Celine Feys chose to pursue an LL.M. in the U.S. for two reasons: a desire to expand her legal knowledge and to improve her career prospects. “I believed an LL.M. would be the perfect academic sequel to my [Belgian] law degree, giving my knowledge base a much-needed international dimension,” she said. “And, because corporations in most Western European countries have close ties and business relationships with American companies, all major Belgian law firms require that you obtain an LL.M. in the U.S. When you deal with clients, they want you to know the law at both ends--Belgian and U.S.”
Feys chose Vanderbilt in part because of its size and location, but also because her law school at Ghent University has a relationship with Vanderbilt Law. “I’m from Ghent--which is a city, but not huge--and I wanted to go to a law school in a similar city,” she said. “Vanderbilt is a top-ranked school, and it’s location in Nashville was very appealing to me.” Feys particularly appreciated taking the same classes as J.D. students. “At Vanderbilt, you are forced out of the LL.M. comfort zone,” she said. “You get to know how Americans interact and engage in their classes, and you learn their view on the law and what their ideas about certain topics are.”
Since Feys planned to focus on corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, she took Corporations from Professor Morgan Ricks, an expert in the monetary system who worked for the U.S. Treasury Department in 2009 in the aftermath of the world financial collapse. She also took a Financial Markets seminar from Professor Yesha Yadav, an expert in securities regulation who worked for the World Bank. “Professor Yadav really brings the course to life and captures your attention” she said.
The class Feys enjoyed most was Negotiation and Drafting of Key Corporate Documents, taught by Professor Robert Reder, a retired partner of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in New York. “That was hands down the most interesting course I’ve ever taken in law school, here or in Belgium,” she said. “It was practical and hands-on and prepared me for the real world and the work I will actually be doing. Professor Reder gave me much-needed practical input on how to draft agreements, what to pay attention to, and how to negotiate. By the end of the course, I felt a lot more confident about being ready to practice.”
Feys also enjoyed her year in Nashville. She liked the city, and she also liked the law school’s friendly atmosphere, attractive building and supportive faculty and staff. “Vanderbilt has a great faculty, and everyone’s friendly and helpful,” she said. “The library is open almost all the time and the school has a nice, almost homey atmosphere, making it the perfect work environment for me.”
Feys recommends an LL.M. degree to any student seeking career enrichment. “I expanded my network and met a lot of new people, which in itself is an enrichment beyond measure,” she said. “An LL.M. degree gives you that little extra credibility that can make you stand out. The courses I took were both practically and theoretically enormously enriching. They gave me insight in matters I did not know enough about before coming here, allowing me to go back home with a broadened and deeper knowledge about a lot of areas of law. I’ll feel a lot more confident in dealing with American clients since I understand their legal system and thus I’ll be able to better care for their specific concerns and needs.”Feys is now an associate with Stibbe in Brussels, Belgium.