Name: Daniel Akinmade Emejulu
Law School: The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
- Where is home? What is it famous for? Nigeria. To avoid being cliché, I will only mention her crude oil, spirit of camaraderie, artistic talent and respect culture, in passing. More noteworthy is Nigeria's untapped economic potential, recent listing as a member of 'the Next Eleven' and the innate intelligence of her people. I am emotionally invested in her development and also hope to make a material investment to Nigerian development, in the future.
- You were the youngest LLM student in the class, the second Nigerian to obtain an LLM at Duke, and the first SOAS student to pursue the Duke LLM degree. What will an LLM degree from the U.S. mean for you? A master's degree has been a long-held ambition of mine. I was motivated to obtain an LLM in the U.S., because it's the same law degree awarded in the Nigerian and British educational systems (subsequent to the LLB). The U.S. LLM facilitates its recipients to take the Bar exam in key states - like New York or California - if they so choose. This keeps my options open - in terms of accessing any of those jurisdictions, with a recognized law degree - or applying such a caliber of skill and training in another capacity, anywhere in the world.
- Why did you choose Duke? It stemmed from a reverence of the private elite universities in the U.S. I valued Duke University's highly-rated position, not just the Law School, but the overall reputation of Duke's business, medical, public policy and undergraduate institution(s). I came from a specialist university, so was seeking a contrasting university experience. I considered Duke's repeated placement among the top 20 universities in the world. Also, its name is particularly celebrated in the U.S. Duke laudably combines prestige with a profoundly qualitative experience. The Law School is extremely competitive, so I consider my coming here a huge blessing - which I am forever thankful to God for.
- What have been the highlights of your Duke experience? They have been countless. Almost everyone I crossed paths with was extraordinary and impressive - yet surprisingly affable. I made more friends for the future, in the U.S. and around the world. And I was initiated into Phi Alpha Delta. The exposure to highly credentialed and connected Professors also sticks out; they sometimes took us out to dinner and entertained us in their homes. I was privileged enough to act as a research assistant, for Jonathan B. Wiener. My degree coincided with the historic Obama legacy, so I was able to witness the campaign, election night, inauguration and first 100 days. I watched two Duke Blue Devils basketball games - from the front row - and saw the legendary Coach Krzyzewski. Oprah Winfrey's commencement address promises to be timeless. Also, the indelible influence of the faculty, including Professors Dimond, Metzloff, Morris, Reichman, Weisbord and Wiener. And finally, the daily lunch time talks on various cutting-edge legal issues will be fondly remembered.
- You were a student in the Guantanamo Bay Defense Clinic. What are you allowed to share with us about your experiences in the Clinic? The Guantanamo Defense Clinic was one of the reasons I opted for Duke - despite being admitted to other prestigious U.S. Law Schools. The Clinic makes Duke Law School the only academic institution, which offers students the opportunity to grapple with legal issues arising from Guantánamo Bay - in such a capacity. It gave me the opportunity to work alongside Professor Madeline Morris, the Chief of Defense Counsel, military lawyers and other eminent U.S. attorneys. A cachet of distinguished lawyers and advocates, who intrepidly defended the due process of legal subjects, despite the heinous acts alleged. The Clinic was an invaluable experience for a burgeoning advocate like myself; an exercise in appreciating fundamental legal canons. I helped prepare arguments and materials that were ultimately presented before an adjudicator, in a real court. In summary, it was a phenomenal and revealing experience, and truly inimitable, bearing in mind that President Obama has ordered the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.
- What advice would you give to international students studying in American law schools? Be creative with your thesis, do a topic (and courses) that truly interest you. It will be more stimulating and position you to excel. Secondly, don't shy away from intimidating intellectual debates, despite being new to the environment. Embrace the innovative methods lectures and classes are delivered in - I found it made legal education relevant and avant-garde. Finally, keep in mind that the academic aspect is actually just one of the many beneficial elements of the experience, so don't neglect the other (out-of-class) rewards of the experience.