Maritime LL.M. - The Bait to Retool Career and Land Veteran Lawyer in New Sea


Many of Doug Gaston's happiest memories were made in boats: fishing with his grandfather in the Delaware Bay, landing a 400-lbs. Bluefin tuna off of Cape Hatteras, and coming into a school of King Mackerel in the Florida Keys and having them hit as fast as he could get hooks in the water.

As Gaston's career grew, both his time on the water and fish stocks in his favorite spots were on the decline. Rarely seen were striped bass, and Delaware's state fish – the weakfish – had virtually disappeared.  Effective fisheries management helped striped bass make a comeback but weakfish are still depleted after years of failed management action, and Gaston wants to understand why.  

Now, with two careers in his wake, Gaston is on the cusp of the career equivalent of a treble hook. He is still casting about as to whether it will be in the policy world or advocating for conservation efforts but it will assuredly involve fish and an LL.M. in Maritime Law.

"There was no question that Miami Law was the place to go," says Gaston, tearing into a blackened dolphin filet, with a side of tostones, at Garcia's Seafood on the Miami River. "It was exactly what I was looking for – a program that combines a great law school with an excellent marine school. I am really looking forward to it."

The Maritime Law LL.M. has its core in admiralty, law of the sea and coastal law. Electives span interests from marine insurance and maritime personal injury to oil and gas contracts and negotiations to marine ecology, environmental law, and climate change. Courses such as ocean policy and coastal zone management are taught at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, one the leading academic oceanographic and atmospheric research institutions in the world.

The world-renowned attorney Professor Bernard Oxman, who recently represented The Philippines in the arbitration of the South China Sea dispute, chairs the program. Dr. Daniel Suman, whose work focuses on coastal management, is the professor of Marine Affairs and Policy. Suman leads a summer course on water resources law and policy, which takes place in China and Vietnam.

Miami Law is uniquely positioned in the maritime world: the city is the cruise ship capital of the world, with all the key businesses located minutes from the Port of Miami. It is home to one of the world's largest single-ship cruise terminals and the top cargo gateway of the Americas. Every year Miami attracts visitors from all over the world to its yacht and boat shows, and cruise ship and shipping conferences. The metropolitan area is also one of the world's largest privately owned and operated free trade zones.

Gaston has never tried to meld his professional life, with his personal passion for fishing and the water before. After graduating from Temple University in 1983 with a Bachelor's degree in Radio, Television, and Film, the Pennsylvania native went into television production and programming.

In 1989, Gaston entered the J.D. program at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Before graduation in 1992, he wrote for the law school's publication The Docket, made Villanova Law Review, and was chair of the Villanova Black Law Students Association.

After clerking for a federal judge, he spent his next few years out of law school negotiating and drafting documents for multi-million-dollar debt and equity securities offerings, public merger and asset purchase and sales transactions as an associate at Morgan Lewis and Bockius in the Business and Finance Practice Group.

In 1996, Gaston joined Comcast Cable Communications, first as Assistant Deputy General Counsel and, over the next two decades climbed to Senior Vice President and General Counsel, where he directed a team of attorneys supporting the company.

For the past six years, he has taught as an adjunct professor at Villanova, developing and teaching a curriculum for a 2L and 3L course on principles and practice points for the in-house counselor.

Since leaving Comcast, Gaston has spent the time wisely: refreshing and recharging his batteries and is now ready for retooling.

“My goal is to marry my experiences as a television producer and a communications lawyer with my passion for fishing and boating to pursue a third career in marine conservation and fisheries management,” Gaston says.

When he first applied to the Maritime program, it was a testing toe in the water to see if it was the right thing to do.  Now, he is more excited than ever about the possibilities that the degree will open.

Learn More: LL.M. in Maritime Law.