5 Questions for an LL.M. Graduate – David Vajnai

Swansea University, LL.M. in International Maritime Law, 2011-12

After his law studies in Hungary and the Netherlands, David Vajnai discovered his interest in Maritime Law, and decided to specialize in this field with an LL.M. at Swansea University. Here, he discusses his LL.M. experience and his plans for the future.

What is your background, and why did you choose to do an LL.M. in Swansea?

I studied law in Hungary, and participated in an exchange study program in the Netherlands, where I started to concentrate on transport and maritime law.

Although Hungary is a land-locked country, it has a number of waterways, and transport law is obviously important for a country situated in the middle of Europe. Other than that, I fell in love with ships and maritime law.

When I started researching the LL.M. programs in maritime law, I came across Swansea University and the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law. I already knew a couple of people working in shipping and some academics, and asked their opinion which university to choose. The general impression I got from discussions with them was that the Swansea LL.M. is a leading course around the globe, not only within the UK, but also in Europe or elsewhere. 

What did you expect to get out of the program? 

In the beginning, I was worried about my future prospects of getting a job in a maritime law-related position. For obvious reasons, I expected that it will be more difficult for me than for people who come from big shipping nations or port cities. They can probably more easily get a job in this field in their home countries after an LL.M. 

Therefore I had high expectations of the course in Swansea. With the view I already had on maritime law, my impression was that English law concepts are often relied on by international maritime law around the world. My expected learning outcome was to acquire a deep understanding of international and English maritime law so that even if I worked outside England and Wales, what I had taken with me would still be an important asset in the jurisdictions of many other countries. 

What do you think the LL.M. has added to your profile?

I would say many employers in the shipping industry look for people with similar qualifications, and I am not quite sure if I would have gotten the job that I have right now without the Swansea University LL.M. I think it gives you a certain quality, both professionally and personally. The LL.M. helped me to develop a professional attitude and improve my communication skills through active participation in seminars or interactions with other professionals who were introduced to us through visiting lectures or other occasions organised by the law school. The environment was very stimulating and encouraged us to learn and develop our critical skills. Also the structure of the coursework helped me to work on legal problems under time pressure, and made me to manage my time efficiently.

What are your career plans?

Some time before finishing the program, I started looking for a job. I had already been in touch with my current employer to do some research for one of my study projects during the summer. It was about marine insurance law reform and its effect on the London Market. When I followed up our conversation, I was invited to an interview, which was just after the graduation in January, the year after finishing the project. Not long after that, I was offered a job, and I am still working with them.

My plan is to work in the marine insurance sector, which I really enjoy, and see how it goes. The LL.M. program covered different areas of maritime law, and I have a good understanding of those subjects. I think I would like to test my knowledge in those areas as well, and the LL.M. degree could allow me to work in a variety of jobs in maritime law.

At the moment I would like to stay in London, but I keep my options open. Even though I love Hungary and miss living at home, I know I am not going to be able to work in maritime law there. From an insurance point of view, we have lots of waterways and barges, but it is still a small market. With the LL.M. degree, I hope to have access not only to shipping-related jobs, but also to jobs in transport law, generally.

What is something about the year that surprised you? 

What really surprised me was the personal and fun atmosphere on the campus and during the program. Even though we were a relatively large group of LL.M. students, the professors cared about us, asked how we were, and helped us with our studies. It never felt like being just part of a big group. To the contrary, we got a lot of attention individually, and they were always approachable. There was no big “distance” between students and professors; instead we really had and still have a good student-professor relationship. 

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