For 41 years, lawyers from around the world have been coming to the Law School to earn what was first called a Master’s of Comparative Law degree. This year’s LL.M. class has students from Asia, Europe and the Caribbean with a broad range of legal and life experiences. Here are profiles of four of them:
This November Emily Lombardi will take the oral portion of the Italian bar exam (she has already passed the written part) during what some would say is the most challenging part of the semester. The thought of studying for the exam and taking a full slate of LL.M. courses may seem daunting, but Lombardi accepted the challenge, keeping her fingers crossed. She worked for one of Italy’s top mergers and acquisitions lawyers before attending Penn State Law.
“The hours were normal times three,” she said as she remembered holidays and birthdays spent at the office. “The experience was incredible though,” she added. Lombardi gave examples of deals she was “privileged to be part of” including a complex telecom negotiation that involved more than 40 lawyers representing several banks funds. Her three years of legal practice and her dual business and law degrees have convinced her that her passion lies in structuring complex transactions. “I like the idea of making certain every detail is covered—that there are no surprises for the clients,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi attended Bocconi University in Milan where she studied with Professor Marco Ventoruzzo
, who holds a joint appointment with Penn State Law. She also served a six-month internship at the International Chamber of Arbitration of Milan.
After graduating with a law degree from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, Takahiro Ando joined the legal department of a large chemical manufacturer in Osaka. For eleven years he drafted and reviewed contracts for the company and worked on antitrust and import/export issues, among other matters. To both advance his career and improve his English language skills, Ando made the difficult decision to leave his wife and six-month old son and join the 2010 LL.M. class at Penn State Law.
“By studying the American legal system, I hope to enhance my knowledge and skill and play a more significant role in my company,” said Ando. He studied Japanese constitutional law in school and believes that learning the American legal system will allow him a broader exposure to international law when he returns to his company. He said he was initially attracted to the Penn State Law program because it is tailored to meet the individual goals of the student.
Ando’s family will join him in State College in the spring, but they plan to meet in San Francisco during winter break, as well.
In South Korea, serving as a prosecutor means rotating out of Seoul and into far-flung district locations every two years. Gun-Su Yang, who has been a prosecutor for ten years, has moved five times, leaving his wife, who is an elementary school teacher, and their two daughters behind in Seoul. Joining the LL.M. program at Penn State Law gives Yang time to reconnect with his family as well as pursue his passion for criminal law. “Many Koreans know Penn State University,” Yang said, adding that the academic program, the faculty, and the safety of the community factored into his decision to join Penn State Law.
On Yang’s agenda is gaining a thorough understanding of the legal system in the United States. South Korea recently adopted an approach similar to the U.S. for criminal prosecutions. He is especially interested in ways to address problems of juvenile delinquency and intends to complete a graduate thesis project on the topic. “The experience I will gain here will be invaluable to me when I return to Korea,” he said. The country is continuing to revise the criminal jury system, and Yang will be able to contribute to the discourse after seeing firsthand what he calls the pros and cons of the American legal system.
When he returns to South Korea, Yang hopes to ultimately be supervising staff attorneys and working on revisions to the laws governing juvenile delinquency.
Shan Gao believes that the economic development in China makes it imperative that an attorney study the legal issues of other countries in order to effectively practice law at home. Gao moved from his hometown of Wuhan, a city of more than nine million people, to Yantai a coastal city in the Eastern part of China. He attended law school at Ludong University because he wanted to study in a "new environment." Gao interned with a private law firm as well as the office of the prosecutor and the trial court. “Practicing law is so different from what you learn in the classroom. The private firm experience helped me see that,” said Gao. He also was a journalist covering news and events for the university.
In order to fully engage in the LL.M. experience Gao said he “really wanted to experience smaller classes and have more of an opportunity to connect with professors.” That is what brought him more than 11,000 miles to Penn State Law. He expects to return to China with a much broader knowledge of how the U.S. and other legal systems operate than what he was able to learn in school and practice. “There are so many new opportunities and issues confronting China,” said Gao. With his LL.M. degree, Gao expects that significantly more career prospects will be open to him.