Name: Samuel Liao (Sam)
Class Year: LLM, 2011
Home: São Paulo, Brazil
Law School: Peking University
Where is home? What is it famous for?
This is a very tricky question for me. I was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, which I consider home. But I have spent a great deal of time pursuing my studies elsewhere, including Taiwan (R.O.C.), China (P.R.C.), Switzerland and now the United States. Brazil is famous for many things but we are especially proud of our five FIFA World Cup titles, our splendid natural resources, and the yearly Carnival parade in Rio.
Why did you want to pursue an LLM in the United States?
After receiving my LL.B. from Peking University, I went on to experience different fields, trying to determine where to build my lifelong career. After spending two and a half years at both an multinational IT corporation and a consulting firm, I decided that law was the place where I could make the most of myself and contribute to society. Since I have Brazilian citizenship, I am not allowed to take the Bar exam of the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, in order to pursue a legal career, I had to find a jurisdiction where I could be admitted. After thorough research, I decided to pursue an LL.M. degree in the U.S. and sit for the New York Bar Exam.
Why did you choose Duke for your LLM?
Duke, which is among the top universities in the U.S., has the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen. I knew I wanted to come to Duke because I wanted to be in a place where I can reflect and prepare for my future career. Studying at Duke is an immersive academic experience giving you the best environment to focus on your studies. Before committing to Duke, I spoke with many Duke alumni who made me feel like coming to Duke would be akin to joining a family. I also learned of many great Duke professors and thought that learning from them would be an amazing experience. All this led me to believe that Duke Law School would prepare me well to become an international lawyer.
What do you like most about Duke so far?
I believe that there are two sides of Duke that I love the most. First is the university itself. Duke has the top faculty which allows students to pursue their academic interest without any restriction. From a technological standpoint, Duke offers students the best tools to excel. The classrooms are equipped with the most up-to-date technology, communication tools are extremely convenient, and the gym is the best I have ever seen. The other side of what makes me love Duke is the atmosphere of being a part of the family. I’m not (only) talking about the basketball games where we all cheer as one, but the feeling that you always have someone looking after you. Duke alumni are everywhere, and they are always there for you, be it a phone call or just a cup of coffee.
You are a highly accomplished Kendo athlete, currently ranked 3d Dan (black belt level) by the International Kendo Federation. Are you able to continue your interest in this sport while at Duke?
Kendo has been the sport to which I have devoted the most time since my freshmen year in college. After receiving the offer letter, my first reaction was to find out if there was a Kendo club at Duke. This factor was really important in my decision to attend. To my surprise, there was such a club! Kendo is not a very popular sport, but somehow there was a group of undergraduate Duke students who shared my passion for the sport. After contacting and exchanging e-mails with the club president, I was delighted to be welcomed to the club even before arriving in Durham. This was a group of well disciplined undergraduate kendoka (practitioners), and it gave me the opportunity to share my passion for kendo. For those who also practice kendo, the dojo is just perfect with lighting, mirrors, shape and size. Also, because there are high ranking kendoka around with my ranking, you are welcome for a challenge.
What is your plan after graduation? How do you think the LLM will help you with your career?
I will head to New York to work as an international associate at a major law firm. The LL.M. at Duke helped me in three ways. First, my courses provided a great introduction to the American legal system. I’ve also focused on taking practical courses such as simulating deals and forming joint-ventures. It is amazing to see how American law professors enlighten students and how efficiently American law students work with each other. Secondly, the LL.M. at Duke gave me an opportunity to meet alumni at receptions and networking events. Duke Law alumni from all over the world advised me on how to interview and helped introduce me to law firms interested in someone with my profile. This was a great opportunity to get connected and begin building a professional network even before graduating. Lastly, the Career Services office helped me learn more about myself, be confident and prepare for the legal market.
You are fluent in Mandarin, Portuguese, and English and have lived and worked all over the world. How do you think your experience and background will help you become a successful international lawyer?
As the world economy progresses and deals grow in scale and magnitude, I believe that having the capability of adapting yourself quickly and truly understanding different cultures is key to becoming a successful international lawyer. I am very grateful to have parents who sacrificed so much so that I could have the opportunity to learn not only multiple languages, but also live among and understand different cultures. I lived in many places, travelled a great deal and made friends all over the world. As the result, I’m very comfortable in working globally. I believe that having the capability of learning from different cultures is a crucial part of success, not only as an international lawyer but as a person in today’s global village.
What advice could you give to international students studying in American law schools?
I believe that studying in the U.S. is an opportunity to not only pursue legal knowledge but also to establish lifelong friendships. Other than studying a lot, participating in extra-curricular activities, and taking challenging courses, I would urge all international students to engage with all of your fellow LL.M. AND J.D. classmates. I have made many friends during the course of my studies. U.S. law schools prepare law students for very different career paths, not only law firms. By making friends with the entire law school community, you will learn a lot about others and yourself.