Experiential learning opportunities are easy to find in a city filled with possibilities — precisely why hundreds of aspiring lawyers from near and far flock to the University of Miami School of Law (Miami Law) every year.
Here, aspirations come to life through hands-on experiences such as practicums, internships, moot court competitions, and a wealth of equally enriching practical learning ventures across bustling Miami, Florida. Understandably so, as the US’s second-largest financial capital is home to over 1,400 multinational companies
Miami Law’s signature LL.M. is an entry ticket to the living laboratory and beyond. A general option is available for foreign-trained attorneys keen on understanding the country’s renowned legal system. However, specialised routes have proven the most effective for those with more precise career goals — each of which is open to all prospects determined to uphold justice.
Two stand out for their own unique reasons. Both open doors in ways similar qualifications cannot.
Take the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M., for instance — a robust programme, taught by an ultra-elite faculty, that effortlessly exemplifies Miami Law’s longstanding tradition of engagement with the law of arbitration. Within it, opportunities to practise abound.
For example, the two-credit legal practicum was launched in 2016 by Sandra Friedrich, Lecturer in Law and Director of Miami Law’s International Arbitration Institute and LL.M. Programme. “By completing this legal externship with firms and institutions in Miami and beyond, students gain invaluable practical training and networking opportunities,” she explains.
So far, the programme has placed students in some of Miami’s most prominent international arbitration firms — think DLA Piper, GST LLP, Hogan Lovells, Holland & Knight, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Reed Smith, Shutts & Bowen, Squire Patton Boggs, and of course, White & Case, amongst many others.
“The International Arbitration LL.M. Practicum Programme gives students a unique opportunity to develop strong relationships with international practitioners in our community and get their hands ‘dirty’ with real cases,” explains Harout Samra, an associate at DLA Piper’s Miami office and Practicum supervisor.
Get their hands dirty, they do. Ugandan Angella Nantongo, who graduated in 2019, earned a position at White & Case’s Miami office under the supervision of Jonathan Hamilton, a partner at White & Case, Miami Law Adjunct Professor and Distinguished Faculty Chair of Miami Law’s International Arbitration Institute. During this practicum, she worked in the Latin American Arbitration department, where she came to understand why Miami is a popular seat for international arbitration.
“Miami is a major international trade and finance centre at the portal to the Americas,” says Friedrich. “It is known as one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the US with the highest start-up density. Hence, the city has become one of the most popular venues in the US for resolving international disputes through arbitration.”
Studying in Miami proved fruitful for Ivan Bracho Gonzalez as well. Originally from Venezuela, he came to Miami Law in 2017 after receiving the prestigious Miami Law/Young ICCA full-tuition scholarship. He then completed his practicum at Hogan Lovells. Today, Gonzalez is a third-year associate who handles a variety of assignments, from case management, draft pleadings and memorandums to briefs, motions and meetings. He has also recently helped launch the Miami chapter of the Very Young Arbitration Practitioners (VYAP) network to support professional development in law students and young practitioners.
“I have no doubt that my LL.M. studies have been a major factor in my career,” he says. “All of the programme’s features contributed — and continue to contribute — to my development and growth in the field.”
The LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law, the only programme of its multidisciplinary kind in the US, is just as rewarding. To start, it is taught by prominent faculty members and practitioners — all of whom are ever-willing to share rare insights with students vying to get a foot through the professional door.
Many do so through practicum placements with entertainment heavyweights such as NBC Universal/Telemundo, HBO Latin America, BBC Worldwide Americas, Warner Music, Universal Music, Universal Creative, Spotify, the Ultra Music Festival, and Bacardi. Experiential excellence awaits beyond Miami as well.
For example, student Alyssa Levy spent the summer of 2021 interning at Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp in New York City. Her duties included transactional work involving sponsorships, partnerships, and events across the company’s properties (Madison Square Garden, Hulu Theatre, Chicago Theatre, Tao Lounges, and the MSG Sphere).
“It affirmed my ultimate career goals,” she says. “As I am getting my J.D./LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law, I’ve wanted to get into this sphere, and it has given me direct insight into exactly what this type of law is actually like, and I love it.”
Meanwhile, student Luz Angelica Caceres from Columbia put new LL.M. concepts into practice at Ole Distribution. “During this experience, I had ample access to experienced lawyers,” she says. “I was also able to participate in events and expand my network of contacts in the industry.”
While domestic opportunities are plenty, for all LL.M. students, crossing borders is an option too. Thanks to Miami Law’s pioneering International Moot Court Programme, as of 2020, over 250 law students had participated in 73 competitions — spanning six out of seven continents; three languages (English, Spanish, and Portuguese), and over a dozen countries (namely Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Australia).
In 2021, Miami Law’s international moot court team members Yesenia Alfonso of Miami, Camilo Fernandez of Colombia, Andres Caldera of Nicaragua, and Belemir Demirbag of Turkey won second place in the 2021 Foreign Direct Investment Moot — the world’s leading moot court competition on investor-state disputes, a rapidly growing area of law.
“Without a doubt, being a part of the International Moot Court programme changed my trajectory at Miami Law for the better, and I am forever grateful to Professor Paula Arias and the programme for supporting us and giving us incredible opportunities to become better advocates,” said Alfonso.
Estefania Lalinde of Venezuela, who competed in the International Commercial Arbitration Competition and will join Baker McKenzie’s transactional group upon graduation, is another example of the upside of hands-on training.