Name: Vasil (Sandro) Bibilashvili
Class Year: 2011
Home: Tbilisi, Georgia
Law School: Tbilisi State University, Central European University
Where is home? What is it famous for?
My home is Tbilisi, Georgia. It is in Eastern Europe – most Americans are amazed when they hear about "another" Georgia. Actually, Georgia is a country between Europe and Asia, with a lot of history. It is one of the oldest countries in the world and among the first ones to adopt Christianity as its official state religion in the early 4th century. The Greek myth about the Argonauts describes Georgia as a prosperous country of Golden Fleece. Georgians have been living on this land for more than three millennia and have their own unique language and alphabet. It is small and beautiful country nestled among the picturesque Caucasus Mountains , which rise high above the beautiful beaches of the Black Sea. Georgia is famous for its cuisine, wines – it is the world’s earliest-known wine producer – and extraordinary hospitality, Georgians say that "guests are sent by the God."
You hold an LLM in International Business Law from Central European University (CEU). How did you decide to pursue a second LLM degree in the U.S.?
I went to CEU to get an LLM degree immediately after completing my legal studies at Tbilisi State University. Although I had worked as a paralegal before, I did not have the necessary legal experience to completely understand the business environment. After gaining valuable practical experience I now better appreciate the practical application of a graduate degree. I have also identified and narrowed down the specific fields of interest which will be vital for my personal growth as a lawyer. Finally, obtaining an LLM degree in the U.S. will enable me to take the New York bar exam, which is one of my goals after graduating from Duke Law.
As the only lawyer from your country to receive a prestigious Edmund S. Muskie Fellowship this year, what made you decide to pursue your studies at Duke?
Duke is an outstanding academic institution, constantly ranked as one of the top universities in the U.S. and worldwide. Duke University School of Law is one of the most prestigious law schools around the globe. I believed that coming to Duke would be an exceptionally rewarding experience as I would be in the midst of an outstanding scholarly environment in a time when great changes are taking place in the wake of the financial crisis, and some members of the Duke Law faculty have expertise that directly applies to the new legal & financial order. In addition, Duke has by far the most beautiful campus I have seen; weather here is much nicer (i.e. shorter and milder winters) than most of the law schools of equivalent caliber; and cost of living in Durham is also relatively affordable.
What do you like most about Duke so far?
Not only are the Duke faculty brilliant, but the Socratic method of teaching and the friendly and relaxed relationship professors have with students are things rarely seen in my country, and in Eastern Europe. One of the most exciting experiences has been almost daily lectures by various guest speakers – ranging from the U.S. Supreme Court Justices and high ranking government officials to prominent scholars or practitioners – that take place at the law school.
You spent several years working at a prestigious law firm in Georgia, what is your legal expertise now and what made you chose such a field?
BGI Legal is the only local full-service law firm in Georgia ranked by most international legal directories as a tier-one law firm. We are very proud of our achievement, but we believe there is always room for improvement. Georgia is a relatively small market; therefore, an ambitious lawyer striving for success cannot afford to specialize in only one particular field. My main fields of specialization include contracts, corporate law, real estate, environmental law & litigation.
What is your plan after graduation?
Immediately after graduating from Duke, I will move to New York City where I will work in a law firm – Salans – as a summer intern. I am very excited about this opportunity. Although I have worked in a law firm for several years, this will be a new and unique experience of practicing in New York. The firsthand experience of American legal culture and work ethic, I believe, will make me grow as a professional. Afterwards I will go back home to Georgia and will continue working at BGI Legal. I plan to come back to the U.S. in order to sit for the NY bar either in February or of July 2012.
What advice will you give to international students studying in American law schools?
In addition to studying very hard, which no student can avoid here, I strongly encourage students to get involved in the community and participate in as many activities as possible in order to make the most of the unique experience at Duke. Our LLM class was very active, we had a team for virtually every intramural sport the University offered, and some of them were quite successful. One of the best things Duke gave me was a big group of very good friends from all around the world. Also, you have to experience what the graduate student "camp-out" is all about and definitely go to Duke basketball games – once you experience what is it to be a "Cameron crazy", you will remember it forever. Cameron is the place where everyone – from Coach K and his "kids" to students and fans alike – feels as a one big Duke Family. In the end, this may be your last year as a student, before the "real life" begins – so cherish it!