How should I get started on my job search and how can OPIA help?
Begin with a self-assessment. Completing a self-assessment can help determine what kind of work you prefer and inform your job search. OPIA has developed a self-assessment tool; take time to review these questions before signing up for an advising appointment.
Questions you might want to focus on are:
- Why does a career in international law or with an international institution appeal to you?
- If you had prior practice experience prior to Harvard Law School, what did you like most about your work? Least?
- Is geography is important to you? Consider where you want to work, and what citizenship requirements govern working in particular countries.
Be aware of the resources OPIA has to offer. Familiarize yourself with the OPIA website and be sure to make an appointment with an adviser to discuss your career goals and devise a job search strategy.
Attend OPIA’s Events. Among other programs, we offer a core LL.M. job search strategy session, lunch talks with our Visiting Wasserstein Fellows, career panels with public interest attorneys, and community building events. Watch for weekly emails advertising these events and bookmark our events calendar (add link).
Resume and cover letter review. A strong application is essential to showcasing your skills and interests. To this end, OPIA reviews resumes and cover letters to help you strike the right tone. We also offer sample LL.M. materials for your reference.
To learn more about preparing your US-style resume and cover letter, watch our podcast: (link to the OPIA resume and cover letter podcast)
You may submit a resume and cover letter to OPIA for review by an adviser.
What sorts of jobs should I explore?
It’s important to realize that one size does not fit all, and your job search should be tailored to meet your interests and the realities of the job market.
Brainstorm and research with an adviser and on your own what organizations are hiring and are interested in bringing on LL.M. graduates. Nonprofit legal advocacy groups, such as the Open Society Foundation, International Rescue Committee, and Human Rights Watch may be looking to hire. Think tanks, large IGOs, and international courts often hire LL.M.s, as do both large and small NGOs worldwide.
Try to target NGOs and nonprofits that have an international mission and have offices in international locations. Identify organizations that are looking for expertise on your home country’s legal system. Many U.S. multinational organizations have set up human rights, charitable, or corporate responsibility nonprofits for projects in developing or transition economies.
Finally, be pragmatic. How would a particular position fit in with your overall career plan? The LL.M. job search can be tough, but if a job puts you in a good place for advancement, it may be worth it. Conversely, taking a job that does not align with the trajectory you envision may only serve as a frustration down the line.
Special consideration: Citizenship. It’s essential to consider citizenship requirements, particularly if you are interested in opportunities in the United States. A few state and local agencies in the U.S. will hire non-U.S. citizens, but most federal agencies will only hire U.S. citizens and, in some agencies, dual citizens. More information can be found in OPIA’s Citizenship Guide: Hiring Non-Citizens.
How important is networking? What are some tips to keep in mind?
Very important! While networking may not be a familiar practice in your home country, it is an essential tool for landing a job in the United States. A comprehensive job search involves both applying to posted jobs and networking within your field.
To effectively network, you need goals and personal focus. Research the practice settings you are considering so that your questions are well-informed and pointed. Be aware of your own strengths and learn how to highlight them in a conversation or informational interview.
You also need a well-drafted introductory note that lays the foundation for a future call or meeting. It should be short, clear, and easy to read. Be sure to attach a resume to give the contact a sense of your background, but do not directly ask for a job or refer to specific opportunities within the organization. For more information on networking, visit our Job Search Toolkit.
Networking tools. Find contacts through family, friends, and faculty and leverage the resources that currently exist at HLS.
Where do I start looking for posted jobs and post-graduate fellowship opportunities?
Take advantage of OPIA Career contacts. OPIA and Harvard Law School have a vast network of alumni working in public service. In addition to an database of LL.M. alumni working in public service, LL.M.s also have access to HLS Connect, a database of HLS alumni, as well as other career networks, such as public interest faculty, Wasserstein Fellows, and past fellowship recipients.
Your undergraduate network can also have a wealth of contacts, as can the networks of your LL.M. peers. Remember, many students within the LL.M. program will be coming to HLS with strong prior work histories, so connecting with them now will provide a great opportunity to learn about different fields and to find out what might be right for you. Also, keep in touch with former employers and check in with them regarding open positions.
Consider joining organizations both internal and external to Harvard that will help you develop good contacts for the future. Visit the International Legal Studies website and their listing of student organizations and journals for a listing of internal resources.
What types of fellowships am I eligible for?
There are several types of fellowship programs, both internal and external to Harvard Law School. LL.M.s are often eligible for these programs, unless noted otherwise.
Organization-specific fellowships are funded by the organization at which you are working, such as Human Rights Watch or Open Society Institute. Portable fellowships require an organization to sponsor your work. Harvard-only fellowships are exclusively available to Harvard students. Out of these, the Satter Human Rights Fellowship, Henigson Human Rights Fellowship and Irving Kaufman Fellowship are available to HLS LL.M. students.
Make an appointment with OPIA’s Fellowship Director, Judy Murciano, to learn more, and review our fellowship calendar, fellowship emails and other resources related to the fellowship search process.
What are some of the public interest activities I can get involved with at HLS that can help develop my public interest background and expertise?
Gaining relevant experience through work, pro bono activities, courses and clinics and engaging in extracurricular activities will provide the best chance of being hired and also increase the likelihood of landing a satisfying and engaging public interest job.
Extracurricular activities: Student practice organizations provide legal services to low-income clients, while other student organizations carry out more general public interest work through their activities and events.
Volunteer: During the course of the year, considering gaining practical experience at a local public interest organization. You may also volunteer to do long distance research and writing. To learn more about pro bono opportunities including New York Bar requirements, you may contact Maggie Bay in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono, and review their general resources for LL.M.s.
Academic work: Harvard’s Research Programs and Centers promote scholarly discourse on a range of legal issues and provide research opportunities. Students can also tailor their coursework to specific public interest issues and practice areas. Feel free to consult with OPIA to discuss your course selections and their connection to your public interest job search.
Law Journals: Reviews and journals provide an excellent opportunity to develop strong legal research, writing, and editing skills. HLS has numerous student journals devoted to different substantive areas of law and legal analyses.
Research for faculty: Many HLS faculty produce scholarly works on public interest topics and are in need of research assistants. Some faculty members are also involved in pro bono projects. For details, consult OPIA’s online directory of public interest faculty.