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Going global: Moritz grads take their legal expertise around the world

April 5, 2008 | Alumni

It’s no surprise that The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law has sent graduates throughout the United States to live and work.  The Ohio State name travels well in the States.  But the College’s alumni extend well beyond Hawaii and Maine.  We estimate that dozens of Moritz College of Law alumni are living and working overseas.  Some are returning natives, but plenty aren’t.  They work for a variety of law firms and companies.  Some have just moved abroad, while others have been there for years.

We talked to five Ohio State Law alumni who left not only Columbus, but America, and have succeeded in creating thriving careers across the world. Laura Holleman ’92 has been in London for nearly 16 years and is now a leading attorney for Goldman Sachs. Lora McInturf ’03 is an associate at Linklaters in Frankfurt, Germany. Toshikazu Miyamoto ’02 left for Tokyo shortly after graduation, and he now is an associate for Allen & Overy.  Thomas Briggs ’87 has lived in Europe since 1994, and he currently is vice president of regulatory affairs for BP Global Gas. Michelle Freno ’94 has lived in Germany since 1994, and she is senior managing counsel for a software company.

Each person has his or her unique story of how they wound up living and working abroad.  However, most of the alumni we spoke to have a common denominator – they never planned to be where they are.  That fact, they say, has led to their success.  Their ability to be open to new opportunities – no matter where those opportunities take them – has made them who they are today.

Name: Toshikazu Miyamoto

Graduated from OSU Law: 2002

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Position: Associate, Allen & Overy

Moved abroad: 2002

After graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2002, Toshikazu Miyamoto headed to Shanghai, and he is now back in the country where he was raised – Japan.  In just five short years, Miyamoto, now 34, has gained considerable experience and has risen in the field of international capital market transactions.

He is advising and overseeing some of the region’s largest Regulation S/Rule 144A transactions, including a $90 billion deal that was the largest Japanese commercial mortgage-backed security issued to date that was also backed by yen property loans and sold in multiple currencies.

“It is an exciting time to work in Japan, as the Japanese securities market opens up for foreign investors,” Miyamoto said.

Prior to attending Ohio State, Miyamoto attended the University of Minnesota and studied political science.  “Naturally, my interest shifted to the study of law as I learned the dynamic roles that lawyers play in American politics,” he said.

He then began working for a Japanese automotive company in Ohio prior to entering Ohio State. “The College kindly granted me in-state residency status, although I was an international student,” he said.  “I’m still very grateful for the school’s generosity.”

He moved to Shanghai shortly after graduation and began working for Jones Day Tokyo as an associate for two years.  He later accepted a senior manager position at Morgan Stanley Japan Securities.

“Tokyo, along with New York City and London, is one of the world financial centers,” Miyamoto said about what persuaded him to return to his native country.  “Also, all of my family lives in Japan.”

While at Morgan Stanley in 2006, he was offered his current position with Allen & Overy, one of the UK’s magic circle law firms with 2,600 lawyers.  Miyamoto, who speaks English, Chinese, and Japanese, said that he enjoys working at the firm, and it provides him opportunities that he doesn’t think he would otherwise be able to experience if working in the U.S.  “The firm is based in London, and I get to work on European securitization deals at that office for a few months a year,” he said.

Miyamoto said that he returns to the United States about once a year.  He also said that he hopes that, in 2010, he’ll have the opportunity to return to the United States to work.  He expects to take a two-year job with Allen & Overy’s New York office. “As a capital market attorney, it is also important to improve specialized skills in New York City.”

He is married and recently became the father of a baby boy.

Miyamoto said that what he misses most about Columbus is his American “mother,” Dr. Linda Meadows, a former faculty member at Ohio State.  “Linda was my English teacher when I started learning English at a Japanese university in 1993,” he said.  “I decided to pursue further education in the states when she returned to Ohio State, and since then she has been with me in every significant step that I took in my life.  If I had not met her in Japan 15 years ago, I would not have thought about studying abroad, and without her care and support, I would not have been able to complete  a legal education.”

Name: Thomas Briggs

Graduated from OSU Law: 1987

Location: London, England

Position: Vice president of regulatory affairs for BP’s Global Gas

Moved abroad: 1994

When Thomas Briggs ’87 was a second-year law student at Ohio State, he was struggling.  He had  below average grades and lacked direction.  He admittedly was trying to find his way.

“I was probably the worst student in my class if not the history of the law school,” Briggs said.  “But one professor gave me great advice that I follow to this day.  Professor Reichman, who I had for contract law, told me to stop wasting my time taking classes in traditional “bar review” subjects, such as evidence.  He told me that a bar review course will ensure I pass the bar exam.  Instead, he told me to take courses that were interesting to me.  Once I took that advice I enjoyed law school and performed better.”

Briggs has carried the same philosophy over to his professional career.  Instead of following a path simply because others are, he has pursued opportunities that interest him.

Briggs, who is licensed in New York, has spent nearly 14 years living in London working for Enron and BP.  For the last four years he has worked for BP as the vice president of regulatory affairs for BP’s Global Gas business. In that role, he identifies and manages regulatory risk exposure in several countries around the world and also tracks legislative and policy developments for BP’s natural gas supply and trading business.

“Working in England is fantastic,” he said.  “Occasionally I encounter anti-American sentiment in Europe, but it is minor and I have learned to conduct business in a way that avoids these problems. London is also convenient as the time zone is very favorable to working with our Asian and North American teams, and every BP office around the world is accessible with an eight to 15-hour flight from London.”

Briggs said that because England is a common law system it is relatively easy for American lawyers to adapt.  He also added that many of the global financial centers – London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York – share a similar “legal and regulatory heritage” and language that makes it easy to operate.

“Working and traveling to some parts of the world is frustrating at times due to the lack of robust legal processes and protections,” he said.  “There is not the same respect for the rule of law as in the United States, United Kingdom, and other English common law jurisdictions.”

Briggs grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated with a degree in public administration from The American University in Washington, D.C.  The degree’s heavy emphasis on economics, political science, and the operation of legal institutions and governments led Briggs to the Ohio State College of Law.  “I always enjoyed the challenge of confronting difficult problems in order to resolve a problem or to improve something,” he said.  “My legal education has given me the ability and confidence to pursue nearly every challenge.”

Briggs is married to Anna, a UK citizen who is also in the energy business.  They have two children, ages 5 and 7.  He said he expects to stay in London until his children graduate high school.  But after his children are grown, he said that he may consider a more exotic assignment if it interests him.

“To this day I try to pursue opportunities that are interesting to me, rather than ones that adhere to a narrowly defined concept of a legal practice.”

Name: Laura Holleman

Graduated from OSU Law: 1992

Location: London, England

Position: General counsel — Investment Banking Division, Goldman Sachs

Moved abroad: 1992

When moving to London in 1992, Laura Holleman ’92 packed enough items for a “couple of months,” which was exactly how long she expected to stay.

Sixteen years later and still living abroad, Holleman has built a successful career in Europe through hard work and making the most of situations.  By doing so, the 41-year-old has skyrocketed to a top legal role at Goldman Sachs.

“What do they say? ‘It is better to be lucky than smart and it’s great to be both,’” she said.  “But mostly I think a number of unique advantages fell into place for me over here.”

Upon graduation from Ohio State, Holleman joined Sullivan and Cromwell’s New York office, where she had worked as a paralegal and summer associate during her years at Ohio State.  Before she even started in New York, the firm asked Holleman if she would be interested in working for a couple months in its London office.

“It was not my plan by any stretch of the imagination to stay here, but the moment that the opportunity presented itself I didn’t hesitate,” she said.

After all, Holleman had been increasingly interested in working abroad.  As the daughter of an IBM executive, she and her family moved every few years, which included a three-year stop in Germany.  It was then that she began learning to speak German.  Holleman also spent a semester studying in London while attending Ohio State.

Holleman worked on a wide array of projects, with the most influential one being in 1995 when the German government announced its intention to privatize Deutsche Telekom.  Goldman Sachs – which has a strong institutional relationship with Sullivan & Cromwell – was appointed U.S. counsel to the underwriters.  Working on the transaction allowed Holleman to create business relationships with people in the German market that she continues to work with today.

After the completion of the project, Laura joined J.P. Morgan for a year before Goldman Sachs asked her to lead its legal unit that supports investment banking operations in the German-speaking region.  She was asked to become co-head of the European Investment Banking Legal Group in 2001 and promoted to managing director in October 2004.  In 2007, Holleman assumed a new global role as general counsel — Investment Banking Division.  The investment banking lawyers at Goldman Sachs cover everywhere from Latin America to Europe, South Africa to Southeast Asia.  Holleman has recently returned from trips to Moscow, Dubai and Tel Aviv, where some of the newer offices are located.

“It is a lot of travel, and it is a very interesting job,” she said.  “It is also a very interesting time to have this job.  The subprime meltdown started about a week before I started in this new position.  It has not been an easy run, but it has been the fastest five months of my professional career!”

Holleman shares the divisional general counsel role with a colleague in New York, but said that it would be difficult for her to leave Europe.

“I think I enjoy my job more because I am overseas,” she said.  “I’m meeting different people and understanding different cultures.  I love that this job exists in a multicultural environment.”

Name: Michelle Freno

Graduated from OSU Law: 1994

Location: Munich, Germany

Position: Senior managing counsel, BEA Systems

Moved abroad: 1994

Michelle Freno’s second major as an undergraduate was intended to be a “fun” one.  She decided to study German; it complemented a year studying abroad and made for a good excuse to spend a year working in Germany immediately following graduation.

But little did she know that the language would someday be the one she relied upon the most.  Freno ’94 has spent the last 13 years working in Germany.

“I thought I would stay over here for a while, get some good experience, and then go back to the States,” she said.  “That changed when I met my now-husband.  Now we’re married and have two kids.  I suppose this is pretty much permanent.”

Michelle’s husband, Dieter, is an aerospace engineer, and their children are ages 5 and 2.

“Munich is a really nice, clean city,” she said.  “People are very outdoorsy.  We are close to the mountains, and we can get to other countries very easily.”

Freno attended the University of Michigan prior to entering Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law.  At Michigan, she majored in political science and minored in philosophy.  She also enrolled in Michigan’s intensive German program, spent her junior year studying in Munich, and ended up choosing German as her honors major, which entailed writing a thesis.  And for a year after graduating from Michigan, she waitressed and taught English in Germany before moving on to OSU Law.

“I think I always sort of hoped that I might get some international type job,” she said.  “But it was not my original intention to ever end up living over here.”

Before graduating from Ohio State, Freno clerked for a Columbus law firm.  A partner at the firm introduced her to a man who worked for ABB, a Swiss/Swedish power company.  The connection resulted in Freno being offered an internship with the company at its German headquarters in Mannheim.

“After I was there for a few weeks a position opened up and they offered me a job as a staff attorney,” she said.

After about a year and a half, Freno grew tired of Mannheim’s industrial setting and decided to pursue other opportunities.

“I thought I would see what else was out there,” she said.  “And I knew I could always go back to Ohio if I didn’t find something that I liked.”

She accepted a job with a U.S.-based software company, Informix.  She worked in the company’s Munich office, which was the headquarters for Central and Eastern Europe.  She stayed six years, and, when she left, she was the company’s European counsel.  In 2001, the company was bought by IBM, and Freno left shortly thereafter.

She was approached by BEA Systems, a Silicon Valley-based software company.  She’s been with the company six years and now is a senior managing counsel for Central and Eastern Europe.

“I negotiate all the software license and partner agreements for customers and partners in several countries,” she said.  “Anything of a legal nature that comes into the company will end up on my desk.”

Freno praised the work environment across Europe and in her current company.

“I just feel like it is a healthier work-life balance over here,” she said.  “Not that you don’t run into workaholics, because you do.  But here we truly work to live; we don’t live to work.”

Name: Lora McInturf

Graduated from OSU Law: 2003

Location: Frankfurt, Germany

Position: Associate, Linklaters LLP

Moved abroad: 2006

To say Lora McInturf ’03 never planned to practice law internationally would be an understatement.

If only she could have peered into her own future and learned she would live and work in Germany, she admits that she would have learned German.  Or, in that case, any foreign language.

“If you would have told me five years ago that I would be living in Germany, I would have laughed at you,” she said.  “I never would have dreamt this.”

But, nonetheless, what led her to Germany was both her desire to focus her legal skills, as opposed to the more generalist work she was doing in Cincinnati, and her German boyfriend in Stuttgart.  In Frankfurt, Germany, she is practicing law in the investment management group (more generally, funds and private equity) of the London-based Linklaters LLP.

“Everything about my work is international,” she said.  “We have interaction with people all over the world on a daily basis.  I am working on something right now that involves over 30 international jurisdictions.  The variety is what makes it so interesting and fun for me.”

McInturf was raised in New Richmond, Ohio, which is a small town outside of Cincinnati, and attended Ohio University earning undergraduate accounting and finance degrees.  McInturf also received her master’s degree in accounting from Indiana University.

She said that she has been returning to Ohio about twice a year and that she misses her family and friends the most.  “I miss them – and Frisch’s Big Boy. We have a Big Boy in New Richmond and some of the most important things growing up happened at that restaurant,” she said with a laugh.  “I even went to Big Boy regularly with some of my classmates during law school.  It is something that I definitely crave over here.”

After graduating from The Ohio State Moritz College of Law, McInturf accepted a position at a Cincinnati law firm.  She spent three years there in the Business & Finance Department before deciding to move to Germany.

“I started reflecting on my life and asking myself ‘is this what I am really meant to do?’” she said. “I didn’t think it was.”

McInturf said that she thought the best way for her to both begin focusing her legal skills and start in a new country was through education.  So, her start in Germany was by entering the international law and finance LL.M. program at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität’s Institute for Law and Finance in Frankfurt.

As a part of the program, she was required to complete an internship, and she accepted one at Linklaters.  At the end of the internship, she was offered a full-time spot.

Even though she speaks only “some” German, it is not enough to use during regular business, she said.

McInturf enjoys the opportunity to learn about the cultures of the people she works with.

“Visiting a country for vacation is not enough; only when you interact with people on a regular basis on their turf is when you really learn what their cultures are like from the inside.  Everyday is a learning opportunity.”