The hiring partner tells you: what is BigLaw looking for when hiring internationally trained lawyers?
When Ruoke graduated from law school, the U.S. economy was in the midst of the subprime crisis. The job market posed unprecedented challenges. Undeterred, she persisted and eventually secured a position in the investment funds practice group.
Now, as a hiring partner at Morgan Lewis, she interviewed and hired many candidates. What lawyering skills and qualifications do BigLaw firms seek when hiring internationally trained lawyers? What advice does her have on effective networking? What was her most important takeaway about legal writing? Why does she believe that listening to English improves writing as a non-native speaker?
How did he transition from the World Bank to BigLaw?
When Nick arrived in the U.S. for his LL.M, he planned to return home after graduation. However, a few weeks into the LLM, he found his classes intriguing, and he began to reassess his plan. Soon he realized that he would need to pass the bar to keep practicing law in the U.S. He took more courses after he graduated to meet the New York Bar requirement, he successfully passed the bar exam two years after he graduated. His externship at the World Bank became a permanent position, which he stayed on for five years with a short stint at PwC. Today he is an associate attorney at the Investigation, White Collar and Fraud practice at Hogan Lovells in DC.
What activities and events he attended during law school are the most helpful to develop his career? How did he get the externship at the World Bank? How did he turn his externship into a permanent position? Why did he say that law school is a journey of self-discovery?
How to network and ace your BigLaw interview with a personal touch?
For most internationally trained lawyers, the job search in the U.S. begins on Day One of their LL.M. Program. For Monica, it started from Day Zero. She started searching for jobs in the summer before her LL.M. program began. She dedicated eight months to meticulous research, networking and interviewing with potential firms that could hire her. A Brazil-trained lawyer fluent in Portuguese, French and English, Monica had countless coffee meetings with BigLaw partners specializing in international arbitration. Some generously shared their own career journeys, while others were more blunt, “I have five minutes. What do you want?”
One day, while preparing for one of these informational interviews, Moica discovered that the senior partner who was to interview her had lived in Brazil for six months some thirty years ago. She seized this connection to add a personal touch to their conversation. Today she’s working with the partner at Steptoe & Johnson specialized in international arbitration.
How did she jumpstart on networking from Day Zero to land a prestigious externship? How did she turn the externship into a permanent position at another renowned firm? What’s her strategy to network with partners at BigLaw and effectively following up with them? How can you add a personal touch to the daunting process of networking?
How did he turn his BigLaw externship into a post-graduation job offer?
When Ignacio walked out of his first interview for a competitive externship position, he wasn’t feeling optimistic. He was thrown off his pace by the interviewer’s first question: “So, do you have any questions for me?” He managed to get hired as an extern anyway in the International Arbitration Group at McDermott Will & Emery. The externship later turned into a long-term position that allowed him to stay with the firm after he graduated with his LLM degree.
How did he turn things around during the interview, even if he felt like he started off on the wrong foot? How did he turn the externship into a long-term position? What is expected of an internationally trained lawyer like Ignacio in BigLaw? Being a licensed attorney in Spain, England & Wales, what’s Ignacio’s take on the work culture difference between BigLaw in the U.S. and in Europe?
This is a story of transformation: an IP lawyer turned BigLaw litigation counsel.
When Evelyn was pursuing her specialized LL.M. in intellectual property, she planned on becoming an IP lawyer. Fate had other plans for her. Her pivotal career moment came through a judicial internship at the Chief Judge’s chamber at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The judge was one of her professors she took classes from. She ended up being the sole judicial intern selected by the judge from the LL.M. Program. The prestigious internship served as a launching pad for her next job in antitrust litigation, even if she had not taken any antitrust courses in law school. Today she’s at Cozen O’Connor, specializing in complex litigation.
How did she stand out among other candidates and secure the prestigious judicial internship? How did the internship lead her to her first permanent position in antitrust litigation? What are the essential skills employers are looking for when hiring internationally trained lawyers? What’s the one thing internationally trained lawyers should do during law school besides studying?
“What prompted you to combine Law and English as a Second Language?”
“What connections do you see between writing for lawyers, linguistics, English as a Second Language, and the plain language movement? How do you see these fields working together to promote clarity and equity?”
“How can other lawyers help clients who speak English as a second language? What should lawyers know about ESL processing that would help them better serve clients?”
“How can professors help students who speak English as a second language?”
Below are some quotes from the interview:
“In Japan I encountered so many situations and behaviors that felt uncomfortable and at times even irrational. I learned to stop myself and consider the possibility that it actually was rational if you’re working from a different set of assumptions. And I learned to question and evaluate my own assumptions about how things should work before I fell back on a judgmental view or comment. It’s led me to a passionate curiosity for trying to understand why people do things they do.”
“The plain English movement is a reaction to a sense that the writing of lawyers and judges had become unnecessarily complicated and was acting as a barrier to access to justice. Although not stated explicitly, the plain English movement seems to me to assume native English speakers as its primary users and consumers. Legal English, on the other hand, is a catch-all term relating to the approach and curriculum for helping lawyers and law students from other language backgrounds study or work with US (or UK, Canadian, Australian, etc.) law or contracts in English.”
“The primary overlap [between Plain English and Legal English] is probably with regard to input. In the case of plain English, if you simplify language and use fewer words, then there is less information to process, both in volume and complexity. That should work to the benefit of non-native English speakers. In other words, using plain English makes a text closer to the idea of “comprehensible input.” Of course, it’s also possible that even a text that meets plain English standards could still be challenging for a non-native English speaker to understand for a variety of reasons, including vocabulary, grammar, and cultural knowledge gaps. And of course among non-native English speakers, there will also always be a wide range of facility with English.”
“However, it seems to me that plain English and legal English begin to diverge regarding output. This is because plain English can often be conveyed as a series of prescriptivist rules and principles for how to use and not use language. Whereas in legal English, the priority is generally learning to communicate one’s ideas accurately, with style a little lower down the priority list depending on the student. From a legal English teaching perspective, we want the students to learn to feel confident in expressing their ideas.”
Director of International Tax Services at PricewaterhouseCooopers Miami office
How to make it to the top at Big Four?
Guillaume was tired of living Paris when he left his in-house job for a French oil and gas company. He always imagined himself working and practicing law in a language other than French, his native tongue.
Today he lives in Miami and directs the International Tax Services at PwC. What is like to work in a fast-paced multilingual dynamic place like PwC, where the entire floor was staffed with people from around the world? How to get an internship at the Big Four? How to turn your internship into a job offer?
How to make it as an internationally trained tax attorney?
When Alina moved to New York with her newly minted LLM as a Russia-trained lawyer, someone told her that there was little chance that she would make partner because of her exotic last name. Boy, doesn’t she prove the naysayer wrong? After having worked at the IRS’s Office of Chief Counsel for nearly six years, today she’s the tax controversy practice leader and the principal attorney at RSM, the fifth largest accounting firm in the U.S.
How did she make it to the top at one of the biggest accounting firms in the U.S.? How did she find her first job through a networking event? What activities and events are the most helpful during her LLM year to develop her career?
How did he become the first ever international intern turned shareholder at a firm founded in 1886?
When Yao was applying for internships during law school, most firms had stopped accepting new applications. He decided to cold show up at the doorsteps of the top 20 firms in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was studying. He went to the first firm on his list. The receptionist welcomed him, offered him coffee and informed him that the hiring partner was not in the office that day. He left his cover letter and resume. He thought it was a dead end.
As he was waiting for the elevator, he saw another gentleman was waiting as well. He looked at his watch, it was 3:30. He thought that this guy must not be a lawyer. No lawyer leaves work at 3:30. They struck up a conversation. As it turned out the guy was indeed an (estate planning) lawyer who has been with the firm for 25 years. He introduced Yao to the hiring partner a week later. During the subsequent interview, Yao wasn’t begging the firm for a job, but rather trying to figure out: why were his peers with stellar grades not being hired?
This is a story with a happy ending. Yao became the first intern the firm ever hired in its 137-year history. At the end of his internship, he received a job offer, and eventually, he made history once again by becoming the first shareholder with an international background at the firm.
How did he manage to persuade the hiring partner to offer him the internship?
How did he turn the internship into a permanent position?
Why indeed didn’t his peers with stellar grades secure jobs like he did?
The September 2023 issue of AL Forum (the applied linguistics newsletter for TESOL) is out, thanks in part to contributions from several members of the Georgetown Law faculty. And the theme is language, teaching, and generative AI.
Co-edited by Georgetown Legal English ProfessorHeather Weger and George Washington Teaching Associate Professor Natalia Dolgova, it leads with a letter from the editors and includes two articles by Georgetown Law colleagues.
“In this issue, you will find leadership updates summarizing past and future ALIS activities, and this issue provides a closer look at how educators are grappling with the impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as ChatGPT, on our field.”
“A detailed case study of his experimental use of ChatGPT to design teaching materials for a vocabulary course, [including] examples of how to prompt ChatGPT to generate materials (e.g., quizzes and practice activities.)”