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Ask the Experts

Q:I am a U.S. trained attorney working in New York City. I was admitted to the New York State bar in 2005. I am interested in relocating to Europe. I am proficient in spoken and written French. What are my chances of gaining legal employment abroad? Would obtaining an LL.M in Europe improve my marketability?

A: Your chances of obtaining employment in Europe depend upon many variables, including your intended practice area and your place of relocation. The European legal community in the banking, finance and credit markets has not been spared from the current economic crisis and layoffs that we are experiencing in New York and throughout the U.S. As a major financial center, London, for example, has been impacted badly but markets in Paris and Brussels may be less compromised due to the focus of legal work in those cities.

Obtaining an LL.M in a foreign country can be an excellent way to develop a set of networking contacts and connections there. In assessing whether this may the right choice for you, however, you will need to make a careful assessment of your long term goals. What are you hoping to achieve by obtaining a foreign LL.M? Is your priority to make a permanent relocation to a particular country or to develop expertise in a specific area of law? In some countries, LL.Ms are designed to teach foreign lawyers about the general legal principles and systems of the host country, while some foreign LL.M programs focus on the development of a specific area of expertise, such as tax, international or intellectual property law. However, having an LL.M does not necessarily qualify you to practice law or even take a bar exam in some countries. These are issues that will require extensive research on your part.

Another route that you may wish to consider is pursuing an international opportunity through a U.S. employer or resource. Consider applying to the foreign office of an American law firm. Network with attorneys with international backgrounds whom you currently know or can meet through international committees at bar associations to learn about opportunities. Consult with your law school career development office to learn about opportunities in international courts or tribunals, or fellowships in international public interest law. These kinds of positions, although often temporary, may help you to develop contacts in your country of interest and to refine your goals for permanent relocation.