After Tristan Deering ’24 studied business at home and abroad as an undergraduate, and worked at a leading business advisory firm, he got down to business at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Deering, a native of Grayson County, Kentucky, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Louisville and an international dual degree from EBS Universität für Wirtschaft und Recht in Germany.

At UVA Law, Deering, a first-generation college student, serves as an executive editor of the Virginia Tax Review, director of special projects for the Emerging Companies and Venture Capital Society, and an admissions ambassador. He was also a section representative on the First-Year Council and is a research assistant for Professors Cathy Hwang and Ruth Mason.

In our occasional series “Star Witness,” Deering discusses how his law degree will help him achieve his goals in the business world.

Tell us something about your life before law school.

I was raised by my single grandmother in rural Kentucky, and we were a very poor family. No one in my family had been to college or even gotten outside of that small-town bubble. So there was a lot of uncertainty about what my future would look like.

Things ultimately worked out well, and I had a wonderful opportunity to move abroad while at the University of Louisville. I first moved abroad in January 2019 as part of a dual-degree program, and I stayed until March 2020 when COVID-19 shut the world down and forced me to move back stateside. Before I moved back, I was able to get involved in several activities in Germany. I worked with two startups and volunteered at a local nursing home with fellow students. Outside of school, I was active with the sister city partnership between Mainz, Germany, and Louisville.

Also while abroad, I had the chance to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Frankfurt. As a student, I supported other employees on matters ranging from entity formation to corporate governance and compliance to tax analyses. I stayed a year longer than expected and transitioned to a full-time role after graduation, but I spent that gap year primarily spearheading the development and rollout of a global managed-services platform.

Why law school?

I credit that experience for my decision to come to law school. I have always been interested in being a lawyer — who didn’t grow up with that idea in their head? In high school, I thought being a lawyer was my route to being a judge, prosecutor or even some other elected position. But in college, I found that my interests were somewhere else. I started studying finance and management, and the world of business was much more my vibe. During my time at PwC in Frankfurt, I got the opportunity to work alongside corporate attorneys on a range of transactional matters for large multinational corporations and financial institutions, and I found myself really drawn to the clients and work in a way I hadn’t been drawn to work before. With a law degree, I can work on sophisticated legal matters and achieve my goal of helping corporate clients fulfill their business objectives.

Tell us more about your interest in business and tax law.

I like the analytical but creative problem-solving skills that complex business topics require. The actual subject matter is interesting and important — from advising on the best way to set up a business and how to best finance the venture to evaluating and structuring deals, it all requires an intimate look at the underlying business. Because you are working on these matters within a changing legal and business landscape, it adds a layer of complexity and consistently challenges you to stay up to date on everything. Finally, and more generally, it is lawyers who help shape the business market’s understanding of the law.

When I started at PwC in 2019, the newest thing for our team was helping clients understand and get compliant with a tax transparency directive in the European Union. At the time, there was no official guidance from the member state authorities to help understand certain terms and the breadth of the directive within Germany, or any other EU country. It allowed us to shape the market’s understanding of [the directive] and, in the end, inform the German Finance Ministry’s official guidance of the law. That was and is extremely exciting to me.

What have you gained from being a research assistant at UVA?

It has allowed me to explore two different areas of the law and form deeper connections with two amazing professors. My work for Professor Hwang has been focused on corporate governance, while my work for Professor Mason has generally focused on EU law and the Dormant Commerce Clause.

For Professor Hwang and her “Cleaning Corporate Governance” project, I read and interpreted bylaws for a number of companies. Doing so helped me better understand some of the concepts that I learned in Corporations or was exposed to in my work prior to law school.

For Professor Mason, I have spent more time working on scholarly articles. I also had the privilege of helping with an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that Professor Mason and her co-author submitted in June in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. The assignments consistently challenged and ultimately improved my research and writing skills. They helped me to better understand topics — the Dormant Commerce Clause, the principle of extraterritoriality and our federalism — that I hadn’t engaged with much before.  

What’s next for you?

I am headed to a Big Law firm in New York City to pursue a corporate transactional practice. I have a particular interest in emerging companies and venture capital work (because of my work with the two startups in Germany), but that is in no way a requirement. I want to be exposed to a variety of matters across the lifecycle of a company from different transactional practice areas, and I would love an array of client types.

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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