to get yourself in the right frame of mind.

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Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

6 Comments

  1. Alex Hump

    December 3, 2008 at 6:57 am

    There’s always some room for some guy who has an accent, that is if he’s competent.  But no one is going to hire you just because you sound like Fabio; of course if you look like Fabio, there’s a lot of gay lawyers and horny fat women that will hire you faster than you can bend down to pick up a Euro.

  2. 2L

    December 3, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Language skills. Emphasize them.

  3. Anonymous

    December 3, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I don’t think you should be comparing this oaf to Justice Roberts.  After all, there is nothing to distinguish this guy other than the fact he is not a US Citizen.  Merely having a foreign degree and 4 years of experience in a French law firm doesn’t make me think I’d want to hire this alien.  After all, once things get back to normal in the homeland, this oaf will leave to go back to France.  And his LLM is basically worthless over and above what US people have.  No, I say don’t hire the Oaf unless you have nothing better to do.

  4. Dork Police

    December 3, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Anonymous, I think you’re the oaf.  Chill, bra.

  5. Anonymous

    December 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    So the advice here it to do yoga???

  6. Trevor

    April 22, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I am a US attorney practicing in Germany with one of the top firms in the world.  I also have a very strong LLM, am fluent in the language, and had top law firm experience in the US before I traveled to Germany.  Before joining my current firm I had interviews with and offers from a number of other top-10 law firms.  However, one statement from a top partner has stuck with me and is becoming unfortunately very true.  He told me (based on his two years as an associate in New York) that regardless of how bright you are, how well you have mastered the language, how well you understand the law, etc. you will always be underutilized as an attorney and never really be able to work at your appropriate skill level.  Socially it is great, professionally not so much.

    My honest recommendation would be to return to France and develop a strong trans-Atlantic practice from your home jurisdiction.

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