Interview with former trainee: American lawyer studying at the National University of Singapore (NUS) towards his Master in International Business Law joined forces with the staff at Gencs Valters Law Firm.
Q: Bogdan Enica, can you tell us more about your background?
A: I am a newly admitted New Jersey attorney studying at the National University of Singapore. I was practicing Immigration Law in Canada since 2005 and involved in foreign recruiting prior to that. I got my major in Economics and concentrated in international law during my Juris Doctor. I have studied law in US, Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and China.
Q: You have practiced Immigration Law in Canada, got admitted to the Bar in the US and now you are studying law in Singapore. Why Singapore?
A: I am actually studying in Shanghai, China at the moment, towards the NUS (National University of Singapore) degree. I believe that Asia has a great potential and the business volume with Asia will only increase in the coming years. The European Commission mentioned China as the EU's second trading partner and, by far, the EU's biggest source of imports. More and more attention is being given to the trade relations with China, and Asia in general.
To return to your question, Singapore is the second biggest financial center in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world. The World Bank has named Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business, and ranks Singapore the world's top logistics hub. Singapore is also the world's fourth largest and second Asian largest foreign-exchange trading center.
So, studying about international business law, in an Asian context, could not be done better anywhere else than in Singapore. If we are adding the fact that NUS Law is ranked in the top 10 law schools in the world (ahead of Cornell University, University of Sydney or University of Toronto) it comes naturally that the LLM program at NUS is a good choice for a truly international lawyer.
Q: Are there any differences between working for a Latvian Law firm and an American one?
A: So far I had the chance to experience working with American, British, Canadian and Chinese law firms. And, to be honest, it is not so different. You see the shows on TV about the big American firms and you think that every firm is like that. The reality is different than the movie. Some cases are not so exciting as you would expect, and there is usually less drama in the office than in the TV series. Being a lawyer is not only about litigation. It is also about research, writing, and administration. More or less all the firms around the globe operate in a very similar fashion, regardless the number or employees or the yearly income.
Q: How would you compare our law firm in Riga (Gencs Valters Law Firm) with any other firm you worked for?
A: I liked the honesty of people at your firm, the way they interacted with each other and, why not, with the managing partner. It is hard to find such an atmosphere in China, for example. I think the most important thing in the operation of a law firm is that the lawyers and the staff are dedicated, knowledgeable and innovative. And I believe your firm is not lacking at any of these aspects.
I actually enjoyed being at Gencs Valters Law firm (GVL): nice offices, experienced lawyers, a great team, and an impressive law practice in the heart of a Baltic state. I am happy with my decision to join GVL.
Q: If given the chance, would you come back to work in Latvia?
A: Sure, working in Latvia is not something that I rule out. I think that the economic and tax environment may be appropriate for more and more international and multinational companies to do business with Latvia. And, of course, if there is a need for international lawyers, I am open to working in Latvia. I was also contemplating teaching a private international law or an international tax law class in Riga.
Q: How was it possible for a common law lawyer like yourself to work in a civil law country?
A: Aside the differences, you will be surprised how many common grounds are between common law and civil law. I am used to deal with civil law attorneys as I was studying in France and in China. I believe that the common law, putting aside its body of laws, is a system of thinking. For example the International Court of Justice clearly mentions that its judgments are not binding on future decisions but, nevertheless, in any pleadings at ICJ level you will see previous cases that are cited as "persuasive". And these cases usually "persuade" very well, as often the judges are citing previous cases in their decisions. I personally believe that international courts are applying principles of interpretation that are based more on precedent rather than jurisprudential.
The whole system based on precedent and the party driven litigation creates, in my opinion, a system of thinking and acting. If we add the fact that a huge number of cases are argued in an arbitral forum rather than a national court, we can see how the two systems are quite entangled when we are talking about international transactions and international litigation/arbitration. Many international conventions have incorporated both civil law and common law elements. And I am talking about CISG, CCOCA, UPIC, etc. I believe that advocacy; research and writing skills are used in both systems and are important for any successful lawyer. I also believe that an international lawyer needs to have experience both in the common law and the civil law system.
Q: What did you take home after your time in Latvia?
A: Any successful experience will make a lawyer a better professional as well a more experienced person. There is no way you can replace the experience of working in a different country, working with lawyers from different backgrounds learning about how justice is done in a place of the world where you don't usually practice. I believe the short time I spent at GVL, will definitely be influential on my future career and activity as an international lawyer.