International Students Bring Global Experiences to UVA Law Graduate Studies Program

Maximilian Berenbrok, Xin Hong, Shiho Yang, Wen-Yuan Lien and Fernando Dias are just five of the 35 international students that comprise the LL.M. Class of 2017.

September 12, 2016

Sixty international students are pursuing graduate degrees at the University of Virginia School of Law this year to build their knowledge of U.S. law.

The Class of 2017 includes 35 candidates for the master of laws (LL.M.) degree, representing 15 countries. An additional 25 candidates from 14 countries are pursuing a doctor of juridical science (S.J.D.), including 18 in residence. Students in the Graduate Studies Program typically have obtained their undergraduate degree in law from a foreign country.

LL.M. candidates who join the program have the benefit of planning their own coursework and taking classes with the Law School's J.D. students.
Members of this year’s LL.M. class boast a wide variety of scholastic and professional achievements, including working as judges and attorneys, practicing criminal law or tax law, working in business for multinational corporations and serving in the military.

Five students shared their experiences and goals: 

Maximilian Berenbrok

Home country:  Germany

Education: Dr. iur. (University of Hamburg), First State Examination (Higher Regional Court of Hamburg), LL.B. (Bucerius Law School, Hamburg)

Work experience:  Scientific assistant at the chair of Prof. Dr. Florian Faust, LL.M. at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg (16 months), summer intern at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Frankfurt) and Hengeler Mueller (Munich)

What led you to come to UVA Law?  For my LL.M. year in the U.S., I have been looking for a way to not only progress academically but to get to know U.S.-American culture and people. The small size of UVA’s LL.M. program, unlike other universities, provides for the best opportunities to connect with J.D. students. Also, because UVA is a campus university and located in lovely Charlottesville, student life is more affordable and I daresay better than in the big cities. Academically, UVA convinced me as a top-10 law school with an array of law and business courses to choose from, which are of particular interest to me.

What do you hope to do with your UVA law degree?  For now, I don’t plan to pursue my career in the United States. However, I am confident that what I will learn in my year at UVA will help me both professionally and personally at any place.

What are your initial impressions of the United States?  It’s refreshingly different. Opening a bank account takes — as an international student — 15 minutes, the grocery store is open 24/7 and I had to set up more passwords than ever before in my life. I have experienced great friendliness from complete strangers and it's always easy to enter conversation. Generally, a positive attitude seems to be the virtue that everyone agrees upon.

What have you liked best about UVA Law so far? So far, the variety of social events at the start of the term provided a perfect opportunity to find friends and together dive into UVA life (mainly picnics, sports, relaxing at other people’s pools, going downtown and trying out new restaurants). Only two weeks into law school, we already have formed a great community. Also, the Law School staff, both administrative and academic, was extremely helpful from the first day on and really conveyed a sense of family to us LL.M.s — quite literally, even: University staff and students with families bring their children to the Law School’s barbecues and picnics. It does begin to feel like home already.

Fernando Dias

Home country:  Brazil

Education: I have my law degree from Pontificia Universidade Católica in São Paulo, and I attended a postgraduate course in law at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, also in São Paulo.

Work experience:  In Brazil, students can start their internships as soon as they start law school. So, I started working in a small, but excellent law firm named Gomes Rosa Advogados, where I had an incredible experience. After 1 1/2 years, I moved to Moraes Pitombo Advogados, which is one of the most-respected criminal law firms in Brazil. Before graduating, I decided to have a different work experience, on tax law. However, my passion was for criminal law and I went back to Moraes Pitombo Advogados, where I worked for 5 1/2 years as a criminal defense attorney before coming to UVA. At this law firm, I worked in criminal law cases and drafted legal opinions.

What led you to come to UVA Law?  As a criminal lawyer, I found the UVA faculty in this field outstanding. The small numbers of LL.M. students, UVA's structure and Charlottesville are also major factors which interested me.

What do you hope to do with your UVA law degree?  I hope to continue working in law, and to have an opportunity for professional experience in the USA.

What are your initial impressions of the United States?  It's a totally different country from Brazil, and it is its citizens who make it great.

What have you liked best about UVA Law so far? The UVA community for sure. They make the process of getting used to the experience of studying at an American university very easy.

Xin Hong

Home country:  China

Education: LL.B., LL.M., Shanghai University of International Business and Economics

Work experience:  Before joining the LL.M. program, I worked at the Shanghai office of Hogan Lovells International. As an attorney specializing in international compliance, I have been involved in internal investigations related to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for various multinational companies and their Chinese vendors in the pharmaceutical and information industries. During my two years of practice, I assisted many high-profile corporations in addressing these challenges by helping them to comply with anticorruption and fraud prevention laws, conduct complex investigations, and develop global and regional compliance programs.

What led you to come to UVA Law?  The University of Virginia School of Law maintains a highly recognized prestigious reputation among top law firms, while offering graduates unparalleled networking opportunities. The small program size ensures that I will have the opportunity to be fully engaged in the community and have close interaction with my professors, while learning in a more personalized environment. The beautiful campus and Charlottesville also provide an enjoyable environment where I would like to stay for the next year of my life.

What do you hope to do with your UVA law degree?  In the UVA LL.M. program, I intend to focus on dispute resolutions. After graduation, I plan to sit for the New York bar exam and then continue my practice at the Hogan Lovells Shanghai office with a focus on corporate compliance. I anticipate that, with the growth of multinational business in China, there will be a stronger need for quality corporate legal services to stimulate the development of healthy compliance in multinational companies. I hope that, with the knowledge and experience gained during my time at UVA Law, I will be able to serve as a bridge between China’s evolving business law and developing multinational businesses, as well as between U.S. compliance law and China’s changing society.

What are your initial impressions of the United States?  I have noticed many aspects of life in the United States that are better than in China. For example, the blue sky, fresh air and plenty of trees are luxuries to me, as I lived in Shanghai with quite serious air pollution. The roads are not crowded, people drive politely and there are few traffic jams (which I often encountered in Shanghai).

What have you liked best about UVA Law so far? UVA Law provides us with a superior faculty and research environment. The professors I have met are truly responsive to students and are really keen to offer help. I also appreciate the harmonious atmosphere the school has created, especially by holding all the picnics where the professors and students, together with their families, can talk and have fun.

Wen-Yuan Lien

Home country:  Taiwan

Education: I graduated from the Department of Financial and Economic Law, National Taipei University, and obtained my master’s degree in law from the Law School of Soochow University in 2013.

Work experience:  I worked as a legal executive at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Taiwan, providing me with a truly international and multidisciplinary experience. My daily work involved a broad range of legal practices, including, but not limited to, contracts, corporate, consumer protection, labor, antitrust and intellectual property rights.

What led you to come to UVA Law?  From my previous work, I learned that diversity is an important key to fostering innovative ideas and effective collaboration. UVA Law is well-known for its excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of students in a diverse academic community. Therefore, I believe that attending UVA’s LL.M. program will definitely meet my educational needs and achieve my career goals.

What do you hope to do with your UVA law degree? I aim to return to Asia and work in regional and global enterprises.

What are your initial impressions of the United States?  A really friendly and peaceful environment! I guess everyone smiles in the same language.

What have you liked best about UVA Law so far? Although I am new here, I already feel a strong sense of community in UVA Law. Students, faculty and staff are all working hard to share their expertise and passion to make the school a vibrant community.

Shiho Yang

Home country:  Korea

Education: LL.B. Seoul National University

Work experience:  After going to undergraduate school and passing the Korean Bar Exam in 2005, I went through two years of researching and studying at the Judicial Research and Training Institute operated by the Supreme Court of Korea. Then I served in the navy and marine corps as a military judicial officer and a military judge for about three years. I was able to study maritime law and deal with special legal matters arising from the distinct characteristics of the military during my service. I was discharged upon completing my military service as a captain in 2011, when I was appointed as a judge. Before joining the LL.M. program, I dealt with a variety of civil, criminal and bankruptcy cases in Seoul Central District Court, Suwon District Court and Jeonju District Court.

What led you to come to UVA Law?  The Supreme Court of Korea annually provides opportunities to study abroad for some of the judges with work experience of five to nine years. Luckily, I was able to get an opportunity this year to study in the U.S. as an LL.M. candidate, like 11 other judges who came over to the U.S. to deepen their knowledge and broaden their perspectives. I chose UVA Law as the best place to hone my legal skills because an intimate environment, intensive courses and honorable faculty members definitely provide the best opportunity to achieve my goal.

What do you hope to do with your UVA law degree? After completing the LL.M. program, I plan to pursue a doctorate degree in bankruptcy law in Korea or some other country. The "Debtor Rehabilitation and Bankruptcy Act" in Korea has adopted a notable system that comes from U.S. bankruptcy law to facilitate uniform and effective procedures. A UVA Law degree offers a valuable chance to deepen my knowledge of bankruptcy law.

What are your initial impressions of the United States?  In a nutshell, everything is totally different. However, it was much easier for me to adapt to different circumstances because of the friendly atmosphere in Charlottesville. And unreal, picturesque natural surroundings! It's awesome!

What have you liked best about UVA Law so far? I really appreciate the overall atmosphere UVA Law provides. Even though the academic environment is perfect and students are eager to excel in their fields, it doesn’t feel like a competitive environment. J.D. students are willing to help LL.M. students, which makes it possible to immerse myself in UVA Law.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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