The excellence of the LL.M. program at the University of Houston Law Center attracts lawyers from throughout the world. During the 2009-2010 academic year, foreign LL.M. candidates included students from Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Ghana, India, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Spain, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
The following section includes representative profiles of a few of these high-achieving foreign LL.M. students:
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Tania Alves Calvao
Education: Law degree, St. Ursula University, Rio de Janeiro; LL.M., International Business Law, University of London; MBA, Fundacao Getulio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro; advanced courses, Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania; Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
As an Enron survivor, Tania Alves Calvao has proved herself resilient, adaptable and, above all, determined to advance her career in the field of international energy law at every opportunity. When her job at Enron-South America vaporized when Enron imploded in 2003, the Brazilian national immediately went to work as legal superintendent of a Rio-based energy company, restructuring the legal department and overseeing thousands of lawsuits, big and small. Her next move was to a Brazilian communications conglomerate as director of legal strategies (general counsel) and finally, a big jump to Houston in 2007. At the recommendation of a former Enron co-worker, she joined AEI LLC, which had acquired Enron’s South American assets, as senior legal counsel. Despite her steady climb up the corporate ladder, and responsibilities raising an 11-year-old, soccer-loving son, she didn’t hesitate to switch course once again. This time she decided to further her studies as an LL.M. candidate in the Law Center’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law program. “My country recently found a huge, offshore oil reserve,” she says, “and it is now passing new petroleum laws so I needed to catch up with petroleum and renewable energy. Brazil uses a lot of wind, solar, ethanol, hydroelectric power, and now we have great oil reserves.” With an impressive array of credentials already on the wall, Calvao says she is learning a tremendous amount about energy law that will serve her well working here or back in her homeland. “You have to have leadership with content,” she says. “You have to know what you are talking about to manage a team of people.” Besides, she adds, “It is a nice break from the corporate life.”
Education: Law Degree, University of Ghana, Legon; B.A., political science and Theater Arts, University of Ghana, Legon.
John Darko came to the Law Center from Ghana to help his country avoid the “resource curse” experienced by so many other underdeveloped nations in the wake of a major oil discovery. The oil found in 2007 could be a boon to his impoverished country, attracting related industries and jobs and helping build much-needed infrastructure. But, he says, rampant corruption, mismanagement and haphazard enforcement of laws could converge as a “curse” that benefits only the well-connected citizens of Ghana. “Most of the people live well below the poverty level,” he says of his countrymen. “Oil would make a huge difference. But if you don’t manage it well, it could be a big problem. I really want to help my country. I want to make sure the resources benefit everyone, not just the elite. That is very important.” And that is why an LL.M. from the Law Center is important to him. His law degree, and previous experience with Mobil Oil Ghana, wasn’t enough, he says. He needed an advanced degree and turned to the Law Center and its renowned Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law program. Location: Houston, Texas, the acknowledged energy capital of the world. Darko brings a dedication and sense of mission to his studies, and his hard work has already yielded dividends. Darko recently won prestigious, energy-related scholarships from the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators totaling $11,000 to help ease the way toward his long-term goal.
Education: Candidatures en Droit, Facultes Universitaires Saint-Louis, Brussels; Licence en Droit, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium; LL.M. in European Law, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels.
Magali Delhaye came to the United States from Europe with two goals: to broaden her understanding of intellectual property law, and also to add the cachet of an advanced American law degree to her resume. In Madrid, she practiced in a “boutique” law firm specializing in media, advertising and IP matters and grew to believe that a thorough grounding in American law would give her a leg up in her chosen field. “It is a challenge because the culture is different,” she says of her studies in the LL.M. Intellectual Property & Information Law program at the Law Center. “The way of thinking is different. There is a different philosophical point of view. We’re all westerners and you would think it would all be the same, but it’s not.” A case in point, she says, is the strict protection given certain products in Europe that goes well beyond what American trademark laws provide. For example, sparkling wine can only be called “champagne” if it is produced in the Champagne region of northeastern France. Similarly, prosciutto di Parma, “Parma ham,” cannot even be cut outside of that Italian province. Such products are covered by a whole body of law in Europe, she says, stemming perhaps from tradition and economic necessities not found in the U.S. She believes her LL.M. will add to her marketability when she returns to Spain or her native Belgium and looks for a job in a large law firm or media company. “If you work for an international law firm you have to know American law,” she says. “It makes me better qualified to have studied in the United States and know how the law works here. And they know you will have a certain level of English. Plus, there is the cachet of going to the U.S. and getting a degree that makes you stand out.”
Education: Diploma in Law; Bachelor’s Degree in Private Law; Master’s Degree in Private Law, Specialization in Business Law; Specialized Master’s Degree of Business Jurists; Master’s Degree in Criminal Sciences and Private Law, University of Pau, France; Associate Degree, Business, Houston Community College.
Given the choice of marriage at a young age or moving to France to further her education, Mohamed Djenabou decided to steer her future toward schooling. She left her home in Cameroon at the age of 15 and embarked on a journey that eventually led her to Houston and the Law Center. “It was really my father’s choice,” she says of her educational pursuits. “He wanted his daughters to get an education, rather than marrying early, which is very common for girls in Cameroon. Sixteen years later, she is the proud recipient of multiple degrees: an undergraduate degree, a law degree and three specialized master’s degrees from the University of Pau in France near the Spanish border. Djenabou also studied English as a Second Language at the University of Houston-Downtown and earned an associate degree in business from Houston Community College. Along the way she interned at two law firms in France and two more in Houston before applying to the Law Center’s LL.M. program where she is studying in the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law program. “A lot of the business law in France models American corporate law -- incorporating a lot of American business practices,” she says. “I thought I would be ahead of everybody else if I got an American law degree.” Her work has paid off already with a $4,000 scholarship from the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. Her stated career goal in the scholarship application: “Being one of the best attorneys on the international scene and a leader for the enhancement of natural resources management in Africa.” Her plan is to gain legal experience here and in France and then return to Cameroon to help her homeland avoid the “energy resource curse” experienced by so many other developing countries with untapped natural resources. The 15th of 38 children born into a polygamous family, Djenabou is married and the mother of a young boy and girl. Her personal goal: “I want every girl in Cameroon to know that even if you are a girl you can make a difference.”
Jorge Velasco Fernandez
Education: LL.M./European Law, Institute For European Studies, ULB, Brussels; Law degree, University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain; Economics diploma, University of Deusto, Bilbao.
Jorge Velasco Fernandez came to the United States -- and the Law Center in particular -- to learn as much as he could about the American way of business, specifically the legal end of the oil and gas business. “The way in which Americans approach business is different than in Europe,” says the Spanish native. “Sometimes you feel that the American people see things that they do not in Europe. Americans are more focused on business; they are all about business, and by the end of the year, maybe I can get a little bit of that. It will be very helpful in going back to Europe.” Velasco is already well versed in the energy industry with related experience at law firms in Madrid and Brussels and serving as an in-house lawyer at an international energy corporation based in Madrid. He dealt mainly in the electricity sector and came to the Law Center to expand his knowledge of oil and gas law. “I can learn concepts here that I wouldn’t be exposed to in Europe,” he says, adding that through networking, conferences and other opportunities available at the school he is also being exposed to the type of people he wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to meet in Europe. “It’s not only the quality of the education, but the quality of colleagues,” he says of his experience here. “Many of the professors have international experience, so they understand your background and experiences. They know you are paying a lot of money to come to Houston so they want you not only to get a good education, but to experience everything.” That experience will pay off when he returns to his company in Madrid, he says. “I will certainly be dealing with Americans in the future.”
Education: Law Degree, St. Petersburg State University; LLM, Energy Law and Policy, University of Dundee, UK; PhD candidate, St. Petersburg State University; Bachelor of Jurisprudence, St. Petersburg State University.
Alexey Morozov crisscrossed Europe for work and study before landing at the Law Center to further his education in energy law. “If you want to make a career in the energy field, you have to be here,” he says with a hint of a Russian accent. “I want to get an American law degree. I study energy law and Houston is the energy capital of the world.” His travels from Russia to Belgium to the United Kingdom and on to America are all the more remarkable because of a disability that keeps him confined to a motorized wheelchair. “I had some accessibility problems in Belgium because they do not have a law like the ADA,” he says, “but there is nothing that you can’t overcome.” He finds Houston unlike most of the other capitals and big cities he has lived in because it is so spread out. But, “The buses and taxis are wheelchair accessible,” he says, adding with a characteristically nonchalant, can-do finality, “…it is not a problem.” For convenience, he lives across the parking lot from the Law Center in the Calhoun Lofts “with a view of downtown.” He was warned about the Houston weather with its terrible heat, humidity and hurricanes, he says laughing, but, “I haven’t found the weather unbearable. ” After earning his advanced degree in the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law program he plans to take the New York bar with an eye toward an internship with an international energy firm. He sees himself eventually working in London or Moscow. “There are lots of energy companies in Russia,” he says. And, with a bachelor’s degree, two master’s and a third master’s and Ph.D. on the way, is he done accumulating degrees? “Maybe I’ll get another master’s in something,” he says grinning.