London's strength in international business and transactional law has attracted many University of Virginia School of Law alumni, and several graduates have also made their mark in other fields.

More than 70 alumni are located in London, according to LinkedIn. We talked to several to gather their work experiences and tips for students and graduates on how to succeed there.

The UVA Law Network is an occasional series on careers for graduates. The school's 20,000 graduates are located in 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries.

Advice from Alumni in London


Jeffrey W. Cottle '95

Partner, Brown Rudnick

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The environment of collaboration at UVA, as well as the ability to account for the arguments that might be made by others, prepared me for my many roles as an in-house practitioner before coming back to private practice.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
It’s the greatest city in the world, but also one of the most expensive! As a UVA-trained lawyer, you will be miles ahead of the local practitioners, even at the “best” U.K. firms, so have faith in your abilities despite the oddities of the U.K. market.


Robert Ludwig '08

Chief Operating Officer, Hoxton Ventures

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
You don’t realize it while you are going through the process, but the learning you do in law school is less topic-related and more installing a method of analysis and approach to problem solving that is extremely fine-grained and that puts extensive emphasis on precisely identifying the actual meaning/semantic value of a statements and sentences, which I find myself doing on a regular basis in my career.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
I would note a couple of different things. First, understand what that means in terms of the kinds of work you will be doing. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, U.S.-qualified lawyers in London are corporate lawyers acting on capital markets and securities transactions, with a smaller sub-set who act on mergers and acquisitions transactions and general corporate advisory work.

Second, make sure you understand what it means to be an expat, as it is a more substantial transition than moving to a new city in the U.S. (and not one that I really understood before I moved, to be honest) and be able to explain why it is that you want to work in London, as people can often be skeptical that your motivation will survive the actual process of moving and working here for several years.

Third, network as much as you can. People are always happy to talk about themselves and what they do and, so long as you are flexible about when you have the conversation, those conversations can only help by giving you another forum to explain why you want to be in London.


Christina Perry '01

Lecturer, Queen Mary School of Law, University of London

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
It sounds like such a cliché, but being taught how to think (and, importantly, write) like a lawyer has been incredibly important in my career. Both my classes and my work at the Virginia Journal of International Law taught me to be meticulous and careful, which was crucial to my development in my practice as a corporate lawyer. Most recently, I have striven to emulate the superb teaching I received from professors such as George Rutherglen, Douglas Leslie, George Yin and Stanley Henderson in my own academic career.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
Be flexible. You are a J.D.-holder and a U.S.-trained lawyer, and those are valuable assets in the London legal market and will be your primary calling card. That said, however, never stop learning, and be willing to obtain additional qualifications in order to demonstrate a commitment to the U.K., such as the Qualified Lawyers’ Transfer Scheme (QLTS), which enables lawyers with a certain amount of experience to become qualified as English solicitors. My English qualification was useful in my practice and it also enabled me to make the transition into academia.

Also, be flexible in terms of choosing a firm and your preferred practice areas. Most branch offices of U.S. firms are leanly staffed in London, and you will be expected to work on any deal that comes in through the door. If you only wish to work on one type of deal or transaction, London is not the place for you.


Cecil Quillen '88

Partner, Linklaters

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
I don’t think law students, at least those bound for large-firm or other transactional practice, should worry too much about the particular courses they take quite so much as ensuring they are studying with interesting and inspiring teachers who quicken their intellectual curiosity and help develop their powers of analysis. Logic applied to understand, describe and criticize the way rules apply to facts is the main thing you’re in law school to learn.

The faculty of the Law School when I was there was rich in men and women whose intellect and humanity combined to develop and inspire these traits, and I was fortunate to get to know a few of them. The best advice I can give any law student is to seek out professors with these qualities — the Law School is replete with them — and don’t be shy about seeking to get to know them. Their powers of analysis and humanity will inspire you. Your fellow students will also be some of the smartest people in whose company you’ll ever be privileged to be, and you should seek to take full advantage of that, confident that you are in a place where most of those people are also kind, collegial and possessed of keen senses of humor. These are the things particular to the Law School that have been most important to my career development.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
First and most obviously, sign up to interview with Linklaters! More seriously, the internationalization of finance and commerce, and the importance of U.S. law and U.S. markets in that process, mean that there have never been more opportunities for junior American-trained lawyers to work internationally. In addition to the historically London-based firms with U.S. practices, the most prominent of the U.S.-based firms with sizable London offices now routinely hire new graduates directly into London, and the number of U.S.-based firms with London offices and other firms employing non-trivial numbers of U.S. lawyers in London must by now number in the hundreds, not just dozens. The numbers are still relatively small compared to analogous practices in a major American city, of course, but the number of opportunities is generally growing.

Transactional lawyers still have something of an inside track, but there are increasing numbers of U.S. litigators here as well — particularly lawyers dealing with OFAC/sanctions issues, FCPA issues and antitrust. So begin by doing your research, online and otherwise, to identify firms in the market with junior U.S. lawyers doing things that interest you and getting full information on the disciplines in which they practice and how they recruit.

And don’t hesitate to make and use contacts through the Law School’s network — most of us are more than happy to help with information about which employers are doing what things in the market and to suggest useful contacts. Finally, be persistent — lots of lawyers may begin practice elsewhere but find that there are also excellent lateral opportunities to make a move to London.


Robert Schwartz '06

Managing Director, UK, Tyrus Capital Alternatives

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The Law & Business Program was indispensable in preparing me for my current and past roles in London. Alongside staples like contracts and trusts, the program gave me a grounding in corporate finance, accounting, securities law and other disciplines that I would not have otherwise grown to enjoy and embrace. Professor (now Dean) Mahoney was especially generous with his time. In my 3L year, he designed from scratch and delivered a course on derivatives regulation, structuring and pricing merely because some like-minded friends and I asked him to do it. UVA Law offers an education and legal community without parallel.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
Get up to speed on contracts, corporate finance, capital markets, corporate law and other related disciplines. I know one or two U.S.-trained lawyers who have involved themselves in arbitration or litigation practices in London, but the vast majority of U.S. lawyers here are involved in transactional practices related to the capital markets.


Stephanie Shepard Cobb '94

Head of Compliance - Europe, Millenium Capital Partners

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
My husband (Shane Cobb '93) and I moved to London in 1998 to join law firms and moved in-house after a number of years. We came with a plan to stay for only two years and have ended up making London our home.

In terms of landing a job here, the easiest path would be to join a law firm with a strong corporate practice and a presence in Europe. The law firms here generally hire U.S.-qualified lawyers for transactional-based work, e.g., capital markets and M&A, although London is also a leading center for international arbitration. There are many U.S. and U.K. firms that recruit summer and first-year associates for their London offices directly from U.S. law schools (including UVA). For those already practicing, many law firms allow associates to spend 2-3 years at an overseas office and are generally good about adjusting salaries for cost of living and relocation expenses. Alternatively, London is the European headquarters for many global companies, and they have sizable in-house legal departments.  While securing an in-house position right out of law school is more challenging, the legal market here is very broad and dynamic.

In terms of how to prepare for life in London, it really is important to expose yourself to what is going on in the world. Make an effort to understand different perspectives and cultures. Because the U.S. is so dominant, economically and culturally, it can be quite inward looking (something I had not really appreciated until I moved here). Try not to fall into that trap. Read, learn a language, and most of all, travel. And if you can, try to spend an extended period of time somewhere to figure out whether the ex-pat life is for you. If you decide that it is, your foreign experience will prepare you well for the unique challenge posed by working in a professional environment filled with people who come from different backgrounds than you.


John G. Stewart '81

General Counsel, University of London

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
The best advice I can give is to be open to anything. Serendipity plays a much greater part in a career than career advisers will ever tell you.

When I was at UVA Law, I wanted to be a movie lawyer, so I took a course on copyright and intellectual property law. But I also took a course on the Uniform Commercial Code, taught brilliantly by Professor Robert Scott. I then found security interests in property to be intellectually interesting.

I wanted to live and work in New York City; was lucky to get a job with a big firm there; and they asked me which department I wanted to join. Because of Bob Scott, I chose banking. A year later, a bigger firm with overseas offices needed banking lawyers, and I was asked to join them.

One year later, I was sent to Athens, Greece, followed by a year in London with the firm — which turned into seven years. But there wasn’t much banking work in London, so I became a U.S. securities lawyer. One of our clients was a large private foundation, which ended up selling shares to U.S. investors. Three years later, I joined the foundation as its first in-house lawyer, learned a lot about U.K. charities law, took some tests to qualify as an English solicitor, and stayed in London. 

After 17 years, I needed a change, and ended up doing higher education law — with some copyright law thrown in — at the University of London. 

I’ve become a jack of all trades — and the best thing about UVA Law was that it gave me the skills to learn about many different types of law, as needed in my different roles. So I go back to my initial advice — become the best general lawyer you can, and don’t be afraid to do something different.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?
The U.K. has become much more restrictive in giving work visas these days. And unless you are wealthy, it is difficult to come to the U.K. and get a residence permit without having a job. If you are a dual citizen with the U.K. or any other countries of the European Union, then there is no problem coming here to work and live. One American friend got an Irish passport because of his grandfather. Another may get an Eastern European country passport because her father had lived there. But most of us (me included) have to rely on a big U.S. firm hiring us first in the U.S. and then sending us to a foreign outpost like London.


More in the UVA Law Network Series

70+ Alumni

Leaders in London

Shane Cobb '93 
General Counsel, Circle Health Group

Tamer El-Emary '96 
Chief Operating Officer, Thunes

Amelia Fawcett '83, DBE  
Chairman, Kinnevik AB
Lead Director, State Street 

Nerys Jefford, LL.M. '85
QC Barrister, Keating Chambers

Evan Nacke '07 
General Counsel, Gett

Cecil Quillen '88 
Partner and Head of Global U.S. Securities Practice, Linklaters

Gordon F. Rainey '04 
Co-Head of Practice, Alaco

Robert Schwartz '06 
Managing Director, UK, Tyrus Capital Alternatives

Stephanie Shepard Cobb '94 
Head of Compliance - Europe, Millenium Capital Partners

John G. Stewart '81
General Counsel, University of London

Gani Toxanbayev LL.M. '99 
Vice President, Credit Suisse

John Van Deventer '82
Partner, Cabot Square Capital

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