In 2016, Shaobo Li made a tough decision: He left a good legal job with an international company based in Beijing to earn an LL.M. at Vanderbilt. ‘I don’t like to stay in the comfort zone,” he said, “and—compared with a J.D.—an LL.M. program would allow me to learn about the American legal system without creating an overlong gap in my career.”
Li moved to Nashville with his wife, and during holidays, the couple traveled by car to places in over 10 States including some large cities like Atlanta, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, Houston, Austin, and Dallas, Texas, Memphis, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Illinois; and Orlando and Miami, Florida. “I’d been the U.S. several times for business trips and traveling before I came to Vanderbilt,” he said. “We really liked Nashville—it has almost everything you need for your study and life within 20 minutes’ drive, whether you are a fan of the fashionable lifestyle or enjoy hiking in the country.”
Li chose to study law because of its international reach. At Vanderbilt, he focused on corporate law, and he particularly enjoyed Law as a Business, a class taught by Vanderbilt Law graduate James H. Cheek III, a partner in Bass Berry & Sims in Nashville. “Professor Cheek invited in-house legal counsels, law firm partners, judges, public officials and government attorneys to share their experience and insights, which was really valuable,” he said.
Li found the coursework demanding, but rewarding. “The intensive classes require careful preparation, but generally, you get the hang of it if you take your studies seriously,” he said. “The program introduced the basic concept and structure of the common law system and offered me a chance to choose classes in the areas of law I am interested in and will probably be engaged in.”
Outside of class, he found plenty of opportunities to meet other students.“I enjoyed the activities at Vanderbilt, from the Friday night Blackacre social hours to group study to community service,” he recalled. “And support from the staff is always readily available. They understand the needs of LL.M. students and are eager to help us out.”
He particularly appreciated the small size of Vanderbilt’s law classes and of the LL.M. class. “There were massive chances for me to interact with my professors,” he said. He chose Vanderbilt because of its strong academic reputation. “Vanderbilt is well-known,” he said. “I heard a lot about the small class size, and when I looked at the LSAC website, I saw many good options. But Vanderbilt impressed me because of its small class size, good ranking and location in Nashville, which has good weather and is a perfect place to study law. I would definitely recommend Vanderbilt’s LL.M. program to other foreign students.”
Li took the New York Bar exam in July 2017 and is now living in New York.