James East, J.D./LL.M. '16
Name: James J. East, Jr.
Year of J.D./LL.M.: 2016
Country of Origin: USA
Law School(s) Attended: University of Miami School of Law (J.D. and LL.M.)
Current Position: Associate at BakerHostetler LLP
Current City: Washington, DC
Relevant past position(s): Associate at White & Case LLP, Washington, D.C.
What Are Your Current Position, Title, and Day-to-Day Tasks?
I am currently a 5th year associate at BakerHostetler LLP (Washington, DC office) in the International Arbitration and Litigation practice. My practice is principally focused on investor-State cases. In that context, my current investor-State cases are based on the U.S.-Peru Trade Partnership Agreement and North American Fair Trade Agreement. In these cases, I am the lead associate responsible for handling any procedural issues that may arise, coordinating factual development, and crafting legal arguments. On a typical day, I am responsible for developing legal strategies and drafting the legal arguments for our pleadings. I also work closely with legal experts to develop their opinions and fine tune our legal theory of the case—whether under international law or applicable domestic law.
My practice also comprises international commercial arbitration matters under the auspices of the AAA-ICDR and enforcement litigation before U.S. federal courts. In the AAA-ICDR cases, I am responsible for researching and drafting legal arguments based on general principles of international arbitral practice and the applicable procedural and substantive laws. With respect to enforcement litigation, I am responsible for carrying out all aspects of our client’s defense, which comprises factual development, legal arguments, and drafting supporting affidavits.
How Did Your LL.M. Studies Help You Build a Successful Career in the Field?
Simply put, and at risk of seeming cliché: everything about the International Arbitration LL.M. positioned me for success. The renowned faculty has a keen ability to recognize students’ sincere interest in pursuing a career in international arbitration and is more than willing to share their expertise and experience to help students actualize their goals. With the LL.M. courses, I garnered broad knowledge in the fundamentals of both investment and commercial arbitration that allowed me to identify and solve the complex issues that I encounter in practice every day. Armed with those fundamentals acquired during the LL.M., I feel confident that I can solve any issue no matter how complex or novel it may be.
When faced with an issue of first impression or seemingly unsolvable arbitration puzzle, I am able to fall back on the friends and professional relationships I established during the LL.M. program. A diverse and extremely talented network of colleagues who have a wealth of experience puts an incomparable knowledge bank in your back pocket. I frequently call upon my fellow LL.M. colleagues to help me work through arguments or ideas, and with each discussion, I leave with a new analytical angle or piece of practical advice that I had not considered.
But so many of the lessons I learned were outside of the classroom. Informal discussions with professors, international moot court coaches, and practitioners allowed me to pick up practical tips for becoming a successful international arbitration advocate. Building those relationships and seeking out the inside view of the day-to-day responsibilities of an arbitration practitioner served as an invaluable intangible asset of the program.
What Was the Most Impactful Experience During your Studies at Miami Law?
Without a doubt, the International Moot Court Program. I participated twice in the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Competition held at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany and once in the Foreign Direct Investment Moot held (in that year) at University of Buenos Aires in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I intentionally focused my energy on International Moot Court in order to not only build as much knowledge of the substantive issues involved, but also to develop the ability to effectively argue a position of first impression. That choice has paid dividends. I have realized that in practice no situation is quite alike, and one is forced to frequently “connect the dots” to arrive at a convincing solution.
What Advice Would You Give an Incoming LL.M. Student on How to Make the Most of Their LL.M.?
Go all in on every possible opportunity the LL.M. affords you. It may sound easy on paper, but, in practice, applying oneself fully to a course load, student organizations, and networking opportunities is a tall task. However, if a student approaches every reading assignment, moot court practice, networking panel, coffee with a professor or fellow students, class, etc. with an aim to foster relationships, grasp concepts with expertise, and hone deep analytical thought—the student will be rewarded tenfold.
In short, make an active effort to participate in everything possible, and invest as much in yourself as the LL.M. program does for its students. There are so many opportunities and you never know when that conversation could lead to an interview, that panelist’s presentation may lead to an academic work on a novel issue, or that coffee with a professor may turn into a life-long mentorship.
How Has the Graduate Experience Impacted Your Current Work?
When I applied and was accepted into the International Arbitration LL.M. program—I suppose, at that time, I did not fully appreciate the gravity of what had occurred. With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that entering the LL.M. program also means entering the ranks of a highly impactful community. The International Arbitration LL.M. obviously has renowned faculty that allows students to learn from true masters of this discipline. But it is clear, now that I am several years removed from graduation, that each LL.M. student was positioned for success as a direct result of our training and skills we acquired. I truly feel as if I am part of an elite community of arbitration practitioners. Each conversation with a fellow LL.M. is illuminating because those in this community are constantly on the forefront of cutting-edge issues.
I wholeheartedly believe the distinguishing features of my fellow LL.M. peers are their innate ability to know the rules of the game and how to navigate this complex area of law. I have seen seasoned litigators at a disadvantage because the style and techniques of arbitration are so unique. The world of international arbitration can be bewildering and jarring to those unfamiliar. Yet, I have seen, as a matter of routine, my fellow LL.M. peers exceed expectations to such an extent that a frequent follow-up question from others is: “How do you know so much about this?” Surrounded by those who operate at such a high level encourages me to constantly strive for excellence.
All this to say, the LL.M. experience sets you apart from the crowd. As a direct consequence of my International Arbitration LL.M. degree, I have immediate credibility. Furthermore, I now find myself as a central figure in a growing arbitration practice that relies heavily on my know-how and substantive acuity to not only win cases, but also drive future business development. Achieving those ends have taken considerable time and effort, but the principles learned during the LL.M. program, as well as the support of my alumni network, have allowed me to flourish.