A Global Community of Graduates
Graduates of UW Law’s LL.M. and M.J. degree programs share their varied backgrounds and what inspired them to become Huskies.
Master of Laws (LL.M.)
Students like Stephanie Turcios, Tripti Sinha and Daniel Paul Scida come from near and far to participate in UW’s year-long Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs. The seven program options — Asian and Comparative Law, General Law, Global Business Law, Health Law, Intellectual Property, Sustainable International Development and Tax Law — allow accredited domestic and international lawyers to specialize in today’s most vital law topics.
For Stephanie Turcios (J.D., LL.M. in Tax Law) it’s all about family.
“The number one thing about me that shapes most every interest I have in the law is family,” says Stephanie Turcios, ‘23, J.D. and LL.M. in Tax Law. “Many people underestimate tax law and how important it is in estate planning, and how important estate planning is to take care of families in hard times.”
Turcios came to UW as a transfer student from Seattle University. A paralegal for eight years, she worked for UW alums and appreciated their thoughtful, client-driven approaches and commitment to diversity and inclusion. “The University of Washington was a school I ultimately wanted to attend,” she says.
Turcios notes the support she received from Professor William Covington, Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in navigating and connecting to resources and helping her to decide what types of classes to take. He also encouraged her when she asked about increased collaboration between BIPOC students in the law school and other professional schools at UW. “He said they’d heard that request before and asked me if I was willing to participate in the planning,” she remembers.
That led to one of Turcios's proudest accomplishments: helping to organize events aimed at fostering community. She mentions that Dawn Bell, assistant to the dean for DEI, and Dr. Elba Moise, Inclusion and Community Program Manager at the Foster School of Business, played instrumental roles. “I learned so much about planning and management and how to execute a large event easily,” Turcios says.
In her classes, she found Professor Terry Price’s practical approach to family law outstanding. She also appreciated Professor Lisa Kelly’s holistic teaching on child advocacy. “The prevention piece is what I am passionate about,” she says.
With her law degrees, Turcios wants to help families to become better prepared and to care for their loved ones. “My stepmother is Mexican, my father is American, and I’m married to a Canadian,” she says. “I also lost my mother to cancer when I was young. Luckily my dad was the breadwinner, so it wasn’t a financial shock to the family. Cross-border planning is complicated, and many people don’t think about the impact of failing to plan if you leave young children behind.”
Tripti Sinha (LL.M. in Global Business Law), deeply values what she’s gained at UW.
Originally from India and working for a U.S. senior living company, whose services include assisted living and memory care, Tripti Sinha wanted to grow in her role as the only in-house legal person. “The whole idea in coming to UW was to make myself more useful,” she says.
The decision involved working while pursuing a degree full-time. Sinha credits the support of her colleagues for helping her to do both. The program also made the difference, and the Summer Institute in Transnational Law and Practice before starting the LL.M. program proved especially valuable. “It was amazing to have the professors come in and talk about the classes they teach,” she says.
The program flexed to meet Sinha’s needs. “The graduate services were really helpful,” she says. “With thousands of people applying, they helped me figure out what would suit me and how my quarters would work.” Within the program’s customizable framework, Sinha thrived. She received the Global Business Law (GBL) Academic Excellence Award and finished with the highest GPA in her cohort.
For Sinha, the practicums and real-life scenarios brought the curriculum to life. “The classes fit into the things I’m interested in, and I loved all my professors,” she says. “They try to understand what you want to do on a day-to-day basis and what would be helpful for you.”
Volunteerism is also important to Sinha. She started volunteering at her neighborhood legal clinic when she moved to the United States. “It’s not a lot of time that I’m able to give, but I enjoy helping people understand their legal rights,” she says. “I know those people now, and I know the problems they have, and all the volunteers meet up, and it’s the kind of thing you cannot pull back from.”
Sinha is also all in for her Husky community. “What a beautiful community of peers,” she says. “My class has people from across the world, people I would never normally meet. I now have friends passionate about civil rights or crazy fanatics about tax. I have a classmate who is a judge in Kenya. Such a diverse group of people with so many ideas brings so much to this community. Learning-wise, it’s been the peak of what you can have at a graduate-level program.”
Daniel Paul Scida (LL.M. in General Law) is ready to be of service.
A practicing attorney in Australia interested in prosecution, Daniel Paul Scida came to the UW to broaden his knowledge. “The U.S. has different opportunities than I have in my own country,” says Scida. As part of his coursework, he’s been involved with homicide cases in the Whatcom County prosecutor’s office. He says learning about how those cases work has been a highlight during his time at UW.
Scida’s UW immigration class with Affiliate Instructor R. Andrew Free also gave him new information and perspectives. “I was an immigration official in Australia for the federal government,” he says. “So, my experience was different, and I learned a lot by discussing matters with Free, and he linked me up with an immigration law firm in Seattle.”
In another class, theories of justice, Scida focused on war criminals and the failed prosecution of the Nuremberg trial. Having taught constitutional and administrative law, he also took some constitutional law courses. “First amendment law, free speech, free expression, it’s all very different from where I come from,” he says. “Lots of criminal cases came up, which I didn’t expect.”
What drives Scida is a desire to serve the public, whether in Australia, the United States or elsewhere. “I’ve never been interested in working for a company,” he says.
At first, Scida worried about feeling like an outsider in the Whatcom County prosecutor’s office, but he found common ground. “It’s a shared goal of what can we do to enforce the law to keep the community safe, and it also goes the other way of making sure the system is fair and not unjustly sentencing or convicting people,” he says.
Next, Scida will work as a deputy prosecuting attorney with the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in Olympia. At some point, he also may teach again, engaging students in criminal law, constitutional law and administrative law.
Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.)
Victoria Gonzalez and Ziyang Liu represent the kinds of diversity of experience and backgrounds that the UW’s year-long Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.) program draws. Offering non-lawyers the knowledge and qualifications they need for their law-related work, the program gave Gonzalez and Ziyang a pathway for reaching the next milestone in their respective journeys.
M.J. graduate Victoria Gonzalez passes the test.
“I’ve been out of school for so many years. Life is different from when I was an undergrad — I have two tiny humans to provide for,” says Victoria Gonzalez. Getting her M.J. was a test of sorts. Along with increasing her knowledge related to human resources and employment law for her job with the City of Seattle, she also wanted to get a sense of the caliber of the work and to see if she could do it.
“I wanted to prepare before jumping into a three-year J.D. program,” she says. Law school has long been Gonzalez’s goal.
It started with a political theory course at UCLA in her home state of California that got her thinking. “I’m first generation,” says Gonzalez. “Both my parents were illegal immigrants, I’m part of the LGBTQ community, I’m a woman, I’m Mexican, and I have an older sister who is disabled. Being the conduit for my family, having to advocate without knowing what I was doing, I realized I wanted to change things for my family and our communities.”
With that realization, Gonzalez started to do a lot of volunteer work at legal aid clinics, as an escort for Planned Parenthood clinics, and more. After resettling in the Seattle area, she spent one year as an assistant canvas director fundraising for organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood and Lambda Legal.
While Gonzalez loved the work, she did not appreciate the long hours, low pay, or the nonprofit sector’s power dynamics. She wondered, “Why can’t people get a living wage for this work? I also noticed that many of the top-tier individuals in some nonprofits were non-BIPOC and not highly affected by what the ACLU and other organizations were fighting for, which I think played into why they would overwork many of their field people.”
Believing there had to be a better way, Gonzalez started working for the City of Seattle. Beginning in a temporary role at the front desk, she quickly moved into a permanent position in employee and labor issues and saw the potential for impact in those areas of the law. After nearly a decade with the city, helping to craft policy and resolve issues, her manager, director, and family supported her in attending the UW M.J. program. For her, it offered a happy medium to allow her to work, go to school, enjoy her family and gain skills she could apply immediately. It also taught her that she could succeed in law school.
One example is her experience in her negotiations class. “When you’re a BIPOC student, someone from a very diverse background, historically and still dealing with oppression, and you start succeeding, you have imposter syndrome,” Gonzalez says. “Professor Myhre helped me get rid of that and let me know that I was being effective and other classmates were looking at me as an example. The class was about more than negotiating. It was about life skills and empowerment.”
M.J. graduate Ziyang Liu finds his voice.
“To maintain authority, it is best for students not to disagree with professors in public places such as classrooms or lectures,” says Ziyang Liu, speaking of his East Asian educational experiences. “The classroom atmosphere of UW is more open, and the professors are very willing to have discussions where students can have different views.”
Liu got his M.J. as a bridge between undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon and a Ph.D program that he will soon embark on in China focused on law. “The M.J. allows students to learn and understand how law students think and research,” he says. "This is very helpful for me in transitioning from being a history major to concentrating on law and also to help in learning how to do professional academic writing in advance of my Ph.D. program.”
When he started at the University of Washington, in addition to the curriculum, Liu appreciated the support he got in learning how the program works and how to choose classes. As Liu looks forward to returning to China, many things will stick with him. In the areas of learning, he says, “I think the two most important things that my study in the United States brought me are critical thinking and the courage to express my own opinions.”Liu also appreciates the Pacific Northwest’s unique natural areas and the multiculturalism he encountered. “I communicated with many people from other cultures and made friends,” he says. “I think understanding other customs and ways of thinking can also provide a lot of value for my future research.”