After spending 12 years working in international affairs, Andrea Leycano had a full grasp of the day-to-day responsibilities of a diplomat, which in her case included handling multilateral and bilateral political and legal issues, as well as consular matters for the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines.
“Diplomacy blends international law with the current realities and histories of nations, organizations, and even individuals,” she said. “There are continuing evolutions and devolutions, ebbs and flows, flash points and lulls happening all at once, and one must constantly keep up with the times.”
However, she longed to focus on studying international law beyond what she had previously learned in law school. Michigan Law provided her that opportunity with its LLM program.
“The school has very accomplished and notable faculty who are leading scholars in their fields, and the curriculum allows me to choose the courses I want to take,” she said. “This gives me the freedom to study subjects that are of interest to me and relevant to my job, while learning from some of the best professors in international law in the United States.”
Leycano is just one of 24 students who have come from every corner of the globe to form the LLM Class of 2023. For one year, these students, who have already earned law degrees in countries outside the United States, fully immerse themselves in classes alongside JD students.
Leycano’s fellow LLM students include Pedro Martin Chirinos Terrones, who for the past eight years has worked in the Competition Division of the Tribunal of Indecopi—the Peruvian competition, intellectual property, and consumer protection authority. For him, the decision to attend Michigan was easy.
“Michigan Law not only has a very strong department of international law, it also has a strong department of antitrust law, both my passions,” he said. “My dream is to work for an international institution making antitrust policy, so I can contribute to the economic development of different countries. Being here will definitely help me achieve that goal.”
A majority of the LLM class have practical experience in the legal field, including as judges, judicial clerks, attorneys, government officials, corporate counsel, teaching and research assistants, and doctoral degree students, said Alice Choo, director of graduate admissions at the Law School.
"I'm amazed by the variety and depth of experiences that our LLM students have,” Choo said. “Each student has a unique story. In addition to having exceptional academic and professional backgrounds, all of them share the characteristics of being warm and supportive. It's been a joy and privilege to see our LLM students connect with each other and the rest of the Law School community."
Among those unique stories is that of Shruti Singh, who worked for 12 years at top-tier law firms in India and the United States, where she practiced in the areas of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), debt capital markets, corporate finance, and restructuring and insolvency.
“My law firm career culminated in my promotion to partner in 2018,” she said. “But in 2021, I felt the need to halt my career and reassess. Therefore, I quit my job and decided to pursue an LLM.”
Michigan Law is the perfect place for her to reassess, she said, because it allows her to channel her interests and experience into in-depth study and research under excellent faculty while broadening her horizons through interactions with JD and LLM students.
“Michigan Law offers career opportunities that are as good and varied as any offered by a law school. I am confident that the relationships and experiences gained at Michigan Law will help me going forward.”
Likewise, Alexandros Tzionas cited the faculty, small student cohort, and curriculum as his reasons for coming to Michigan Law. Since earning his law degree from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, he worked as a research assistant for an international law firm, focusing on national and international commercial litigation and arbitration. He also worked as a research assistant with the leading arbitration institute in Germany while conducting research as a PhD candidate on a litigation-related topic.
“The rigorous LLM studies at Michigan Law allow for a comprehensive understanding of the respective legal subjects, including their theoretical, practical, and economic implications,” he said. “Having a comprehensive understanding in subject matters that particularly interest me, academically and professionally, and getting accustomed to the legal culture in the United States will give me the opportunity and essential skills to later be able to act as a lawyer in international commercial cases.”
These are but a few stories about the Class of 2023. Other notable facts include the following:
- Students come from 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Croatia, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, and Ukraine.
- Their ages range from 22 to 41, with an average age of 28.
- Seventy-one percent have at least one year of professional legal experience; the average is three years of work experience.
- A total of 12.5 percent are the first generation in their family to have earned a postsecondary degree.
- Seventeen percent have spouses and/or children who have accompanied them to Ann Arbor.
- Their legal experiences and interests include criminal law, antitrust, corporate law, technology law, human rights law, litigation and dispute resolution, health law, public international law, legal philosophy, and bankruptcy.
- Outside the classroom, they have a wide variety of hobbies, such as reading; photography; dancing; theater; opera; singing; playing guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, trumpet, and flute; playing basketball, tennis, and soccer; hiking; swimming; martial arts; and yoga.