Welcome to the LLM Class of 2021
Though the LLM Class of 2021 is smaller, it brings with it big experiences and big career goals.
While studying electrical engineering in Seoul, Korea, Jaegyu Yoo developed a strong interest in mobile communication and digital signal processing. He worked as a journalist after getting his degree in 2005, but a fascination with the intersection of technology, including video games, and social issues led him to study law.
“The more the technology advanced, the more diverse the conflicts became,” says Yoo, who is taking a break from his Seoul law practice focused on intellectual property law, media, and regulations regarding the gaming industry to pursue his LLM at Duke Law. “I wanted to participate in the process that provided solutions.”
Yoo is among the 23 internationally trained lawyers from 13 countries who started their LLM studies in the fall semester, bringing a wealth of expertise to the online and on-campus courses they have at Duke Law. It is a smaller fall cohort than Duke Law usually welcomes for reasons related to the global coronavirus pandemic,including visa delays and travel restrictions. Another 67 students from 40 countries are currently scheduled to begin their LLM studies in January.
“The current LLM class is extraordinary,” said Associate Dean for International Studies Oleg Kobelev. “They are, of course, superbly talented and accomplished, but what really stands out to me are their courage and resilience in the face of the many challenges brought upon by the pandemic.”
Yoo, who once spent more than a month at Mount Everest as a TV news reporter for the Seoul Broadcasting System, earned his law degree from Yonsei University in 2014. He has since worked at Bae Kim Lee, a leading Seoul law firm, where he is a senior associate attorney.
A Duke JD alumnus “strongly recommended” the LLM program to him as he was looking to better familiarize himself with the American legal system as an intellectual property lawyer, Yoo says, adding that he looks forward to broadening his professional network by studying with colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
He and his family — his wife, son, and daughter — arrived in Durham in early August and are enjoying settling in to their home for the academic year. A big baseball fan, Yoo says he hopes to get a chance to see Kwanghyun Kim, a former star of the Korea Baseball Organization, play as a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals while he is in the United States.
Taisa Brandao Condino, from São Paulo, Brazil, begins her LLM studies after working for seven years in investor relations for large public companies in her home country. She also worked in the international arbitration department of a noted European law firm in Spain.
"Working with top executives since the beginning of my career brought me so many big challenges, and at the same time was so inspirational," Condino said. "The impact it had on my professional development is priceless."
With bachelor’s degrees in both business administration and law from the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie in São Paulo and a master’s degree in international advocacy from ISDE-Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía in Madrid, Condino is admitted to practice in both Brazil and Portugal. “I am now eager to restart my career in the United States,” says Condino, who has made a permanent move stateside.
Condino says Duke’s highly collaborative environment, personalized experience for international students, and distinguished faculty were key draws to the Law School. “I hope to get a good perspective of the American legal system and the American practice,” she says. While at Duke Law she hopes to be involved with the International Law Society and the Business Law Society, as well as to volunteer with the Civil Justice Clinic during her winter break. Outside of school, Condino loves to travel and spend time with her family and friends.
While studying law at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2015, Alshaymaa Alharbi started a nonprofit to provide free legal assistance to indigent clients, the first program of its kind in the country. She named it “Support Your Sibling,” adapting a motto commonly heard in Islamic society that all people are brethren, and it served clients that included widows, divorcees, orphans, people with special needs and limited income.
“The nonprofit helps with all kind of legal problems as long as the clients can't afford the legal assistance,” said Alharbi, who has worked as a legal assistant and legal counsel in Saudi Arabian law firms since earning her law degree, fulfilling the country's requirement that graduates have three years’ experience before becoming licensed. “At first, I launched the project alone, but now we are a family of 481 volunteers who are law students, trainee lawyers, legal counsel, lawyers, and law professors.” The project’s four advisory committees include one focused on social media applications, she says, as it’s an important way for clients to access legal services quickly and easily. Saudi Arabia established a public legal aid program in 2018, but Support Your Sibling is continuing its work in Alharbi’s absence.
Alharbi says she came to Duke for her LLM after reviewing her offers from U.S. law schools with the lawyers with whom she had worked. “All of them said, without hesitation, ‘Go to Duke!’,” she says. She prepared by completing an academic English program at the University of Texas at Austin this past spring.
While at Duke Law, Alharbi hopes to improve her writing and negotiation skills and to engage in pro bono work. She is continuing to write an Arabic-language blog on legal issues that she started in her first semester of law school that has a readership of almost 34,000. In her free time, she loves to read and write book reviews, including those of legal books.
“I genuinely love sharing what I have learned,” she says. “My goal is to encourage Saudi law students to do more than just studying and taking what’s given to them, but to create their own opportunities and challenge themselves.”
Alharbi, who says her family has always supported her professional goals, hopes to become an arbitrator. She received a scholarship from the Saudi Arabian government, which is promoting legal training for women, to support her studies at Duke Law.
Christoph Zaugg has started his LLM studies virtually from his home in Langenthal, Switzerland, after working for three years in a mergers and acquisitions practice at Walder Wyss, a commercial law firm in Zurich. He earlier worked as a law clerk at the Court of First Instance in the District of Baden and as a legal trainee for Bar & Karrer Attorneys at Law.
Zaugg says he first considered pursing a legal career in his late teens when, on a class trip, he watched a trial and became intrigued by the way the opposing lawyers skillfully argued and analyzed the details of the case. He went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law and economics from the University of St. Gallen. He also served in Swiss Infantry Company 13/1 as a platoon leader with the rank of a first-lieutenant and was an officer candidate at Infantry Training School.
While pursuing an LLM degree, Zaugg says he wants to improve his English, grow his professional network, and above all, learn more about U.S. law and its role in international business transactions.
"In several transactions, I realized that understanding U.S. law concepts is key in international business law practice," he said, "even when no U.S. clients are involved."
He says he chose Duke for its top ranking, size, and North Carolina’s warm weather. An avid runner and skier, he hopes to move to Durham with his wife and son in January.