Georgetown University Law Insight
Sibilla Grenon graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Modern History before pursuing a postgraduate law degree at Georgetown University. With a plethora of legal and non-legal experience under her belt, she hopes to join law firm Ballard Spahr in Washington DC following her Bar exam.
What was your experience studying at St Andrews like? How did you find your degree and what societies were you involved in?
My experience at St Andrews was overwhelmingly positive and fulfilling. Attending a university in a small seaside town composed of an international student body is a unique experience in itself. The university’s traditions and societies gave me an opportunity to feel like I was part of a greater community, and the people I met and became friends with were a defining element of my life.
Modern History was an exciting course to study, and I mostly picked my classes based on the professors by whom I was most enlivened. I wrote a dissertation in my final year and my advisor (Dr Stephen Tyre) remains one of my favourite teachers to this day. In my final year, I was also a research assistant and enjoyed contributing to a more advanced body of work.
During my time at St Andrews, I was a member of the St Andrews Riding Club and competed in BUCS events with my teammates. I was also head of PR for the St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament (loved my committee and co-heads). Note that I was an enthusiastic horse rider and a terrible polo player.
Why did you decide to convert to law after your degree and how did you choose where to study and practice?
I wanted to acquire a valuable skillset that would open doors in many industries without requiring a full-on commitment to one profession. In other words, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but I kinda-sorta wanted to be a lawyer, maybe.
Studying in the United States made the most sense in light of my attitude and nationality. Granted, three grueling years of law school are the epitome of commitment but I did not feel I would be constrained to a single opportunity upon completion of my degree. Many law school graduates practice law for a few years, move in-house, or go into consulting, banking, start-up ventures etc. The vast array of options and opportunities represented the greatest draw because I wanted to keep as many doors open as possible.
How did you find your law degree at Georgetown University Law Centre? Was it a jump from your undergraduate degree?
I would be lying if I said law school is a walk in the park. Nonetheless, it is one of the best decisions I have made and is one of the greatest investments I have ever made in my future. Georgetown is home to some of the brightest minds in the legal profession. Learning from and with these people was a privilege and a challenge. The Law Centre is in Washington DC and, by sheer geographic luck, this means that students have access to government agencies, courts, and large companies, and the internships therein.
My first semester was a major, unexpected jump that hit me like a train. It took significant practice and discipline to learn how to board the train. Most of my peers had a work ethic and stamina that I had not fully developed as an undergraduate. Law schools in the US are the champions of the Socratic method and many (Georgetown included) continue to impose grading curves for finals. This stood in stark contrast to my gentler academic experience at St Andrews.
What legal and non-legal work experience have you gained which has supported your personal and professional development?
Prior to attending St Andrews, I interned for a senator on Capitol Hill. This experience taught me the value of clear communication and advocacy. It also taught me that I am no politician. During my gap year pre-university I worked at a clothing store and saw how important it is to be able to sell something. It is all about the narrative. I then spent all my money traveling and completed a language immersion program in Munich. Money well spent.
While at St Andrews, I was not one of those super-on-top-of-it, summer-internship-lined-up types. I had no idea what I wanted to do: one summer I was a wilderness trip leader and another I worked at a law firm reviewing subscription agreements for real estate contracts. I also worked as a legal intern for the General Counsel of a winery which solidified my ambition to pursue law.
While in law school, I interned for the International Bar Association in London and in the office of the legal adviser of the Department of State in investment claims and international disputes. I was also a summer law clerk at a law firm in DC and interned in a judge’s chambers at the Court of International Trade. Each of these experiences was enriching: I learned to write, think, and speak like a lawyer.
What are you looking forward to after graduation and what areas of law are you considering?
I am looking forward to 29 July 2021, the day after I take my bar exam. Freedom awaits. Graduating from law school is incredibly exciting but somewhat anticlimactic since becoming a practicing attorney requires the passage of the bar 10 weeks thereafter.
Aside from that, I look forward to starting as an associate with my firm, Ballard Spahr in DC, at the end of September. Knock on wood, fingers crossed, wishing upon a star because this is all dependent on my being admitted to the DC bar.
The areas of law that I find most appealing are the overlap of Intellectual Property/data security and international litigation. Any transnational data breaches pique my interest. Privacy regulations (or lack thereof) of large data-driven platforms are black holes that will require filling.
Do you have any advice for students considering law and specifically interested in studying in the United States?
Talk to someone who has done it.
My application process felt strained and uncertain. I absolutely love St Andrews generally, but I was not guided in my application process to US law schools. If anything, I was advised to apply for training contracts in London (if you want to be a solicitor in the UK, that IS the route) but received little guidance in applying for any “alternative” program, even in Canada. Attending law school in North America is unlike other systems: you must have an undergraduate degree, take the LSAT for entry, and then dedicate three years to earn your juris doctor. It is a valuable professional credential with many exit opportunities if you can stomach the price tag associated with the education.
Ultimately, I was hugely lucky to have a friend who did his Masters at St Andrews and attended Georgetown Law a year ahead of me. His guidance and support were essential to my enrolment and I consequently advise anyone interested in a US legal education to consult someone in law school or someone who has completed law school. If you do not know anyone, message me.