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Virtual LLM recruiting brings Law School to new applicant pools in Africa and Latin America

January 11, 2021

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s LLM program attracts top law graduates from around the world. Usually, recruiting those students entails physically traveling to various countries to connect with prospective applicants. Thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic, however, nothing is usual right now — international travel included.

“In the past, we typically did about 20 in-person recruiting events around the world each year,” said Executive Director of Graduate Programs Elise Luce Kraemer  L’93. “Graduate Programs recruits colleagues from International Programs, Alumni Relations, and the Career Planning and Professionalism Office to help staff events.”

Associate Director of Graduate Programs Samantha Simmons L’16 said that when the pandemic hit, “Graduate Programs had to quickly adapt to a completely virtual setting for the fall 2020 recruiting season.”

Fortunately, Kraemer and Simmons were prepared.

“We had already been doing virtual recruiting for about four years,” said Kraemer, “with a focus on places with strong applicant pools that we were not able to travel to regularly, such as Thailand.”

Simmons said the recruiting team was “fortunate that our global focus has meant including webinars and virtual information sessions as part of our arsenal, even in normal years, so we were not starting completely from scratch.”

While facilitating large virtual fairs was a new experience for the team, they also discovered that being restricted to virtual recruiting had some surprising silver linings.

“We were able to be in more ‘places’ than ever before,” said Simmons, “reaching prospective applicants in more countries, diverse cities, and overlooked regions.”

These events expanded the team’s reach outside of the major cities they typically visit for in-person events, allowing them to meet a wider range of applicants.

“That increase in access is so valuable,” Simmons said.

Conducting all recruiting virtually meant that, for the first time, the Law School and five peer schools were able to host a virtual fair focused on Africa.

“After a joint presentation,” said Kraemer, “we had students from Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya visit our Zoom room,” which was co-hosted by Betha Igbinosun LLM ’20, a Nigerian scholar currently enrolled in the Law School’s SJD program. “This global reach was only possible through virtual recruiting,” Kraemer said.

The team is also making a first foray into new kinds of recruiting in Latin America. “We are excited to begin our partnership with Talento Total,” said Simmons, referring to an organization working in Latin America to accelerate the careers of young professionals who are indigenous and afro-descendant.

“Graduate Programs had the opportunity to co-host a webinar with Talento Total for interested lawyers across Latin America, enabling us to reach underrepresented communities that are often out of reach through our traditional recruiting channels,” said Simmons. “We are confident that this partnership will help increase representation of afro-descendant and indigenous Latin American students both at Penn and at American Law schools overall.”

Another benefit of virtual recruiting was that “the time saved on overseas travel allowed our team to participate in more events and engage more of our team members and law school partners than ever before,” Simmons said.

“We have always benefitted from faculty experience and insights in evaluating applicants and many faculty have also promoted our programs when they travel abroad,” said Kraemer. This spring, however, “we are moving to a new level of engagement,” Kraemer said, “partnering with alumni in Latin American to have a faculty lecture as part of our formal recruiting efforts. Sophisticated applicants appreciate a substantive component and we hope to expand this type of outreach as part of our recruiting strategy. Our faculty are extraordinary and we should take every opportunity to showcase them.”

In the midst of so much upheaval in the U.S. and abroad, Kraemer said that “the one key constant has been our alumni, who are always remarkably generous with their expertise, time, and hospitality. We invite alumni to participate in all our recruiting events — our alumni are our best ambassadors.”

Read more about the Law School’s LLM program.