Stela Herschmann, an environmental lawyer from Brazil, said she initially investigated Duke’s LLM program on the advice of colleagues who are Duke Law LLM alumni. A legal adviser with the Environmental Prosecutor’s office in Rio de Janeiro, Herschmann knew what she wanted – “interdisciplinarity with an environmental focus, clinical experience, and world-renowned professors.”
Herschmann is now one of 86 internationally trained lawyers in Duke Law’s LLM class of 2014 joined by the common goal of bringing the top-tier academic resources available at Duke Law to bear on their varied scholarly and professional interests. They represent 38 countries from around the globe, including six for the first time: Bahrain, Morocco, Nepal, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. They bring expertise in such varied areas as environmental law, financial regulation, antitrust law, international arbitration and intellectual property.
Once she looked into Duke’s program, it fit all of her needs, Herschmann said. “Duke is well-known for environmental law, and at work we have started using some concepts and precedents from the U.S., including Professor (James) Salzman’s books. The Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is one of my main interests, and some other schools didn’t allow LLM students to get involved with clinics. You have so many opportunities for interdisciplinarity here with the other schools, the Nicholas School, Sanford, Fuqua. So I had no other option!”
Herschmann said that the differences between legal education in Brazil and the United States have made for an invigorating experience since her arrival at Duke.
“The teaching style is totally different,” she said. “In Brazil it is very passive. The professor is there giving the lesson, but it is up to you to learn it. Here, there is much more interaction in the classroom, so you have to be ready all the time. I’m still adapting to the language, so it is challenging, but it is very stimulating.
“The focus on the analytical process rather than just learning the right answers is very useful. Professor Salzman always says that he wants us to understand the policy, not just memorize specific statutes. So we can read any environmental statute and if you’ve learned how to think about the policy, you’ll have a better understanding of the issue.”
Shulamit Kashy, a specialist in commercial law, said that the academic differences between her LLM experience and her JD studies in Israel have less to do with teaching methods, and more to do with subject matter.
“Here it’s not just detached classes, lessons, readings, it’s not detached from the real world. It’s more of a preparation for what you will actually encounter in law firms,” said Kashy, who worked for an Israeli law firm and then on Wall Street before coming to Duke. “My JD in Israel, was more about the theory behind law, and the basics of how a legal mind works. But here, I’ve been able to skip that stage, and the majority of my classes are about, ‘When you’re in a law firm, this is what you’ll do.’” At Duke, Kashy is taking advantage of the Law School’s faculty expertise in financial regulation, an area that is essential to her practice.
“It doesn’t matter if I am in the States or Israel, the U.S. is where policy is being made and, on a daily basis, this is where the money is, where the investors are,” she said. “I dealt with so many contracts in Israel where the governing law was New York State. Most of my counterparts at the big law firms have an American education, so I will be able to apply so much of what I’m learning here at Duke to my practice in the future.”
A side benefit of pursuing her LLM at Duke has been a refreshing change of pace from New York, she Kashy said.
“I was looking for a place where I could take the time to really get the most out of my experience in an environment conducive to concentrating on academics,” she says. “It is not as frantic, not as busy. I can see the forest outside my window! It’s different for me, but it’s a tool for me.”
Like Kashy, Toni Adeeyo has focused her academic and professional life on the intersection of law and finance. “I did my dissertation at the University of Exeter on corporate social responsibility and I’m interested in the place where law and finance meet,” she said. A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Adeeyo lived and worked in the United Kingdom, and interned in London’s financial district before coming to Duke Law. So far, she said, her high expectations for the LLM experience have been met. “My interest is in regulation, and the classes have been wonderful,” she said, citing classes taught by Professors Lawrence Baxter and Elizabeth de Fontenay as favorites.
Adeeyo said she will likely return to London, and eventually to Lagos.
“I’d like to apply some of what I’ve been learning about corporate social responsibility and financial regulation to help ensure that the corporations and the growing financial industry in Nigeria have to give back to the country,” she said. “So that they help the country grow as much as the country is helping them to grow.”
Yuichiro Tashiro came to Duke from Nagasaki, Japan to augment his knowledge of antitrust law, negotiations, and other areas he touches on in his practice, but he was worried that he and his family would have difficulty adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings.
“I had colleagues who graduated from Duke, and they told me the people were warm and friendly, and they were right,” he said. “I have a wife and daughter, and I was worried about their lives here, but so far it has been very good. My daughter is one year old, and we have been very happy with how family-friendly and child-friendly Durham is. We have visited the beach at Wilmington and also Washington, D.C. Those kinds of options are important, I think, for students who come here with families.
“The support from my classmates and from (Associate Dean for International Studies) Jennifer Maher and (International Studies Administrative Director) Suzanne Brown has been great. They have provided me with all the information I need, about the school, but also about life here in Durham.”