Meet Anna Alieksieieva (LLM ’22)

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At Wake Forest Law, we pride ourselves on welcoming students that come from anywhere and go everywhere. But very few come so far to be with us as our international LL.M. students. We sat down and talked with Anna Alieksieieva, a fresh graduate from the Class of 2022, about how she got here and where she’s going.

Where did you attend law school before doing your LL.M.?
I attended law school at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in Ukraine. Kyiv is the capital of our country, and this school is like the Ukrainian version of Harvard Law School. It’s the top number one law school in the whole country.

What is it like going through law school in the Ukraine versus here at Wake Forest Law?
I thought at first that studying here was going to be harder, but the professors helped me so much throughout the process, and the student body, they’re just so welcoming, and it’s just really fun studying here. At Kyiv law school, it was so hard because it’s the top law school, and only 10% of people who apply actually get in. But here, it’s not easier academic wise, but it’s easier psychologically. The environment you’re in is so welcoming and it helps you to adjust to everything. Former Soviet countries don’t have a culture like that, so I enjoyed studying here more than at my previous law school.

Do you have a faculty mentor here at Wake Forest Law?
I can’t say that I have one. I think I have a few of them. Professor Nickles helped me a lot with my job search and, just, with everything. Dean Schneider helped me a lot with my thesis paper. He’s my supervisor and we can talk about politics, academic questions, and life questions. Professor Palmiter helped me a lot throughout the process of studying. He was also welcoming and helped me a lot with different life problems. He’s a genius, and you hope one day that you’ll achieve his level of intelligence and understand everything that he’s telling you. Also, Professor Murphy, she helped me a lot with, just, life. She helped me adjust to this new environment, this new student body, and she helped me to not be afraid to be myself in this environment.

How did having these mentors affect your LL.M. experience here at Wake Forest?
I think that without them it would be completely different. I would feel alone, and they helped me feel like I had a home away from home.

What made you want to study law in the first place?
I have two reasons to study law. First of all, my family had a lot of problems growing up because of my father’s debts to his business partners. His business just collapsed, and it was partially his fault, but his lawyers also did not advise him properly on how to secure his share in a company or how to do business wisely from a legal perspective. We suffered a lot throughout my childhood because of that. And, secondly, my mom alway saw how angry I get when I see injustice. She never told me that she wanted me to go to law school, but when I finally told her that I was considering it, she said she thought that it was the best option for me. She said she always thought that at some point in my life I would go to her and say “Mom, I think I want to go to law school.”

How did you discover Wake Forest Law, and why did you eventually choose it?
I applied to several law schools and I got accepted to all of them with different amounts of scholarship. When it came to choosing between Wake Forest and another school offering a similar amount of scholarship, I chose Wake Forest because of the mentorship program. Every LL.M. student is assigned a JD mentor, and sometimes this mentor was an LLM before, so this person can help you with experiences that are not just academic, but with job search and adjusting to a new environment. I also enjoy that it’s really easy to get close to professors here and to form personal relationships. If something is unclear to you, it’s super easy to get to their office and ask questions. Wake Forest is famous for it, and I didn’t want to study at a big law school where I wouldn’t receive personalized attention. As an international student, I think it’s really important for your questions to be answered.

What has been your most memorable experience while you’ve been here at Wake Forest Law?
I think my most memorable experience is when this whole [war] happened. During the first week I received, like, 100 emails from people I don’t know. They’re either students here, or staff, or faculty. It was really memorable for me because it was the worst week of my life, but this community helped me get through it, helped me with my studies, and helped me with a lot of stuff. I never expected this new country to be so nice to me. As a lot of immigrants may know, it’s really hard to fit in. But, this community made me feel like I came here already as a part of the community, that I didn’t have to do anything to be a part of it, because I’m already a part of it.

Were you involved in any activities outside the classroom?
I was involved with the international law society. I gave a presentation about the Ukrainian legal system and how it compares to the US legal system. I also attended a few of their lectures on major developments, like developments in Ukraine and how it will affect the economy and law worldwide. I was also an active participant in the pro bono expungement clinic. I really enjoyed helping the local community and helping people get a second chance at life. I also got involved with immigration law in the pro bono clinic. I helped translate their brochures and important information in Ukrainian and Russian to help people who need to get immigration advice for themselves without having to pay for legal services. I was also a Wake Forest Law admissions ambassador and the LLM representative for Kaplan bar prep.

Did you practice law in Kyiv before coming to Wake Forest?
In our country, it’s legal to practice law without a full degree and without a license. So you can work as an attorney assistant or as a lawyer assistant, where you basically do the same tasks but without directly representing clients. I started my career during my second year of law school, so by the time I graduated, I had two and a half years of experience. I worked for a trade company in their in-house department. Then I worked as a junior associate, then as an associate in a law firm. I worked a lot with international clients and domestic lines, corporate, IP, tax, contract and commercial law. Right before I came here, I worked for an educational start-up based in Amsterdam. When COVID happened, it became easier to work all over the world. I was basically a chief legal officer, and I maintained all the legal work that the start-up needed.

Where will you be working after law school, and in what area will you practice?
Last week I accepted a position as a first-year associate at the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis in their bankruptcy and restructuring department. So, right after graduation I will go and work in New York then sit for the bar exam next February. I plan to stay there for at least 3-5 years. Bankruptcy is one of the most complex areas of law. I mostly specialize in corporate law, and I feel like if I stay in that area, I will only grow gradually. I think that, at my age, I need to just put myself into unknown environments and challenge myself, because I want to grow fast, and I want to become the best version of myself, professionally, as soon as possible.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about your time at Wake Forest Law?
I would like to say that if any LLM or other international students are considering coming here, I highly advise them to come to this law school. Obviously, I’ve never attended any other law school, but I think it’s a really great option, because you will receive everything that you need: personalized attention, great people around you, great career opportunities, and you won’t feel like you’re alone at this university.