A recent seminar called "Doing Business in the European Union: Legal and Practical Considerations" highlighted critical advantages that a master of laws degree in U.S. law can give to foreign-trained lawyers.
Bridget Gannon McGraw, who has worked as counsel in both the United States and Italy and is now general counsel for North America at GE Additive, was the featured speaker. McGraw's overview of key compliance issues in the EU was peppered with stories of working with Italian attorneys who had earned master's degrees in the United States.
“I always found their experience to be so valuable,” said McGraw. “Because they had trained under two systems, they understood how to navigate both sides of the fence and were much better equipped to drive agreements.”
McGraw, a 2003 graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, noted that her time working in Italy was key to her professional development. “The international perspective helped tremendously,” she said. “I had to adjust my own cultural tendencies to better facilitate solutions with those who had a different perspective.”
UC law students also had the opportunity to serve as experts in the legal systems of their home countries while presenting at the program, which was part of a U.S. Commerce Department series on global law and business.
Sylvie Bonnefond, a current UC student from France, and Francesca Gottardi, a graduate of the UC master's program from Italy, joined McGraw.
Bonnefond contributed her perspective on legal aspects of conducting business in France, based on more than 20 years of experience as in-house counsel at major French companies. “I have expertise in a very broad range of legal matters, but not the knowledge to resolve legal problems that we encountered when we partnered with Americans,” said Bonnefond, "the LLM in the U.S. Legal System will allow me to bring knowledge of both systems into my work”.
“We have so much to learn from each other. We must exchange ideas and discuss differences to avoid the misunderstandings that become sources of conflict in contractual and legal relationships," said Bonnefond.
Gottardi presented an introduction to Europe’s civil law system and key issues pertaining to law and business in Italy.
“Participating in the international law roundtable was an incredible experience,” said Gottardi. “Not only did it give me the chance to interact with other international legal practitioners in the Cincinnati area, but it also afforded me the opportunity to exchange thoughts on the strengths and the weaknesses of my legal tradition of origin — the civil law — as it compares to the common law tradition that is predominant in the United States.”
Gottardi is currently pursuing both a J.D. and Ph.D at UC, and plans to use her unique background to practice in both the American and European legal systems.
“Because many our LLM students come to us with years, even decades of legal experience in their home countries, they offer expertise and unique perspectives that U.S. lawyers and business professionals don’t have,” noted Dean Nora Burke Wagner, director of the LLM program. “Their engagement with the local community offers our student-lawyers valuable networking opportunities while serving as a resource that benefits the community.”
The event was co-hosted by the UC College of Law, the Southern Ohio District Export Council, the Cincinnati Bar Association, the U.S. Commercial Service (Department of Commerce) and the European-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati.
UC’s Master of Laws (LLM) program offers immersion in the American legal system via a customizable 24 credit–hour program. For more information about the LLM program, visit the website.
Featured Photo at top: Sylvie Bonnefond, Bridget Gannon Mcgraw, and Francesca Gottardi