International Graduates Reflect on Global JD Program

Bagnasacco, Sung and Arora Praise Innovative Structure

Although the College of Law’s celebrated Global JD Program has only been in existence for a few short years, the College had already earned a reputation for excellence in international law prior to its launch in 2009.  As South Korean native Sung Dai Gou, ’01, notes in the interview below, “I received and accomplished much more than what I expected” by earning a law degree at the U.

Participants praise the Global JD’s innovative structure, which allows foreign lawyers the opportunity to complete a JD in two years. They also like its rigorous curriculum, small class size, and flexible structure, among other attributes. Furthermore, they find that the faculty’s expertise across a broad spectrum of international law, as well as U.S. law, prepares students supurbly for a world in which transactions are increasingly conducted across borders.

In the interview below, three foreign lawyers who completed their JDs at the College of Law reflect on their experiences. Some of their responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

“The College of Law prepared me well for practice in the U.S.”

bagnasacco_barbaraBarbara Bagnasacco, ‘98, is a corporate attorney with Ballard Spahr in Salt Lake City and a member of the College of Law’s Board of Trustees. In her practice, she focuses on international mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic alliances. She also regularly advises U.S. and foreign clients in connection with the establishment, structuring, and compliance of their international operations.

You were a graduate of the University of Turin’s law school and a practicing attorney in Italy before you attended the College of Law. What attracted you to Utah?

I decided to attend the University of Utah as I had moved to Utah directly from Italy for personal reasons, a relationship. After learning that I needed a JD from a U.S. law school in order to be allowed to practice law in Utah and that an excellent legal education was available right here in the state, the College of Law became my law school of choice.

How did the course work here differ from your prior legal training in Italy?  

Like most European countries, Italy is a civil law country, as opposed to a common law jurisdiction. Both the legal education and the way of practicing law are very different.  Civil law systems are based on statutes and codes, and case law is not binding, but rather used to help the judge interpret a specific provision in the code or applicable statute. Also, I was not used to the Socratic method in law school — being called on in class to discuss old civil procedure cases was definitely a challenging surprise, particularly with only a few months of English behind me! I spent countless long nights with my dictionary during the first few months of law school — I guess that paid off, as I became a legal writing T.A. the following year.

 In your experience, what kinds of training does the College of Law do particularly well? Do you believe your education at the College of Law prepared you for practice in the U.S.? 

The College of Law offers a high quality experience to its students, including a great student-to-faculty ratio, many opportunities for clinics, a unique focus on international law classes, a close relationship between the school and the legal and business community (which is crucial in the placement of students after graduation), access to an impressive environmental law program, and all of it at a very reasonable cost. The College of Law prepared me well for practice in the U.S.

What most surprised you about law school here at the University of Utah?  Do you have a favorite memory of a class or favorite professor?

The quality of the faculty and how approachable and available all of my professors were throughout my law school studies. Individual attention is something very valuable during law school and that is definitely one of the strengths of the College of Law. I remember taking a constitutional law class with then Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Durham and being very impressed by how passionate she was in her teaching and how open and supportive she was with her students.

You were educated in two different environments and, presumably in two different languages, and you’re licensed in both the U.S. and Italy.  What are the advantages to having such broad training and experience?

My dual training in both common law and civil law facilitated a comparative approach to the law that had deepened my understanding of the legal system and an appreciation of its role as a catalyst for social change at a global level. On a more practical level, it allowed me to be more effective in assisting clients in negotiating international investments and other international transactions, as being familiar with both systems tends to save time and avoid unnecessary frustration.

Would you recommend the College of Law’s Global JD program to other foreign lawyers?  

I would highly recommend the College of Law’s Global JD program to prospective international students.  The College offers a quality legal education in a State that is now well known for its thriving economic environment, its entrepreneurial spirit and enviable life style. It is no longer necessary to incur the high costs of a law school in New York or in California to receive an excellent legal education, whether you intend to practice law in a foreign country after having acquired a good understanding of the U.S. legal system, or to take advantage of your unique background to build a successful legal career in the United States.

“I received much more than what I expected.” 

sungdaigouSung Dai Gou, a native of South Korea, is the Director General of the Korean Financial Services Commission, where his duties include supervising publicly held financial companies. In 1998, he made the then-unusual decision to come to Utah and study law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, graduating in 2001.

How did you first become interested in law? 

I was a government officer of the Republic of Korea. What I did in office was to execute laws and regulations with regard to the financial sector. Furthermore, I was also assigned to draft finance-related bills. An in-depth research into foreign laws and cases was needed for preparing the bills. I regarded the S.J. Quinney College of Law as a law school providing a high-quality law education. In addition, tuition and living expenses were very reasonable.

How was the experience different than what you expected?

I received and accomplished much more than what I expected. Faculty and students were very kind and open to foreign students. The mentor system helped me to settle down in a new place and get myself ready for law study. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow students from the Class of 1999 and 2000 for warm hospitality and sincere advice. In addition, I very much appreciate the faculty, including Professors Matheson, Dyer, Anghie, and Threedy.

Do you have a favorite memory?

My fellow students and I formed a study group. We studied very hard. We worked together to make outlines for each and every class we took. We traveled together to the Grand Canyon when my mother visited Salt Lake City. Thanks to this assistance in terms of language and study method, I could successfully finish studying and enjoy living in Utah.

What have you done since graduation and what role did the JD play in your career path?

I returned to the Ministry of Finance and Economy after graduation. I was in charge of overhauling the Insurance Business Act. It took about a year and a half. I fully utilized what I had learned from the JD program. Not only the philosophy of the U.S. laws but also knowledge of specific laws such as commercial law and insurance law helped me very much.

Would you recommend the Global JD program to other prospective international students? 

Korea has a small and open economy. More and more people are getting involved in international businesses. To survive international competition, they should be able to read and understand contracts written in English. The Global JD is an excellent program for this purpose.

What were your experiences like in Salt Lake City and Utah as a foreign student with a young family?

I had never heard of Salt Lake City and Utah before I joined the law school. Mormon missionaries were all I had known of Utah. When I landed in SLC, everything came to my family as new and surprising. However, people in Utah and at the law school were very kind and friendly. Korean churches helped us to get over being homesick. When it comes to travel, Utah has a lot of wonderful places to visit, like Bryce Canyon and Arches. My family cannot forget our three wonderful years in Utah.

“Difficult but Fun”

Shruti Bhutani_IMG_1859_editShruti Bhutani Arora, ’14, is the most recent of the College of Law’s international graduates, but hardly a new lawyer. A native of India, she completed a combined B.A./LL.B. degree at the Army Institute of Law in Mohali, Punjab, in the early 2000s, and practiced trademark law at a boutique IP firm in New Delhi for several years before getting married, coming to the U.S., and deciding to enroll in the College of Law’s Global JD program.

When you were first investigating American law schools, what about the College of Law’s Global JD program particularly appealed to you?

I was a practicing lawyer in India. When I relocated to Miami from New Delhi after getting married, I required a JD for getting admitted to the Florida bar. I was looking for schools which offered credit to foreign-trained lawyers. I applied to the College of Law due to their honest and clear policy on how the program handles foreign-trained lawyers, including transfer of 30 credits and the same degree as a regular JD. I visited the S.J. Quinney College of Law and loved the small class size and approachability of the professors. When I got the acceptance here, I didn’t think twice and decided to pursue this course.

How was the experience different than what you expected?

To tell the truth, I had no idea what to expect from the JD program. I had spoken to two U.S. lawyers before applying and they both had attested that it is difficult but fun. And it was.

Do you have a favorite memory of law school?

While there were many classes which I liked, if I had to pick a couple, I would say that Bill Richards’ Legal Methods was my one of my favorite classes. I learned a lot, especially the American approach to legal writing, and it gave me tools for reading cases, which I did not even know that I was missing. I also enjoyed Professor Threedy’s class on Contracts and Professor Anghie’s class on International Business Transactions.

What influence did the Global JD program play in your post-graduate plans? 

I am planning to take the Florida Bar. I will try to focus on comparative law, especially if I get opportunities with law firms doing business in the U.S. and India.

Would you recommend the Global JD program to other prospective international students?  If so, why?

Definitely, because it trains you to think like a U.S. attorney schooled here would analyze a case. While the intellect and outlook a person has are important, formal training that one receives plays a crucial part in the overall thinking.

Under the Global JD program, foreign attorneys can complete the program requirements in two years. This is helpful for several reasons. First, it acknowledges previous legal training by advancing credits. Second, the course is fully integrated with the JD program. This ensures that students in Global JD program go through the same rigor that all first year JD students undergo, which is the foundation of legal analysis. Third, this course puts foreign attorneys at equal footing with their U.S. counterparts. And fourth, it removes limitation of jurisdiction in which foreign attorneys can practice within the U.S.

In the end, I would just add that I am really grateful that I was given this opportunity. A

To learn more about the College of Law’s Global JD program, visit law.utah.edu/admissions

 

 

Global J.D. Program

J.D. with Advanced Standing

J.D. for Foreign-Trained Lawyers