Name: Taai Izushima
- Where is home? What is it famous for?Tokyo is home for me. Japan is famous for its cherry blossoms, old wooden temples, healthy foods, high savings rate, crowded trains… Most Americans think we eat “sushi” everyday and bow and take pictures with our cameras all day. But we don’t.
- You are a trader for the past 10 years. What made you decide to pursue a career in trading after receiving your first law degree in Japan?The 2~3% passage rate for the bar exam in Japan was a deterrent for pursuing a legal career to me. In a way I felt like being a loser in not even trying, but when I looked around for other careers, the stock market bubble in Japan had collapsed a few years ago, and in 1995 not too many people wanted to get into the financial sector. I figured in a decade or so things would start to look rosy again and thinking that I’d be in my mid- thirties, I would be in a good position to take advantage of it. As it turned out, I was able to get myself over to New York where NASDAQ’s bubble was still in its infant stages and rode through that wave there. In 2004 I got back to Japan and was in time for the Asian rally. Looking back, I think the decisions I made were good, but all it was based on was risk aversion, a little bit of strategic thinking and a lot of good luck.
- You headed the Tokyo and New York trading departments of one of Japan’s biggest securities brokerage firms. What made you decide to pursue an LLM degree?When you start trading in multiple countries, one of the first questions that pop up is, “Are we following the rules there? Is it legal?” Compliance on rules and regulations is a big topic in any country. Whenever you have doubt, you’ll always seek legal opinions. I may be a little facetious here, but time on a trading floor moves at a different pace than elsewhere and sometimes the wording of a legal questions makes a whole lot of difference in the response time. I felt that by having an LLM, I’d be able to ask more precisely and understand more quickly the legal issues at hand. Another important point is that so much of the rules, regulations and newest strategies spill over from the U.S. to other parts of the world and it’s advantageous to know how the U.S. is structuring it.
- Why did you choose Duke for your LLM?My hardest choice was choosing between an LLM degree and an MBA. But in the end, I decided I only wanted to be away from “real world” for a year and I liked the fact that with an LLM degree you fulfill the requirements to take the bar exam in some states. Choosing Duke came naturally because you have a great MBA program next door and some of the courses there count toward your LLM degree. I was told that interaction with the JD students was higher than other schools and coming here I see it’s true! The line between us is almost blurred. The school bends over backwards to make us feel at home here. Also cost of living is much lower then other states. I wouldn’t be able to get a studio apartment in Manhattan or Tokyo with the rent I am paying for a 2 bedroom apartment here.
- How is life different for you now as a student versus as a head trader in those two metropolises? How do you enjoy your experience at Duke?Simply put, you feel free again. I’m in control of my time now. It’s great to be a student again. Although you need to be working hard to keep up with class, I do have time to be with my family. It’s a very relaxing atmosphere here. The weather is nice and golf courses are excellent so come prepared to enjoy it.
- What is your plan after graduation? How do you think the LLM will help you with your career?Here I am not sure yet. I think I’m in uncharted territory, not to many students come to law school not planning on practicing law after they graduate. Before I came to Duke I was planning on going right back in to financial industry, my purpose for the LLM was to be able to think like a lawyer and knowing what would be racing through his head when I go up to him/her with a question. I was planning on having a lawyer do the actual lawyer work. But now that I am here, I get the feeling there is more to it than just learning the law. Maybe I do need to practice law to “get it”. But will there be a market for a guy like me? I’m curious to find out.
- What advice will you give to international students studying in American law schools?I’m in no position to be giving other students advice when I’m in the same shoes, but I think we need to view our LLM degree as a leveraging tool. LLM in itself is not going to get us much far. It’s a degree that gets our foot in the door in the U.S. Our selling point would be experiences and training in our home country. On the other hand when we go back to our home country the LLM becomes an edge for we know the law in the U.S. So either way we leverage one with the other. So soak up all you can, whether it is knowledge or fun because the best stuff is here. One thing is for certain, we’ll be cosmopolitans for sure. Best of luck you all!