With 19 international students enrolled in the Master of Laws (LLM) program this semester, the largest LLM class in recent memory, it is a history-making year for Seattle University School of Law. These students come from 11 different countries, representing every inhabited continent.
Graduating from the LLM Program allows international students who have earned a law degree in another country to sit for the bar in many U.S. states, including Washington and California, without having to earn a JD. About half of the incoming students have opted for the LLM in American Legal Studies, which focuses on understanding the American system of law. The other half chose the LLM in Technology and Innovation, which focuses on topics such as cybersecurity, digital commerce, and financial technology, and can also be taken by attorneys who are licensed to practice law in the U.S. and want to broaden their legal knowledge.
Coursework can be completed in one year through the full-time program, or over two years through the part-time program.
This year, the LLM students hail from Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, China, Gambia, Germany, India, Kenya, Mexico, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
“Foreign graduate students enrich conversations in our classrooms with the wealth or comparative legal knowledge they bring to Seattle University,” said Seattle U Law Professor Sital Kalantry, who is also associate dean of International and Graduate Programs. “All our students benefit with the expanded international networks our LLM and SJD students bring with them.”
Here are a few of the new faces you might see around campus.
Nesar Ahmad Salik is originally from Afghanistan but has been living and working in Seattle since the Taliban takeover of his home country in 2021. Salik received a Bachelor of Laws from Salam University in Kabul, which allows him to practice law in Afghanistan. He worked as a senior legal interpreter and translator in Kabul, with more than four years of experience in the legal sector, including interpreting for the Presidential Palace, the Attorney General’s office of Afghanistan, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. He has also interpreted for high-profile events involving the former Afghan government and its international allies.
When the government fell to the Taliban, Salik moved to Seattle and started working as a service coordinator for Consumer Direct Care Network. Coming to the U.S. as a refugee and going through the immigration process — he is applying for both asylum and for a Special Immigrant Visa, which is granted to people who have worked with the U.S. government — inspired Salik to pursue immigration law, where he can use his language interpretation skills to help future immigrants and refugees.
“I had a really hard time finding legal assistance when I immigrated,” he said. “This taught me that I can be a source for helping people who need it the most.”
An American education had long been Salik’s dream, and he believes Seattle U Law is the best place to build his legal career.
“I’m really excited to start my lessons,” he said. “Career-wise, if I study here, I will know a lot about the opportunities in the area and will be successful in the job market. I could find very good career opportunities. I will be able to achieve my goals and get where I want to be.”
Qing Peng (Rachel) Wang came to Seattle from China’s Hebei Province more than five years ago with her family after her husband received a job here. She now works in the tech sector but has nursed a goal of becoming a lawyer. With two children and a full-time job, she is looking forward to the flexibility of the part-time LLM program.
A former human rights lawyer, Wang’s legal career was one of the reasons she left China.
“It can be dangerous,” she said. “Human rights lawyers in China can end up being jailed by the government.”
Wang hopes that by becoming a lawyer in the U.S., she can use her legal knowledge to aid imprisoned attorneys and human rights advocates in China.
“Maybe the next step will be to look for a nonprofit to help me help the human rights defenders,” she said. “It’s my duty to help them.”
In her spare time, Wang uses social media to educate the world about human rights violations happening in her native country. She worries for her parents back in China and hopes for an end to one-party rule.
“I want to learn about American laws and work with colleagues in China on how to form a democracy,” she said.
Oksana Salo had just earned her Master of Laws and the right to practice law in her native Ukraine when she followed her husband to Seattle in 2011. Although she had to restart her legal education in a new country, she never gave up her dream of becoming a criminal lawyer.
“All the time, I thought, ‘I want to practice law,’” she said. “I want to help people, protect their rights, and make sure justice is served for all.”
After earning a paralegal certificate from Highline College in Des Moines, she worked with domestic violence survivors and immigrants at a nonprofit. For the past two years, she has worked in the District Court Unit of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, first as a legal administrative professional and now as a paralegal.
“I heard great feedback about Seattle U Law,” she said, noting that she has worked with many alumni who serve as attorneys in the prosecutor’s office. “The professors are knowledgeable and help you digest the material. All the advisors are so welcoming. This is the place to go to law school.”
Salo is excited that the part-time LLM option will allow her the flexibility to continue working full-time as a paralegal while raising her four children. She is especially thankful for the support and encouragement of her family and colleagues as she takes on law school.
“I am grateful to Seattle U Law admissions for having trust in me,” she said.
But Salo is not only committed to bringing justice to criminal cases in the United States. Whenever the war in Ukraine concludes, Salo would consider returning to assist with possible tribunals to prosecute alleged Russian war crimes.
“If I were there, I would want to work with survivors,” she said. “There can’t be any justification for the war Russia brought to Ukraine and for Russia’s horrible crimes. Please keep Ukraine in your minds and help however you can.”
Ravish Sran comes to Seattle University from Melbourne, Australia, where he has operated an immigration consultancy for the past 15 years, representing immigrants to Australia at migration tribunals. Sran has an Australian law degree, but his new goal is to practice law in the U.S.
He chose Seattle University School of Law because he fell in love with the campus and “the vibe of the university.” Walking around a quiet campus tucked in the middle of a big city reminded him of a similar college back home.
Sran hopes to open an immigration law firm here in the U.S. and connect it with his agency in Australia. He would also like to sit for the bar exam in India, where he was born and completed his undergraduate studies, so he can open a third office there, with the idea that people will immigrate between the three countries.
“If I know the law for all three countries, I can help people move from one country to another,” Sran said.
He noted that a bridge between the three makes sense, as the U.S. Constitution inspired Australia and India when they sought independence from the British government. Additionally, there are similarities when it comes to trade and the types of workers needed, such as tech workers.
“I want to help people the way I’m doing in Australia, so they don’t come through dangerous routes,” Sran said.
His desire to work with immigrants was partially inspired by his own immigration to Australia from India in the early 2000s. He has also witnessed firsthand the struggles of several friends, who immigrated to the U.S. years ago to work as doctors and are still trying to obtain green cards.
“There’s not enough guidance for people who want to come here,” he said.
Johannes Huschka, born in Stuttgart, Germany, earned law degrees from schools in both Germany and Scotland. He worked in corporate litigation in Frankfurt and was a corporate research assistant in Hamburg.
Last summer, he spent three months in Seattle working with the Housing Justice Project, which provides pro bono legal help to people at risk of eviction. The experience changed Huschka’s career outlook.
“It was very new for me. Up until then, I was working for big companies, where you don’t really meet your clients,” Huschka said. “Working at the Housing Justice Project helped me get perspective on people’s problems and on what’s important. It helped me grow personally and professionally.”
He noted that eviction and homelessness are bigger issues here than in his home country, where it is more difficult for landlords to oust tenants.
“In Germany, no one needs to be homeless because there’s state support. Here, it is easier for people to fall through the cracks and not get help,” he said.
Huschka chose to study law in Seattle because his fiancée lives here. When he began looking at local schools, Seattle University’s social justice message spoke to him.
“I want to make use of my education to help people,” he said.