What do SLU LAW Alumni think about the Madrid Program?

SLU LAW alumnus Andrew Miller ('13) is currently interning at a Spanish law firm in Madrid. He studied abroad in Madrid while at SLU LAW and obtained the internship after graduation. His firm, AEROIURIS Abogados, has expressed interest in hiring interns this summer from our Summer Law Program. Interested students should contact Ira Herenda Trako for more information.

Find out more about Andrew's experience in Spain in the following Q&A.

Andrew MillerHas studying at Saint Louis University School of Law prepared you to practice law internationally?
Studying at SLU LAW prepared me to practice law in several key aspects, which I discovered by making the trip abroad to work at a Spanish law firm. After speaking to my colleagues and friends here in Spain, I found that the faculty and staff at SLU LAW have in many ways equipped me with the skills needed to succeed in a professional legal environment. SLU LAW specifically helped me by providing the opportunity to obtain a Concentration in International and Comparative Law. The concentration provided a solid foundation on international law and policy that made it easy to jump right into my position as an international lawyer in Europe.

Moreover, the only reason I am currently working here is because of SLU LAW. The available resources at SLU LAW were tremendous and vital in pursuing my goals of working internationally. There is an endless supply of aid and support for those wanting to explore international possibilities. From the Center of International and Comparative Law and the International Law Students Association to faculty such as Professor Thaman, Professor Johnson, Professor Eppinger, Professor Amelung, Professor Dore, and the list goes on. SLU LAW also provided me with the study abroad opportunities I mention below. All of these opportunities, organizations and professors instilled in me the drive and courage to look for international jobs. Regardless if my current job ends up being the last of my international positions, I will be forever grateful for their help and guidance.

Did you study abroad in law school? If so, please explain your experience.
This question is another huge example of how SLU LAW has prepared me to work internationally. I was lucky enough to study abroad twice during my law school career. My first study abroad experience was during the summer after my 1L year in Madrid. SLU LAW's Summer in Madrid program was one of the best experiences of my life. Beyond my personal love of traveling and Spanish culture, it was a great opportunity to meet and learn from actual Spanish lawyers. I feel (and continue to hope) that a professional experience abroad holds as much weight as an unpaid summer internship on a resume, not to mention the additional bonus of earning extra law credit. My second study abroad experience was a semester in Bern, Switzerland. 

Where are you currently working?
I am currently on a one-year contract with AEROIURIS Abogados, an international aviation law firm in Madrid. The firm is split between two areas of law: contracts and liability. I mainly work on the side of international aircraft contracts, dealing with sale/lease transactions, aircraft financing, handling contracts, etc. My main responsibilities are to assist the partner in reviewing and revising contracts, answering client inquiries and drafting relevant documents. It is fairly similar to what one would expect from a first-year associate, however, made particularly exciting by the international nature of it all. It is rather surreal when a representative of an American company calls my firm and compliments me on my English skills. Some of my favorite experiences so far have come from telephone conferences where I listen to representatives from three to four different nations and time zones negotiate terms of a contract.

Do you speak Spanish? If so, how has this helped your career? If not, how has this served as an obstacle?
"Hola, una más cerveza y ¿dónde está el baño?" was about as much Spanish as I knew upon learning I had the opportunity to come work here in Spain. I took a few years of Spanish in high school and further picked some up in my summer abroad in Madrid, but I was still at an elementary level. In the past four months, I have improved my Spanish skills dramatically, partially through hard work and partially through necessity. While knowing English is the greatest asset one can have in the majority of international law, there have been several impediments due to my lack of Spanish proficiency. For starters, the variety of work I am able to do is quite limited. A portion of the reason I am working with contracts is because that is where I'm most useful, due to the fact they are in large part in English. Consequently, this means I have not been able to get much experience in the liability side of the firm beyond some limited translating of case facts. Thus, in a professional sense, while English may be the standard language of international law, additional languages are crucial not only to be marketable, but also to be a successful international lawyer.

What advice do you have for SLU LAW students that are interested in obtaining a job abroad?
Use all of the resources provided to you at SLU LAW. I tried to avail myself to all of the benefits as often as I could and still wish I could have done more. The faculty at SLU LAW is the most helpful (and eager) group of professionals I have come across. If anything, it is useful to just go and bounce your ideas off of someone to see if they can provide you with any insight. I would also suggest brushing up on or starting a foreign language. I know it's difficult in law school. However, there are several groups in St. Louis that provide personalized tutoring. You can schedule a session on the weekend or during an afternoon that you don't have class or work. From what I have learned talking to international professionals, it's important to at least show that you are willing to learn a language and dedicate to it.

Finally, my advice would be just to apply no matter how out of reach you think the opportunity may be. The firm I am at was initially just looking for English-speaking law students from around Europe for a summer. I went ahead and sent my resume and a cover letter expressing my interest and explaining I was a graduate who could come for a year. I never thought I'd get a response, but yet, here I am in Spain at an international law firm.


Several other SLU LAW alumni share their opinion on the Summer Law Program in Madrid: 

Cecilia Caldeira
Real Estate Private Equity Fund

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

Yes, it was an opportunity to see and learn how a civil law structure works. We went to many different Spanish Courts and read about several European legal cases. We also had the opportunity to take other international law classes which further expanded our breath of legal knowledge.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

These learning opportunities not only prepared us for our domestic legal careers but also helped us become contributors to the global legal community. The experience gave us the opportunity to travel and become immersed in a different culture. This enriched our souls and made us grow in unexplainable ways. It was an invaluable experience.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

Yes, absolutely – when's my flight?!?


Angela Catapano Sanders
Associate Attorney, Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C.

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

I would agree that my time in Madrid was extremely valuable! Studying abroad in Madrid not only exposed me to the foreign culture, wonderful food and language of Spain, but I also had the opportunity to really feel like a part of the community in Madrid over the 6 weeks we were there. Not only were the classes that we took enriching and informative, the trips to the supreme court and the constitutional court were very interesting. I loved learning about the different judicial systems in Europe and specifically Spain, as opposed to the United States. The chance to sit in on real court hearings and trials was especially valuable. I became more well-rounded both professionally in my knowledge of international law and justice, but also more well-rounded in my cultural awareness.

We had plenty of time to explore Madrid and other countries like England and Germany. The culture of Madrid was so vibrant and exciting. This is a trip that I will remember for the rest of my life. It is not often that you get the chance to live in a foreign country for six weeks and fully immerse yourself in the culture and the people. I know this was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

Professionally, this trip allowed me to have a better world view of the justice system. There have been many times when I have been able to draw from the knowledge of the foreign justice system and the experiences I gained in Spain in my professional life whether it be in casual professional conversation or in allowing me to think outside the box on a legal issue using the knowledge I gained of international law and justice.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

I would definitely go back if I had the chance! This was an once-in-a-lifetime trip.


Elizabeth Fischer Laurie
Program Analyst, Department of Health and Human Services

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

My time in Madrid was very valuable. First and foremost, spending the summer doing classwork allowed me to be a part time student my last semester of law school (I took one class, clinic, Jessup moot court, and law review). In turn, being part time allowed me to focus on clinic work, law review, and moot court as well as job hunt and still spend time with my family, all of which would have been far more challenging/impossible as a full time student.

Second, my experience in Madrid gave me a different perspective of legal systems around the world. I knew generally that the US was an anomaly and that European laws were very different; however, until I actually spent time learning about civil law and seeing the space where such laws are practiced, I did not fully understand the differences. This experience was unique and valuable. Most people do not know anything about the International Criminal Court, and I have actually watched a case progress there. This often makes for interesting conversation in Washington, D.C. where I now live.

Finally, being there helped me to practice my Spanish language skills, something I would not have done without the SLU Law opportunity. Although I am still not fluent, this experience was invaluable.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

Although I do not work in a traditionally international field, I do work on budgeting for the Indian Health Service, which some would argue is like working with another nation entirely. My time in Madrid taught me to be more patient when working with other governments, something that is directly applicable to my job. Furthermore, I hope to move into a role at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Agency for International Development or the Department of State within the next two years and, obviously, my study abroad experience would be very relevant there.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

Yes I would. I really loved being in Madrid – it is a great city to study in with just enough distractions from school work to be able to successfully balance the two. I think the value vs. cost makes sense; I ended up spending slightly less to get my law degree than if I had not gone. Also, it was nice not to have to fret about finding a summer job between 1L and 2L.


Jack Ritchey
Associate Appraiser, NPV Advisors

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

Studying in Madrid was literally one of the best six-week periods in my life. As somebody born in the U.S. who had never traveled abroad, it was eye-opening to say the least. It's a culturally enlightening experience. I took full advantage of the sights and sounds of the city, and made great friends and memories as travel typically does.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

In a professional capacity, any resume padded with diverse educational experiences are bound to attract attention. More specifically, the trip is essential to those with an eye for international law.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

If I had the choice to go again, I'd probably go and never come back.


Darby Grant
Attorney at Social Security Administration

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

I loved the Madrid program so I always recommend it when people ask.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally? If you had the choice to go again, would you?

I loved the comparative criminal procedure class because we were able to view trials and learn how their system compares to ours. I also loved the Hague portion where we learned about the ICC. It was a great way to cap off the experience.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

Yes. I was able to still do a 6 week internship with a federal judge when we got back from Madrid so I was able to have the best of both worlds- travel and still have a summer internship on my resume.


Asha Natarajan
Health Care Attorney

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable? How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

Yes, it is always a valuable experience to understand other countries' judicial systems when developing a legal skill set. A broader perspective and understanding can never be overstated.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

Absolutely! There are so few opportunities, once established as a working professional, to just leave the country for an extended period of time. I would highly recommend taking advantage of unique opportunities, such as the Madrid study abroad program, to learn how other countries deal with issues like lay juries, mental health system inadequacies and recidivism.


Matthew Bigham
Attorney - Civil Litigation

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

Yes. I didn't have the opportunity to study abroad in undergrad, so I knew that law school was my last chance. Instead of doing paralegal work for little or no pay in St. Louis, I was able to take interesting classes and travel on the weekends.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

It did help me professionally. I was able to meet Judge Wolff and other SLU LAW professors in a much more relaxed classroom environment. Studying in Madrid gives you a chance to become well-acquainted with the professors, which really helps when looking for someone to write a letter of recommendation.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

I would definitely go back if I had the choice to go again.


Benjamin Erwin
Associate Attorney

Would you say that your time in Madrid was valuable?

Yes, studying abroad in Madrid was very valuable. It afforded me the opportunity to see parts of the world I had never been to and to learn about different cultures. In addition, we had the opportunity to learn about the different legal systems employed throughout the world and to examine the processes of our own legal system. Also, the sightseeing and food were incredible. It was a great opportunity to try something totally different and to grow personally and professionally.

How has studying abroad in Madrid influenced you professionally?

After studying in Madrid, I learned more ways to problem solve and how to creatively look at issues from different points of view. It certainly broadened my perspective about the legal world and has helped my problem-solving skills.

If you had the choice to go again, would you?

I would 100% go again; studying abroad was my favorite thing about SLU.

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