Recent LL.M. in Law and Government Graduates Offer Practical Career Advice

Program on Law and Government Kicks Off 2012 Career Roundtable Series

The Program on Law and Government attracts students with a variety of interests in different stages of their professional development.

At the program's first Career Roundtable Series event of 2012, "How Recent LL.M. Graduates Found their Jobs," a panel of alumni advised current students on how to navigate the tough job market and take advantage of the opportunities opened up to them by American University Washington College of Law.

"It is such a pleasure to see our accomplished alumni flourishing in their new positions and giving back to the program," said Amy Tenney, associate director of the Program on Law and Government. "In this tough job market, we try to give students the tools necessary to succeed, and hearing practical advice from program alumni helps current students figure out their next steps."

(Photo: Program on Law & Government students, staff, and faculty in 2011)

For recent Program on Law and Government graduates Allison Cohen, Anna Lake, Mike Wilson, and International Legal Studies Program (ILSP) graduate Christie Edwards, the LL.M. armed them with the ability to specialize in a certain area of the law while affording them the opportunity to diversify their expertise through a wide range of events and connections.

The Value of an LL.M.

"I knew what I didn't want to do after law school," Mike Wilson, told the audience of current LL.M. students. "I had taken a lot of coursework specializing in immigration but I wanted to get more experience. I looked at numerous LL.M. programs, but was drawn to the immigration law and policy specialization offered at WCL."

Wilson made the most of his time in the Program on Law and Government, diversifying his experience by taking the Health Law and Policy Summer Institute and pursuing an LL.M. in International Legal Studies. Ultimately, Wilson accepted a position at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It's great, in many ways it is my dream job. It's very important. I have a high satisfaction in serving our veterans. "

After being hired, Wilson learned that he was chosen for the job based on his work in the LL.M. in Law & Government Program coupled with the immigration experience he gained during the program.

"Interestingly, when you're applying for immigration and veteran's benefits, the process is quite similar," he said.

According to Wilson, taking advantage of every opportunity at WCL has opened the door for other career-related returns.

"I was always seeking new tasks, and always meeting people."

Anna Lake, the first graduate of the dual Law & Government LL.M./Masters of Public Administration Program in 2011, moved to Washington, D.C. after a post-JD clerkship in South Carolina. Today she works for the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior, focusing on suspension and debarment issues.

"It's really interesting work, I really enjoy it," said Lake about her position. "My specialization was Law, Politics, and Legislation and I always knew I wanted to be in the federal government."

Lake began externing at the Department of the Interior last January through the Law & Government Externship Program and was hired full-time by April. Lake attributes her success in finding work to her ability and willingness to network.

"I guess one of the reasons they hired me is that I was always seeking new tasks, and always meeting people," she said. "If you just sit there and don't let anybody know who you are, they're not going to look out for you."

"Now I'm working exactly in my field doing exactly what I want to do."

For Alison Cohen and Christie Edwards, externing played a valuable role in finding a job after the completion of their LL.M.

Cohen, who had a background in public policy, specialized in Health Law and Policy. She interned at the Department of Health and Human Services and AARP, gaining experience in policy, lobbying, and regulatory work. She is currently a health policy specialist for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

(Photo: Professor Jamin Raskin with alumnus Alison Cohen at the Program on Law and Government's spring 2011 banquet.)

"I definitely recommend externships—even if you're a barred attorney," explained Cohen. "That's how you get experience, move in different directions, and prove that you can do things. While going to school and externing I talked to a lot of people in my field, and set up informational interviews. I sometimes find it difficult to network, but if it's a topic or issue area you really care about, get out there and talk about it."

Edwards was introduced to her current employer, Vital Voices, after arranging an informational interview with the organization. She used the opportunity to inquire about an internship, and began interning there several months later.

"It was a little odd going in as a 29 year-old attorney as an intern, but I made the most of it," said Edwards. "They gave me tasks to do that I would not have had the opportunity to do anywhere else."

Next, Edwards was hired as a fellow in Casablanca, Morocco, where she worked on an advocacy campaign for greater legal rights for single mothers. She later returned to Vital Voices and was first hired as a consultant before becoming their program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

"I definitely focused on my areas of interest," she said. "Now I'm working exactly in my field doing exactly what I want to do."

"The hallmark of our program is individualized attention both to the student's intellectual interests and the next stage of his or her professional career," observed Jamin Raskin, professor and director of the Program on Law and Government. "We're working to propel our students to become great lawyers in the places where they want to go."