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UC Law’s LLM Program Gives Students Training, Experience and Inspiration

Like other legal professionals from around the world, three new UC College of Law students came to the United States for advanced training and, just as importantly, inspiration.

“Studying law in the U.S. is like magic. It’s so difficult,” states Frinwi Gwenelyne Achu, an LL.M. student from Cameroon.

In addition to Achu, this year’s LL.M. class features two other students from Africa: Arnold Agaba and Amanda Arigaba, both from Uganda. The LL.M. program provides students who have studied law in a foreign country the opportunity to receive up to two years of exposure to the U.S. legal system. Each student has, at minimum, a bachelor’s in law and earns a masters in law for foreign-trained lawyers. The program is currently in its fourth year, and has so far graduated 30 students from 18 different countries. This year’s class features 18 students from 10 countries.

Achu attended University of Buea Cameroon, the first Anglo-Saxon University in that nation. Agaba studied at Uganda Christian University, which he describes as young and vibrant. Arigaba attended two schools in Kampala, the capital of Uganda; she earned her undergraduate Bachelor of Laws degree at Makerere University and her diploma in Human Rights at the Law Development Centre.

While the students have adjusted their lives, time zones and learning methods, all three say their experiences here have been overwhelmingly positive. However, each student was motivated to study law in America for different reasons, and each has different end goals upon returning to their home countries.

Arigaba has wanted to be a lawyer since she can remember. With parents who were lawyers, she was “always in awe of my father’s choice of syntax and vast knowledge of everything...something I attributed to his profession,” she said.

She would watch or read the news, hoping to understand conversations he had with other adults. Her mother she viewed as a superwoman who juggled being a mother and a lawyer “flawlessly.”

Achu and Agaba both looked to law because of its integral role in society and job opportunities available after legal training. Agaba was driven by his desire to influence rule-change and thinking in his community in Uganda; Achu wants to combat disparities.

To fulfill their career wishes, though, they knew they needed to look to the West, specifically, to America.

Universities across the globe look to the U.S. as the ideal for building legal expertise. Studying in any foreign country gives students chances to understand their subjects on larger scales, something particularly valuable to employers. Studying in the country that sets standards, however, is even more enticing.

“Why did I choose the greatest country in the world?” Agaba asked. After a pause, he explained that America is viewed as the leader, a place where “development is real and the lives of the people in that country are bettered by its government on a daily basis.”

Arigaba agreed, saying that she chose to study here because of the America’s “admirable“ legal evolution.

Teaching methods have been one of the toughest things to adjust to, the students said. Precedent cases differ from country to country, meaning that even if concepts are the same, applicability is not. Students in America are highly encouraged to have a robust understanding of cases, to push boundaries and to engage in conversations and establish relationships with professors and other faculty members, which is not the case in every country.

“You may go through law school without ever having a personal relationship with an instructor,” said Agaba of legal education in Uganda, “which, I think, is terrible because you can’t better someone’s life at a distance. It has to be personal.”

Networking with faculty, area professionals and other students has been a priority for the LL.M. students. Arigaba has enjoyed conferences featuring renowned or acclaimed individuals who share their knowledge with students. “They put into context a lot of what is delivered in the classroom walls and are very inspiring considering their accolades, a reminder of how much work there is to be done and how much I can achieve.”

Achu experienced the same kind of awe when visiting a local law firm that employs 200 lawyers. The largest firm in Cameroon has 10.

Networking helps keep career goals at the front of the students’ minds, and upon completion of the LL.M. program, each has distinct plans.

Achu wants to work toward creating her own company encouraging foreign investments in Cameroon, where eight of 10 regions speak French, while the other two speak English. Because business laws conflict between the two types, many companies do not expand, which leads to disparities between communities.

Foreign investments, Achu said, will impact citizens’ lives by expanding opportunities in the country rich in natural resources. “I know if I create good contacts and connections with people, we’ll be able to get a forum where we work out a partnership,” she said. “We [Cameroon] have the materials, we send it to you, and it’s going to help you.”

Agaba would rather teach than practice law. “Teaching offers me the opportunity to change mindsets, to show people different experiences, rather than simply solving one problem of theirs. I could change the mindset of various people, and lawyers are a big part of social change. So, if you influence a lawyer, you can influence a greater part of the society.”

Arigaba is particularly interested in human rights and foreign affairs. She describes herself as appreciating hard work and service, and wants to see and impact change among the entire nation. “I have the mind and attitude of service, and I will go wherever I am needed,” she said. Studying in a foreign nation with other international students has also provided opportunities to understand other cultures and ways of doing things. Students leave with new skills and knowledge that they can integrate in their home country.

“You don’t just walk away with a masters degree,” Agaba said. “You walk away with a new lifestyle, a new mindset, with actual change. The person who came here in August is not the same person who is leaving. He is better in various ways. But in meaningful ways.”

University of Cincinnati College of Law Ranked a Best Value Law School…Again

The National Jurist and preLaw magazines have ranked the University of Cincinnati College of Law one of the Best Value Law Schools for the third year, and second consecutive year, respectively.

Each year, the magazines release rankings of law schools across the nation, taking into account many different factors. The ranking is designed to identify law schools where graduates have excellent chances of passing the bar and getting a legal job without taking on a ton of debt.  This year, the number of ranked schools increased from 53 to 64.

Factors for ranking include employment, which is the most important and makes up 35% of the grade, tuition and cost of living, and amount of debt upon graduation. In an effort to address enrollment decline, many law schools have increased scholarships, making it more affordable for students.

This is not the only time that the College of Law has been honored by National Jurist. In Spring of both 2014 and 2015 it was ranked as a top law school for practical training, a testament to the work and impact of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic.

And for those wishing to stay in the area after graduation, there is good news as well. According to Forbes’ 2015 ranking of “America’s Most Affordable Cities”, Cincinnati comes in at #5. This ranking assessed housing affordability and cost of living (which includes food, gas, utilities, transportation, medical expenses and other day-to-day expenditures), and weighed these factors according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.

Looking at these three rankings together, it’s clear that both the College of Law and the City of Cincinnati are a great  “bang for the buck,” making Cincinnati an affordable opportunity to many law students.

(Read about Best Value Law Schools in The National Jurist)


First-Year Students Win the College of Law ABA Negotiation Competition

First-year students win the College of Law ABA Negotiation Competition.  The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Club, which promotes negotiation and dispute resolution activities, hosted  a competition to determine which students will represent the University of Cincinnati at the American Bar Association Negotiation Competition.  Two teams – David Lopez and Ben White as well as Meg Franklin and Melissa Springer – will represent the College at the ABA Regional Competition in November which will be held at Nothwestern Law School.  Twelve teams participated and were judged by local attorneys.    Students are coached by Professor Marjorie Aaron and James K. Lawrence, Esq., an Adjunct Faculty member.

Mina Jones Jefferson Appointed to Ohio Commission on Professionalism

Mina Jones Jefferson (’90), Senior Assistant Dean and Chief of Staff, was recently appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism for a term ending on December 31, 2017.  The Commission promotes professionalism among attorneys admitted to practice law in Ohio, devoting its attention to the law as a profession and to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and honor among members of the profession.

Associate Dean of Faculty Sandra Sperino to Speak at Alabama Bar Association

Associate Dean of Faculty Sandra Sperino will speak at the Alabama Bar Association Labor and Employment Annual Conference.  Her talk will explore the Supreme Court’s recent cases that connect discrimination law with tort law and what this means for the future of federal discrimination law.

Professor Jacob Cogan Publishes

Professor Jacob Cogan published an essay, Stabilization and the Expanding Scope of the Security Council’s Work, 109 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 324 (2015).   He also had an article accepted for publication: The Two Codes on the Use of Force, EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (forthcoming) (co-authored with Monica Hakimi).  Professor Cogan is an active member of the American Society of International Law and an elected member of the American Law Institute. He edits the International Law Reporter, a widely read blog on scholarship, events, and ideas in international law, international relations, and associated disciplines.

Professors Vazquez and Moore Take Center Stage at LatCrit2015

Cincinnati Law Faculty take center stage at the LatCrit 2015: Twentieth Anniversary Conference, October 1-3 in Anaheim, California.  Professor Yolanda Vázquez presented "Nothing is Ever Black & White: Mass Incarceration and the Continued Denial of Recognition of Immigration Detention's Role in It" and Professor Janet Moore presented “Make Them Hear You: Participatory Defense and the Struggle for Criminal Justice Reform.   LatCrit marked its twentieth anniversary by convening critical thinkers pursuing the goal of creating a legal order where equal justice for all is reality, not aspiration.

Professor Janet Moore Serves as Guest at Symposium for Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

Professor Janet Moore will serve as co-Guest Editor with Andrew Davies, Ph.D., for an upcoming symposium edition of the OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW.  This symposium will include new empirical analyses of indigent defense by researchers who will present their work at a two-day conference during the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Washington, D.C. in November.  Professor Janet Moore also will serve as co-Guest Editor with Andrew Davies, Ph.D., for an upcoming symposium edition of the OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW.  This symposium will include new empirical analyses of indigent defense by researchers who will present their work at a two-day conference during the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Washington, D.C. in November.

Zac Wertz '11 Uses Legal Background to Pursue Challenging Career

Cincinnati native and College of Law alumni Zac Wertz ‘11 has used his legal background to pursue an adventurous and challenging career as an entrepreneur, creating his own start-up with the Beluga Shave Company. Wertz, who has an MBA in Finance in addition to his law degree, always had an interest in going to law school, but expressed that he also loved investing and evaluating opportunity costs as well.

During his time at the College of Law, Wertz drew his entrepreneurial inspiration from his work participating in the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC), an experience that allowed for practical skills training and exposure to private equity and venture capital work. As a budding entrepreneur himself, Wertz found this clinic particularly helpful for client communication practice, evaluating contracts, forming corporations, and getting that initial exposure to the field of entrepreneurship. 

As the end of law school was drawing near and career decisions coming to the forefront, Wertz saw entrepreneurship as a great opportunity to bring together both his legal and finance backgrounds to get creative with his career. “Why work 10 years in a law firm when from day one you can be an equity based partner right away?”

Now, as founder and CEO of Beluga Shave Company, Wertz has applied his legal and financial skills to develop and market a unique single blade razor that Wertz argues provides a closer and better quality shave.

Wertz acknowledged that the “logical reasoning” skills he developed in law school helped in his early product assessments, researching reasons why a single blade razor was capable of providing a better superior shave yet no one else was using it. Wertz learned that many people disfavor using a single blade razor because it’s “not easy to use.” Inspired by the effectiveness of a single blade shave, Wertz challenged himself to develop a product that could provide the single blade quality with the same ease of use found in modern razors.

Beluga Shave Company was selected by Cincinnati’s accelerator program, First Batch, to be a part of its 2015 class of start-up companies. With First Batch’s assistance, Wert hopes to gather local business support to advance Beluga’s product development and manufacturing efforts. 

Wertz hopes for Beluga to have a product prototype out by November this year and a first product launch in early 2016. Although the line currently has a masculine focus, Wertz plans to expand into a complete shaving and grooming line that includes female focused products as well.

For students interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career Wertz challenges them to expand their legal studies, noting that there is opportunity to “learn much more than just the law in law school.”

OIP Celebrates the Launch of New OIP-u Program

The Ohio Innocence Project, borne out of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and a branch of the national Innocence Network, launched a new organization on Oct. 2, called OIP-u. This program provides a way for Ohio undergraduate and graduate students to get more involved, and to come together to fight for freedom of wrongly incarcerated men and women in the state.

The launch coincided with the 2nd Annual International Wrongful Conviction Day, which is dedicated to recognizing those whose lives have been adversely impacted by wrongful conviction as well as educating the public on its causes, consequences, and complications.

Four Ohio universities have newly formed OIP-u chapters: John Carroll University, Ohio University, University of Dayton, and The Ohio State University, and each had events that featured OIP exonerees.

The OIP  has many upcoming events and opportunities, ,  such as the Oak Hills Girl Scout Troop earning their social justice badge by visiting the office to speak with attorneys on Oct. 19, and Jennifer Bergeron, an OIP attorney, presenting oral arguments at the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for OIP client Karl Willis on Oct. 21.

On Nov. 13, the OIP will be honored by receiving the Outstanding Program or Organization Award by the Ohio Bar Association. 

OIP attorney Donald Caster and exoneree Dean Gillispie will be speaking to Kent State University students on Nov. 12, and on Nov. 17 OIP attorney Brian Howe, a UC Law graduate, will be presenting at a continuing legal education event in Cleveland,  discussing prisoner reintegration and post-release measures.

Wrapping up the calendar year will be the 21st Annual Rescuers of Humanity Awards Dinner, taking place on Dec. 1, sponsored by Project Love in Cleveland, OH. The OIP will receive the Rescuer of Humanity Award.