. . . this program changed my life.”
Dual Degree: JD / Master I, Université de Cergy-Pontoise
Member of Paris Bar
Fluent in French and Japanese, Eliza Meeker '07 knew she wanted an international legal education and career. She found a perfect fit in Vermont Law School's dual degree program in Paris. Eliza followed her studies at Vermont Law School with one year at the University of Cergy-Pontoise, France's leading school for business law. Eliza earned a JD and a Master I, a degree in French Law. She also worked as a stagiaire in the Paris office of the Salans law firm during the summer of 2008.
In spring 2009, after a rigorous three days of testing, she passed the Paris Bar and started working in the law in France. She recently was sworn in to the Paris Bar and obtained a lawyer's contract, which means she can sign legal documents, plead in court, take on her own clients and other legal duties. She is the first Vermont Law School alumnus to take and pass the Paris Bar.
As Eliza explains it, "Vermont Law School's dual degree program and the Paris Bar were my dream. So now I am living my dream."
She planned for Paris as soon as she learned of it during her first year at Vermont Law School. Fluent in French since high school, she had to brush up quickly before heading abroad. "I only had time to read a few books and rent French movies from Netflix," she says.
In Paris, she found a more formal style of teaching than she experienced in her VLS years. "Professors lectured for several hours and then left the lecture hall," Eliza recalls, "But in the small seminars I found such interesting teachers who brought French philosophy and the progression of European thought into their discussion of the law."
Law and international affairs run in the Meeker family. Eliza's father, also a lawyer, worked for the State Department and was U.S. ambassador to Romania. Eliza herself came to Vermont Law School with rich overseas experience, including 10 years teaching in Japan.
"I realized that I could stay in Japan for the rest of my life, and very happily!" she says. "But I wanted to get an American legal education and to practice law." An American friend in her Japanese town helped Eliza choose prospective schools. "She was a Vermont Law School grad, and told me about the great professors there," she recalls.
For Eliza, those memorable professors included Linda Smiddy, who encouraged her to apply for the French dual degree program: "Professor Smiddy has had a great impact on me. Going on this program changed my life."
Now, trained in U.S. and French law, admitted to the bars of New York, Washington, D.C., and Paris, and fluent in French and Japanese, Eliza continues to live her dream of practicing law in the City of Lights. "One interesting difference between lawyers in France and the United States," she says, "is that lawyers here wear a black robe when being sworn in, pleading in court and for some other functions."