Tetiana Shamrai, LLM ’11
Welcome to Tetiana Shamrai, LLM ’11, a lawyer from Ukraine who now practices in the city of Ghent, Belgium.
  1. Tetiana, how did you decide to pursue your LLM at McGeorge?

In my final year of legal studies in Ukraine, I attended lectures by American and Canadian legal professionals – judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys – on the U.S. adversarial legal system. We learned the basics of trial advocacy, which we were able to apply at the end of the course during a mock trial. The Leavitt Institute for International Development, the organization that organized the lectures and the mock trial, had an agreement with McGeorge School of Law to offer a scholarship to the top students in the course or the mock trial. I was lucky enough to be among the four finalists who won the mock trial, and one of the two lucky ones who received an invitation to study at McGeorge School of Law in 2010. When I read about the high ranking of the international programs at McGeorge, the trial advocacy program and teaching of advocacy specialization, I felt that it was the right place to be getting my LLM degree.

  1. You had studied law in your home country, Ukraine, before coming to McGeorge. Ukraine has a civil law legal system.  What was it like to study in a common law legal system?

Very challenging at the beginning, interesting along the way, and enriching at the end. I could literally feel my brain “working hard” trying to process the information about the common law legal system.

  1. Did anything surprise you about Sacramento or McGeorge?

I was surprised by how quickly I felt at home in both Sacramento and McGeorge. Sacramento turned out to be a very green and cozy capital with a charming Old Town, an eye-catching Downtown, and a vibrant Midtown. McGeorge proved to be a law school where an individual approach exists not only on paper. The staff of the McGeorge international programs went an extra mile to help new students settle in and share all possible tips and tricks essential for a comfortable life on campus. It is priceless for a newcomer. Most of my questions were answered proactively during the campus tour or via e-mail exchange, so I didn’t have to worry about a thing.

  1. Are there any courses that stand out for you from your LLM studies that were particularly helpful or interesting?  

I was lucky to have professors who were passionate about their subject, so I would not be lying if I said that I would make the same exact choice if I were to choose today or had the opportunity to go back in time and change something. Nevertheless, the Trial Advocacy course taught by Professor Cary Bricker and Professor Jay Leach as well as the Global Lawyering Skills by Professor Mary-Beth Moylan stand out in my memory as instrumental in propelling students interested in trial advocacy towards being  outstanding professionals with hands-on practical skills.

  1. Could you please describe your career path since you received your LLM?  Do you think the LLM contributed to your options?

After graduating from McGeorge in 2011, I returned to my homeland and started working at a law firm in Kyiv. In parallel with my work at the law firm, I coordinated the BUILD Initiative, a program aimed at teaching the basics of the adversarial proceedings to the Ukrainian law students. Later, I was promoted to the Country Director of the BUILD program, and I served in this capacity until the program ended in September 2013. Around that time, I left the law firm and started teaching a course “Adversarial Proceedings” at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, a national research university in Kyiv. I worked there as an Assistant Professor for two years. In addition, I served as an ad hoc legal expert during trainings for prosecutors organized by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in connection with the adoption of the new Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. From 2014 to 2019 I worked for international projects aimed at strengthening civil society (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung) and media in Ukraine (Council of Europe).

Then, I moved to Belgium. The last two years I have been working as a legal advisor in the Division of Policy Making of the City of Ghent. I am one of the project coordinators of the neighborhood budget project as well as one of the two employees responsible for the counter operation of the Association Guide, the support point for Ghent non-profit associations.

I know for a fact that every time I was hired, my McGeorge LLM degree was taken into account, and sometimes it made all the difference.

  1. What would your advice be to a law student who wants to have a career like yours?

Know your fortes. Focus on what you like and what you are good at. Work on your weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to work hard at the very beginning of your career – hard work does pay off in the long run.