After over four years of working in New York City, Angela Gallerizzo came to Leiden University for an LL.M. Advanced Studies in European and International Business Law as a way to punctuate her resume with international law experience. Did the experience meet expectations?
What is your background, and why did you decide to do an LL.M.?
I got my first law degree at Syracuse University in upstate New York. After that I went to New York City, and practiced for almost four and half years. Then I ended up marrying a guy from Denmark, and that's why I ended up coming back over here (to Europe).
I had actually wanted to do an LL.M. for awhile, and I had applied and gotten into several programs a few years ago, and decided to stay in the workforce, and not do it. But after living and working in New York City for several years, you get exposed to so much. It is a very international location with a large number of internationally operating law firms. I really wanted to work at an international law firm, but I didn't feel I was really on the path to get there.
I worked for some very prominent clients. But no matter how hard I worked, it was impossible for me to get to where I wanted to go. So, I figured the best thing for me to do was to get a bit of some international experience, and try to make myself unique and valuable in that regard.
Did the LL.M. help you on that path?
Yes, definitely. I think the core curriculum of the program is excellent for preparing students to work in an internationally operating law firm, because it touches on all the main areas of international practice - from the procedural aspects of international arbitration and private international law to aspects of company law, competition law, intellectual property, world trade law. For me, it's definitely put me on a path where I want to go.
Also, I am a dual (US-Italian) citizen, so I also have the ability to stay here and work. That's not necessary, by the way, because the Netherlands actually offers all students one-year work permits. I have come across several opportunities through the LL.M at Leiden where I can get to get international experience. and then go back to the States.
Did the law school play a role in helping to create your post-LL.M. job opportunities?
Yes, Leiden has contacts throughout Europe, and actually, worldwide, and has provided several networking opportunities with prominent law firms which have helped to create post-LL.M job opportunities.
I've looked at the LLM GUIDE, and there a lot of students talking about jobs after the LL.M in this, that, and the other, but I think there's a misconception that if you do a degree, and all of the sudden everything is changed, and you're going to get the job that you want. If you have a strong resume, and you want a degree to make it stronger, it can really put you on the right path. If you want a miracle, well, I think it can happen, too, but I think it's going to be much more difficult, especially in this economy.
I would say a good portion of my class already has jobs lined up already, but they all had something unique to offer.
What did you find surprising about the year?
One thing that surprised me was, particularly in the second half of the year which focuses on international business law transactions, there has been a lot of hands-on activities. Being someone who has practiced for several years, I know the value of practical skills in going to try to find a job.
We have had clinics where the students have been taught how to prepare merger and acquisition documents. We've had simulated moot courts, where students got to do international commercial arbitration; hearings before the European Commission on competition law issues; drafting arbitration agreements. These are really hands-on skills that, when you go to an employer, and say, "I can do this. I have training. You don't need to show me how to do it. " I think that's very valuable, and wasn't something I saw advertised, but it has definitely made this program worthwhile.
Do you have any advice for students starting the program this year?
Sure. If you choose Leiden, be prepared to work hard. I've worked very, very hard, and this is coming from someone who practiced in New York, and is used to working 70 hours a week! Be prepared for a highly academically rigorous academic program, and to work hard, if you want to get something out of it. If you do, the opportunities are there.