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Ask the Experts

Q: I am a West Indian-trained attorney, admitted to the bar in my jurisdiction in 1998 and to the New York State Bar in August 2008. I am willing to start working at any level within the profession. What are my chances of gaining employment with a New York firm without having to attend an ABA law school or do New York firms give any recognition to an education obtained from the West Indies?

A: Realistically speaking, your chances of finding employment at a law firm are slightly below average. The fact that we are about to enter the fourth quarter of the year when law firm hiring is traditionally slower and given the current economic situation does not help matters. That said, the challenge is not insurmountable.

A good place to start would be to identify and research law firms that have offices in your native jurisdiction. Particularly if they are looking for those with relevant jurisdictional knowledge and language capacity, that may be your competitive advantage. Beyond that, you could pinpoint firms who have large practices in your specific area of law and try that angle.

It is always preferable to get introduced to a firm and relevant hiring staff through a personal connection. Dig deep into your network to see who you may know here, where they are and how they might best be able to help you. Interview them to find out how they went about getting their jobs. To the extent applicable, search engines such as Martindale Hubbell, Linked In or Facebook may be a good resource to track people down.

Once you have established a relationship or connection with a firm, you may want to consider letting them know that you would be willing to take a step back in seniority - particularly if there are stark differences between US law and that of your native jurisdiction. You may even consider going in as a paralegal or contract attorney with the understanding that if your performance is stellar, you would expect to be considered for a partnership track associate position.

Another option to explore would be temp agencies. There are several in the city and they may be able to get you placed at a firm on a temporary assignment. Again, depending on your performance and the needs of the firm, these engagements may lead to permanent employment.

All of the above will likely take some time to implement. In the interim, you may want to consider attending a US law school's LL.M. program. The benefits of pursuing an LL.M. include increased opportunities to network, more formal career placement resources affiliated with the school, access to an alumni network, and potential skill acquisition.