Advice From the UVA Law Network

Advice From the UVA Law Network

Graduates from across the U.S. and abroad talk about their career experiences and how to succeed.

 
Aditi Goel

Aditi Goel '12


Boston

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?

I knew I wanted to be a public defender before I was admitted to Virginia Law, and I feel fortunate and humbled to write that I have been practicing as one in Boston for 2 1/2 years. As a public defender, I am advocating for my clients in court almost every day — making bail arguments, requesting discovery, arguing motions, cross-examining witnesses, and having jury trials.

There is no question in my mind that Virginia Law trained me for this job. First, Virginia Law offers phenomenal classes for future criminal practitioners — criminal investigation, criminal procedure, criminal adjudication, evidence, trial advocacy, and more. These classes ingrained in me the most fundamental building blocks of criminal practice that I still rely on today when I am making arguments in court. Second, students are encouraged to participate in at least one of the many clinics that the Law School has to offer in order to gain practical, hands-on training. I participated in the Capital Post-Conviction and Innocence Project clinics; each clinic provided me with a unique experience and perspective of the criminal justice system. Finally, my participation in the Program in Law and Public Service and the Public Interest Law Association was invaluable because it provided me with a supportive, tight-knit community of students who were interested in having a career in public interest law.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?

Invest in a warm winter wardrobe! And remember, as bad as winters get, the fall, spring and summer seasons are absolutely gorgeous.

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Ruthie Ma Swilling

Ruthie Ma Swilling '03


Boston

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?

Immediately after graduation, I found my experiences working at the Patent Law Clinic during my 3L year, as well as my IP classes to be the most helpful and relevant. It helped having a basic foundation into the field.

As I have progressed in my career, I have appreciated the legal writing and analytics that I learned and practiced in various courses throughout my time at the Law School. I appreciated the time I spent working on the Law and Technology Journal. 

An additional distinct memory that stands out for me: During my 1L year, Dean Robert Scott taught my Contracts class. He is both a tremendous person and professor. For the last day of class, he ended the lecture by telling us that we were all good at "climbing ladders." He explained that this is a large part of why we were attending this esteemed law school. But he cautioned us to pause once in a while and question "Where is this ladder headed?" I've carried those words with me throughout my career. In fact, it was during my fourth year working for a Big Law firm in Boston that I decided to assess "Where is this ladder heading?" and made the choice to switch to an in-house position. It has been one of the best decisions of my career.

What advice do you have for new UVA law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?

Boston can be a tough legal market due to the fact that there are so many law schools in the region. That being said, if you have top grades from UVA Law, it would open a lot of doors for you. If possible, I think it is important to secure a summer position in the city, as it demonstrates your commitment to the city. Also, there are a lot of UVA graduates in the Boston area, and I would not be afraid to tap into the alumni network during your job search process.

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Neil McKittrick

Neil McKittrick '87


Boston

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?

In so many ways, UVA prepared me for my legal career. It enabled me to obtain a clerkship with Judge Frank Johnson in the 11th Circuit, which in turn was a great experience that exposed me to many civil rights and death penalty appeals, among other cases, and great lawyers from another part of the country. My work as a Dillard Fellow refined my writing and editing skills and helped me learn how to teach legal writing. My work on the Law Review's Affirmative Action policy debate helped me hone my advocacy skills on a potentially divisive issue. My work with Student Funded Fellowships impressed upon me the importance of funding public interest legal jobs and pro bono work. All of these experiences influenced my professional development and help me become the lawyer I am.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?

In the new legal market, networking is more important than ever. When I came out of law school, some legal employers in Boston did not believe UVA grads would ever move to, and stay in Boston to work permanently. This is less of an issue now, but with so many fewer jobs and so much uncertainty, new lawyers and more experienced lawyers need to develop their networks and keep their eyes open to change and new opportunities. 

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Adrienne Penta

Adrienne Penta '03


Boston

What at UVA Law prepared you for practice and/or career?

I was fortunate to have close relationships with several professors, who challenged me to think and communicate clearly. The time that I spent with professors during office hours is a very memorable part of my UVA experience.

What advice do you have for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in the Boston area?

Use the UVA network. There are more UVA lawyers than you might suspect in Boston, and we will all find time to speak with a Virginia Law student interested in working here.

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Doug Bouton

Douglas Bouton '10


Chicago

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 

I took an interesting career path in that I went to UVA Law and now I'm president and chief operating officer of Halo Top Creamery, an ice cream company. Straight line from taking the bar to making ice cream, right? When I applied to law school, I knew I didn't want to be an attorney. Frankly, I didn't know what I wanted to do other than not enter the job force yet. Among the many ways that UVA Law prepared me for my career (in ice cream of all things), the most important is undoubtedly the people. I think the people are what make UVA Law so special, enjoyable and distinguishable from other law school experiences.

The people with whom I became friends at UVA Law have helped my career and Halo Top in both tangible (UVA Law friends invested in Halo Top when we desperately needed the money — special shoutout to Stephen Wendell '10 and Matt Farmer '10) and intangible ways (e.g., challenged me to grow and mature intellectually and as a person). I wouldn't be where I am today in my career without the people of UVA Law.

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Todd C. Jacobs

Todd C. Jacobs '89


Chicago

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

I’m a commercial litigator and the managing partner of the Chicago office of a 500-plus lawyer litigation firm. UVA Law prepared me for this role in many ways, but two stand out. First, by offering a curriculum and faculty that really teach students to think critically. So much of what we do in private practice requires a logical assessment of complex situations, and the ability to provide legal advice and options, often without the luxury of time. Many cases we handle do not have straightforward answers, and new subject matters arise daily. It’s within these gray areas that I appreciate how UVA Law teaches students to think through complex questions. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of the substantive law from classes such as Corporations and Criminal Procedure. But I do remember how professors in those classes taught students to think through the issues presented. This problem-solving capability will stick with you for your whole career. Second, and just as important in my view, UVA Law is good at valuing people and teaching people skills. Students are encouraged to get to know one another both in and out of the classroom. Individuals matter. Having fun matters. It’s not all about the books. I think you’ll find the practice of law in the real world involves the kinds of people skills and values that UVA Law encourages. Get to know your clients, be interested not only in their problems, but also in who they are as people. I think you’ll find this to be not only a recipe for a more successful practice, but also a more fulfilling way to live your life. In conclusion, one data point: I don’t think I’ve ever met a UVA Law graduate who didn’t enjoy and value his or her three years in Charlottesville.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Chicago?

Feel free to call me at (312) 704-7705. Chicago is a big place and market. There are many opportunities: Big firms, regional firms, innovative startups, government service, public service, in-house. We’d love to hear from UVA grads who might be interested in working here. I’m sure there are many other firms in town in a similar position. So, if you really want to evaluate the opportunities available, you’ll likely need to explore beyond the UVA placement office. I’d be happy to do what I can to point you in the right direction.

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Andrew McGuire

Andrew McGuire '99


Chicago

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 

Since graduating from UVA, I first practiced law in a large firm, and now I practice in-house at a large corporation. Over the years, I have really come to appreciate the basic foundation of legal thinking and problem-solving I obtained at UVA. A solid grounding in those fundamentals has allowed me to be flexible over time in several different roles.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Chicago?

Chicago is one of the country's great cities, and there is a lot to enjoy. Chicago is some distance from Charlottesville, but the local bar consistently values UVA grads highly. I also found the local professionals to be welcoming toward new lawyers from everywhere. You do not have to be from Chicago to be accepted in Chicago and succeed in Chicago.

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Karen Owen Gibbs

Karen Owen Gibbs '92


Chicago

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

The culture of the Law School fosters congeniality and cooperation, which are highly important for success. I believe that the "emotional intelligence" that Virginia graduates display derives from that culture. As I've progressed in my career, the softer skills have been highly important. I credit UVA with preparing me to help my clients navigate opportunities and challenges from a 360-degree perspective.

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William M. Bosch

William M. Bosch '92


Washington, D.C.

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

As I review a law practice replete with tricky legal issues, challenging business circumstances and sometimes hostile people, I know that professional success is the product of teamwork and an abiding respect for the power of civility and humility. My experience at the Law School instilled a recognition that a "win at all costs" attitude harms both client and soul. The Virginia lawyer graduates with an understanding that it is possible to be a gladiator without losing touch with humanity. In fact, it is essential to a long and successful career — especially as a trial lawyer and litigator. 

Clients often come to me when they've seemingly run out of options, and when blood pressure reaches the boiling point. The nature of trial work, and litigation more broadly, is combative and inherently adversarial. Conflict is the starting point, and our job is to seek peace through victory. While we can retreat to the library or an office to deploy our critical and logical reasoning skills, it's in the realm of human interaction that we actually solve problems. I'll never forget the jury trial when a witness was called to show that my client and I were bullies, and instead regaled the jury with stories of how he was always treated as a gentleman. The case very well may have been decided when he came down from the stand and shook my hand on the way out. All I did was allow this man to tell his story. Having spent three years in Charlottesville surrounded by a community of genuine, caring (and highly intelligent) individuals, I've never lost sight of the need to treat everyone — even adversaries — with dignity. Mr. Jefferson wouldn't have it any other way.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?

Washington, D.C., is dynamic, it's open to outsiders and it rewards competency — not just connections. Read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss, and take the good doctor's advice to heart. Your career may feature unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes you may need to force yourself to go down an unanticipated path. But if you proceed confidently in the direction of your dreams, the next professional opportunity is always around the corner. In the years ahead, I think foreign language abilities will be increasingly valuable, along with a proficiency with technology (IT, life sciences and otherwise). Law students should make sure they complement their legal studies with other endeavors, and should prepare themselves for increasing competition from international lawyers.

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Roscoe Jones

Roscoe Jones '03


Washington, D.C.

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 

The Law School has a deep commitment to public service. With an excellent public service office, a strong alumni network, and a wide array of public law courses and clinics taught by a world class faculty, a degree from the Law School will ensure that you are well prepared for a career in public service.  

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?

Practicing law in Washington puts you at the intersection of law, policy and politics. I would encourage students to intern in Washington during one or both of their summers. There's no substitute for being in the city and exploring its unique career options. Also, Washington is a town built on relationships. So keep in touch with the contacts you make there and find a mentor in the city- you never know when that one contact will open up a door for you to walk through.

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Susan L. Fox

Susan L. Fox '91


Washington, D.C.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Washington?

Don't let inertia keep you in a job that isn't leading you in the right direction. Be open to nontraditional jobs and work in government and policy fields to expand your horizons.

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Adam Milasincic

Adam Milasincic '11


Houston

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 

UVA Law’s network and reputation open doors. That fact helped me land my first position, and it is rare for a month to pass without meeting a new client, opposing counsel, judge, etc., with a UVA connection.

The topics covered in class turn out to be more practical than one may assume at the time. For example, I have used information — and even old outlines — from my Agency/Partnership and Employment Discrimination courses dozens of times. From remembering a little-known form of coverage that I learned in my Insurance Law class with Professor Abraham, I recently increased a client’s settlement by hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you choose courses linked to your desired practice area — in my case, commercial litigation — you will be surprised at the frequency of practical application.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?

If you want to be a trial lawyer, Houston is a second-to-none destination. The number of trial-focused boutiques in town seems to increase every year. The quality of life is just as appealing. As you begin your practice, the Houston Young Lawyers Association is quite dynamic and offers solid opportunities to network with colleagues and judges.

If you have not previously lived or worked in Houston, it is ideal to secure a summer internship (even unpaid) in Houston working for a judge, government agency or pro bono services group. When the time comes to apply for firm jobs, applicants who have demonstrated a concrete desire to work in Houston are more likely to survive the initial resume culls and screening interviews.

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Kurt L. Davis Jr.

Kurt L. Davis Jr. '09


Houston

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

UVA law teaches you how to 1) think and 2) come to a conclusion. Then, when you have a conclusion, you must question it and repeat 1 and 2. You are trained in a thought process. Don’t get me wrong — UVA Law professors are the best in their field. But your greatest learning at UVA Law is a method of analysis and a meticulous approach to problem-solving that puts a focus on both the high-level concerns and the extremely detailed intricacies of the issue and words (this is law school) at hand.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?

This answer is not specific to Houston but to UVA Law. Employers know UVA Law in Houston, in the U.S. and beyond the borders of the U.S., as demonstrated by the [extent of the] UVA Law Network. Your J.D. and education as a U.S.-trained lawyer should not be undervalued. This comes from a guy who, since leaving the cherished grounds of Charlottesville, has lived in Tunisia, Ethiopia and Mozambique, among other countries, and worked on transactions in many more countries.

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Amy Lincoln

Amy Lincoln '02


San Francisco

Why did you choose Virginia Law?

Virginia Law ticked all the boxes on my "what do I want from a law school" list. I knew going into law school that I wanted to practice environmental law, but based on what turned out to be very sage advice from a few practicing lawyers, I was looking for a school with a strong overall program, as opposed to one specialized in environmental law. Virginia strikes a perfect balance on that front: nationally recognized excellence in legal education plus a robust environmental law curriculum thanks to the dedication of Professor Jon Cannon. But what truly put UVA Law over the top for me was the real love for the Law School experience that was so evident in Virginia students and alumni but glaringly absent at the other schools on my short list. To this day, when I say to other lawyers, "I loved law school," they have one of two reactions: They either look at me like I'm crazy or they say, "Oh, you must have gone to Virginia."

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

The legal education at UVA was top-notch — on all the basics, I felt as prepared as anyone coming out of the top-tier U.S. schools. But it's been the more practical classes and experiences at Virginia that have proven most valuable over time. For example, I still have my dog-eared "Accounting for Lawyers" textbook, because I've found nothing endears a lawyer to business clients more than the demonstrated ability to read (and understand) a financial statement and business plan. The Environmental Law Clinic was an invaluable "real world" experience. And I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am today — in a job that I love — without Professor Cannon's mentorship and the perspective he provides from his career in government, private practice and academia. What it comes down to is that UVA Law taught me so much more than just how to "think like a lawyer." It showed me how to move from that rote analysis to generating real solutions.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Northern California?

The Bay Area legal community is surprisingly small and in some ways quite insular. So take advantage of the UVA alumni database and work those connections. Also, as with any job search, try to put yourself in the employer's position and think about what they are looking for and what they really need. For example, employers here are often cautious about hiring from outside the area because so many people flock to San Francisco or Silicon Valley for the "experience," but with the plan to ultimately settle down somewhere else. So look for ways to show them you're committed to Northern California for the long haul, and be ready to explain why it's right for you. At the same time, own your status as someone different from the candidates they are used to seeing and how your unique background or experience makes you valuable to them. 

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Jonathan Cole

Jonathan Cole '91


London

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 

The migrant farmworker legal aid program was the most meaningful experience for me at UVA because it showed me that I could find my own niche in the world of law and make a big impact on people’s lives.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in London or the U.K.?

London is the global capital of law as well as finance, commerce, media, real estate and so many other industries. Cast your net wide and you will be pleasantly surprised by all the opportunities you can find.

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Kandice L. Horsey

Kandice L. Horsey '03


London

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

Being a student at UVA Law was one of the best experiences of my life, and prepared me for practice primarily through what happened outside of the classroom.I learned that it was possible to compete without being cutthroat, that helping others did not take anything from you (quite the opposite, in fact), and that there was space in the world for everyone to do great things. I formed relationships that have lasted since my arrival at law school, and have been truly meaningful. Through this, I have learned to network in a way that creates and maintains bonds without being (or seeming) opportunistic.

Finally, I learned that working hard is paramount but it does not entitle you to be grumpy. UVA Law was full of hard-working and happy people, students, faculty and staff! UVA Law has a reputation for producing engaging, friendly and — most importantly — capable lawyers. I have spent my career emulating the values learned at the school and I have been rewarded with opportunities I could have never imagined. I saw a print by Anthony Burrill in an art gallery a few years ago that sums up perfectly what UVA Law taught me and how I have conducted myself in my career: "Work Hard and Be Nice to People."

To end quite simply, that would be my advice too!

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Lisa Friel

Lisa M. Friel '83


New York City

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

I entered UVA Law thinking I wanted to go into public service of some kind, and so many professors and administrators at the Law School both supported and inspired me to go in this direction. My courses and the wonderful professors who taught them all taught me how to read, write, think, and speak critically and intelligently about the law and the issues to which the law related. My Criminal Law and Procedure courses, Constitutional Law I and II, Employment Discrimination and a seminar I took with Professor A. E. Dick Howard were especially helpful to my future career. I still remember things I learned during them and who taught them.

I also credit my fellow students and the atmosphere at UVA Law for furthering my ability to work well as a team — to valuing the ultimate goal, not who gets credit for achieving it. UVA Law is unique in fostering an environment of teamwork and trust, both of which are so important to be successful in today’s world.

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J. Leonard Teti

J. Leonard Teti '05


New York City

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

Certainly the Law & Business Program, which was nascent when I started at UVA Law in 2002, helped prepare me for a transactional corporate tax practice in New York. As far as my interest in tax goes, I had no proper background for that (no economics in college; no accounting or corporate finance experience). I took Federal Income Tax with Professor Paul Stephan in the spring of my 1L year. Then I took International Tax and Corporate Tax in my 2L year. As a summer associate at Cravath, I spent time in the tax department. By the end of the summer, I had decided that I wanted to start my career in tax.

But more generally, the way UVA Law students experience school helped turn me into a transactional lawyer. Professors and students at UVA Law think deeply about various facets of legal and commercial issues, and that sort of approach prepared me well for my practice, which focuses on complex and nuanced legal and business problems.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in New York?

I am seeing an increasing number of UVA Law students show an interest in working in New York, and I hope the trend continues, because my sense is that New York law firms want and need more UVA Law students. I would encourage budding New York lawyers to focus on corporate law fundamentals: what corporations are, how their directors and shareholders interact, and how courts resolve disputes that arise between them. These issues are important not only for corporate and transactional lawyers, but also (and maybe even especially) for litigators. Another suggestion would be to get some exposure to financial accounting and corporate finance principles; not only are the substantive concepts worth being familiar with, but having a working knowledge of the relevant vocabulary will put you ahead of many of your peers as you begin a law practice.

Most importantly, be ready to see lots of things you haven't seen before in law school, and bring with you a sense of curiosity and willingness to learn what you don't know.

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Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein '72


New York City

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

I have always credited the brilliant faculty at UVA Law for preparing me for a long and richly rewarding career in public service. I entered law school 47 years ago, when things were very different for women. There were fewer than 20 women in our entering class, and a good number of jobs — especially in the field of criminal law — were simply closed to us. The fact that so many of our professors were accessible to my classmates and to me not only helped my academic performance, but opened doors for me to do groundbreaking work for women and children who were victims of violence, from 1972 to present day.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in New York?

Come to New York! As daunting as the city seems to be, it does offer such an enormous range of opportunities to young lawyers. Law firms are large and small; nonprofit organizations assist every cause and condition; government agencies offer public service jobs in city, state and federal arenas; and there is a very strong cadre of UVA alumni to lean on. New York City is a vibrant and exciting place in which to work and live.

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Steven R. Okun

Steven R. Okun '91


Singapore

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

Long-term, what always interested me most was having the ability to work in the U.S. government. The principal reason for attending UVA Law was my belief that this legal education would serve as the foundation for obtaining such a position. So, I focused my law school classes and experiences on an education that created a pathway for me to get there.
 
Without knowing it, however, UVA Law very much prepared me for living and working in Asia. Many of my professors — and fellow classmates — showed me that law school was not just learning what the law is, but more importantly understanding why the law is the way it is, and to then be in a position to project where the law is headed. This ability to think like a lawyer was the perfect preparation for living and working across such a dynamic region as Asia. 
 
Upon graduation in 1991, I joined a Washington, D.C.-based law firm. Two years later, I joined the Clinton administration, and ever since each of my positions has been at the intersection of law, policy, politics and the press. For the last 14 years, I have been lucky enough to work regionally in Asia based out of Singapore.
 

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Asia?

It is very difficult to find a job in Asia when searching from the U.S. — and getting tougher all the time. My journey to Asia started in 1999 when I joined UPS’ Washington, D.C., office. In 2003, when UPS was looking to build a public affairs practice in Asia Pacific, what they needed first and foremost was someone who knew UPS and had a public affairs background. Then, the company’s only option was to bring someone out from the U.S. who had those skills and experiences. 
 
It is still possible to have an employer bring you to Asia. But the odds of that happening are constantly in decline. More than a decade since my Asia journey began, with globalization and all that goes with it and the ever-increasing talent pool of local hires, expatriate postings are much more limited. For example, in my case, the two successors to my UPS position were from China and Singapore, respectively.
 
Once in Asia — whichever country you choose — you can build a network while learning about opportunities that exist for people of your skill set and experiences. That is almost impossible to do remotely. This might be high-risk, especially if you are coming without a job, but I see Americans all the time who are willing to take the risk — and those are the people most likely to succeed in getting employment. That is the nature of competition in today’s global market.
 
Second, while being bilingual can be a prerequisite for getting a job in certain markets, such as China, being multicultural is a prerequisite in every market. People who succeed in Asia have to be able to work across cultures. Engaging different cultures with respect is not an option — it is essential. Being multicultural can be learned, but a person must understand that they need to learn it. My education at UVA Law was a good precursor to working multiculturally, as the breadth and depth of study and knowledge is a good foundation for having to learn and understand different cultures, to learn their history and customs, and then to place that into the context of how best to move forward in the 21st century.
 
 
Eduardo Ramos-Gomez LL.M.

Eduardo Ramos-Gomez LL.M. '85


Singapore

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?

The master of laws program at UVA was the extraordinary academic tool that allowed me to pivot my career in both public, private and international law.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Asia?

Be global. Think of yourself and the United States only as a humble contributor to an international symphony. Think of yourself as a worthy contributor and builder of a new world order that respectfully engages nations, cultures and individuals. Conduct research on the Asian country you wish to visit. Learn about its history, politics and culture through the internet and libraries. Travel to the country and hear from the expatriates working there so you get a better idea of the policies. Meet and embrace the locals. Make contacts and engage international practitioners, as well as local ones, and maintain good relationships with them. Attend seminars and events to develop your business contacts and broaden your knowledge of the country. Be really passionate about law and assess and respect its value and the strength it has to change, transform and improve communities and lives. Do not short-change yourself by imposing time limits to your tenure in Asia beforehand, nor, prejudge or select a particular country, practice or possible employer. Be open and embrace possibilities — allow life to surprise you. As the saying goes, “No one gets as far as the one who doesn’t really know where he is going!”