Advanced Degree Students

78 students, 27 countries, 6 continents. That’s the mile-high view of the advanced degree candidates graduating from SLS in 2019.  They are a diverse international community with a common background: They arrived at SLS as accomplished attorneys, judges, or legal academics in their country of origin.  Most have come for only a year; some will stay longer.  Here, we profile just a few of them.

Felipe Costa Rodrigues Neves, LLM ’19, Brazil.  Felipe Neves learned to get along without much sleep when he began studying law at Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo in 2009.  But he made time to found an NGO, Constitutional Law in School Project, to teach constitutional law and civics in the public schools.  Today, the program has 120 lawyer-volunteers working in 150 schools.  Neves was honored by the U.S. State Department as a Young Leader of America in 2016 and was selected in 2017 by the Obama Foundation as one of 10 young Brazilian leaders, to share a roundtable with Barack Obama.  Meanwhile, he practiced corporate law full time following graduation in 2014, volunteering in the schools before work started.  Neves entered the International Economic Law, Business and Policy LLM program at SLS in 2018 and soon thereafter was named in the “30 Under 30” list by Forbes Brazil.  After earning his LLM in June, he will work as a corporate lawyer for Cleary Gottlieb, first in Brazil and then in New York and, he hopes, “Cleary in Brazil for a longer period.”

Shachar Nir, LLM ’19, Israel.  Before she began studying law, Shachar Nir fulfilled her national service commitment with the Israeli Defense Forces as an infantry combat soldier, squad commander, sharpshooter, and operations control sergeant.  Nir’s legal education was much less confrontational.  “In Israel, the students hardly speak. It’s more of a passive lecture,” she says.  But unlike many SLS students, she likes being cold-called: “Here, I am much more engaged.”  Nir entered the Corporate Governance & Practice LLM program at SLS in 2018, having simultaneously earned an LLB—which is a JD equivalent—and a BA in business administration and accounting in just four years at The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, in 2014.  After working as a legal and research assistant for the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, she worked as a corporate associate for a top Israeli law firm, in venture capital financing for startups and mergers and acquisitions for both private and public companies.  “The capital markets here are much more complex and so American experience is very valuable for my career.  Many of the partners in Israeli law firms had experience in big U.S. law firms.”  Along with studying, Nir has been a research assistant to Joseph Grundfest, W. A. Franke Professor of Law and Business.  She plans to join Kirkland & Ellis as a corporate associate in New York following graduation.

The Global Lawyer 2
Felipe Costa Rodrigues Neves, LLM ’19, Woongjae Kim, LLM ’19, Silindile Nomfihlakalo Buthelezi, JSM ’19, and Shachar Nir, LLM ’19

Woongjae Kim, LLM ’19, South Korea.  In 2003, Woongjae Kim entered the law program at Seoul National University without a clear goal for his legal career.  It wasn’t until he had completed four years at university and then entered a two-year mandatory national judicial training program for lawyers in 2008 that Kim had his first exposure to the non-academic legal world.  There he externed in court, in the prosecutor’s office, and at a law firm.  And it was then that he decided what he wanted to do: Following service as a military Judge Advocate General officer, which fulfilled his mandatory military duty, Kim applied in 2013 to become a career judge.  As a judge, he hears both criminal and civil cases. In one civil case, he faced an environmental law problem.  “Environmental law is not well-studied in South Korea.  I had to learn on the job, which is difficult.  The workload for young judges is very heavy, like the worst big law firm.  There is not much time to contemplate.”  He chose SLS for advanced legal studies for its specialized environmental law program—and the opportunity to “sit and think.”  He plans to return to South Korea following graduation, where he will resume his judicial duties with his newfound expertise.

Silindile Nomfihlakalo Buthelezi, JSM ’19, South Africa.  Silindile Buthelezi loved high school debate and public speaking, “particularly the presentation of arguments,” she says.  So law school was an easy choice.  Now a legal academic, Buthelezi has been on leave from the law faculty at the University of Cape Town since 2018, when she enrolled in the Stanford Program in International Legal Studies at SLS. Before entering academia, Buthelezi earned her LLB (’07) and her LLM in business law (’11) at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal.  After graduating, training in a law firm, passing the bar, and working as a judicial law clerk, she joined the Cape Town faculty in 2014.  She began by teaching business law and commercial transactions, but soon decided to attend University College London for a year, where she earned an LLM in International Banking and Finance Law in 2016.  With her new degree, she returned to Cape Town and developed her own course in banking law, which she someday plans to develop into an LLM program.  Meanwhile, at SLS she has been focused on her master’s thesis, which she plans to turn into a doctoral dissertation now that she has been admitted to the JSD program.  And when she returns to Cape Town, she intends to emulate her SLS advisor.  “I want to be just like Professor Klausner when I get tenure—highly driven and successful yet laid back in personality—but appropriately demanding and engaged as an academic and advisor,” she says.