By Rynn Dupes
Although most UT Law alumni reside in the United States, it’s important to remember that Big Orange Country is international. From Europe to Australia, here are some of our College of Law alumni who are ambassadors of the Volunteer spirit in other corners of the globe.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Although he always had an interest in traveling and seeing the world, Thomas Wilson didn’t expect to find himself living and practicing in the Middle East. A Knoxville native, Wilson graduated from law school in 1995 and moved to Atlanta to join and eventually become a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend, now Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. When Wilson sensed the growth in the construction industry taking off in the Middle East, he convinced the firm to broaden their practice.
“I was bitten by the ‘international practices and disputes’ bug, I suppose,” he says.
Wilson is now a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, where he leads the Dubai office and the firm’s construction and arbitration practice in the Middle East. In this position, Wilson contributes to the major increases in infrastructure going on in that region and works on big projects, such as the construction of the Dohai International Airport. He is also involved in the planning for the American University in Cairo, which is being built to American and international standards.
One of the primary things Wilson has learned during his time overseas is the importance of understanding how and why business ethics differ from one culture to another.
“It’s not uncommon for people from the U.S. or Europe to complain that business ethics don’t exist in this part of the world,” he says, “but that’s a false proposition.”
Cindy Sullivan first got a taste of Australia when she studied abroad at the University of Queensland during her second year of law school. After beginning a career in hospital administration at UT Medical Center, Sullivan was inspired to go back to law school at age thirty. After she completed her law degree in 2004, Sullivan moved with her husband to Australia.
“We got married six weeks after I took the bar exam and moved one week later,” she says. “It was a crazy time.”
After moving to Australia, Sullivan began working at Clayton Utz, a firm with offices all over the country. While there, Sullivan gained experience in civil defense, contract work, financial litigation, personal injury, and more. One notable difference in the Australian legal field is the presence of barristers in the court system.
“It’s a lot like British courts, but with shorter wigs,” she says. In her role, Sullivan made some court appearances, but was primarily researching and readying information for the barristers. “It’s strange to have all this information and know something backward and forward and then have to hand it over to someone else.”
Although Sullivan has taken some time off to focus on her children, she plans to get back to work soon—preferably in a law school. Eventually, Sullivan wants to help with the “tutorials” section of law school courses, which, in addition to lectures, are an interactive part of the curriculum in Australia.
In 1992, René Voigtländer was the first foreign exchange student to graduate from UT Law. Although he initially only intended to stay in the United States for one semester, Voigtländer was able to remain in the country to complete his law degree thanks in part to some help from former dean Richard Wirtz and other college staff.
Although his achievements might suggest otherwise, Voigtländer says, “in my entire life I have have hardly ever been as motivated as I was during my time at the College of Law.” He says his motivation was driven by an environment in which students and faculty work together, unlike his experience with schools in Germany, where passing exams was the thing that mattered most. This easier and more dynamic interaction between people in general is one thing Voigtländer misses about his time in the States. “I appreciated the uncomplicated and amicable way that communication and relationships develop,” he says.
After a career that includes working for the United Nations during the second Gulf War, Voigtländer is now involved in what he considers the most exciting area of law today: energy and infrastructure. Currently, he is a partner at Bird and Bird LLP and is the head of their International Energy and Utilities Sector Group, which he has built from the ground up over the past ten years. In this position, he is part of the German and overall European effort to shift toward renewable and sustainable energy sources and is assisting in solving the problem of how to generate, store, transport, and distribute this increasingly important source of energy in his country and throughout Europe. He is also helping shape and develop the required regulatory framework needed to implement the “energy revolution” triggered by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.
Katie Marchetti didn’t actually begin her law school career at UT, but after a year in Chicago at DePaul University, she decided to change course and transfer to her father’s alma mater. She’s glad she did, because she got the opportunity to interact with many supportive professors, including Becky Jacobs, who inspired her to make a decision that changed her life. Jacobs encouraged Marchetti to go beyond earning her JD and take a risk by traveling to Europe to earn her LLM, which Marchetti did at King’s College London. “Coming to law school at UT was a crucial part of my path,” says Marchetti.
Marchetti began practicing law in London as an associate at what was then Herbert Smith LLP, one of the largest law firms in the world. She is now a director at Gerson Lehrman Group, overseeing work in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She helps advise financial institutions and strategy consulting firms in making the best possible investment decisions by introducing them to macro and regulatory experts globally, including former heads of state.
While she still gets back to America from time to time with her husband and two children, there are things Marchetti misses about living in the United States.
“Just by being outside of your own country, you’re out of your comfort zone all the time,” she says—adding that she also misses the luxury of a separate washer and dryer.
Originally from Michigan, Brenda Morgan’s family made their way to East Tennessee when she was in high school. Morgan chose UT for her undergraduate degree, and from there the College of Law was the obvious next step.
“I didn’t even consider going anywhere else, and I don’t question it to this day,” she says. “I still feel a tie to the university and the College of Law.”
Morgan was influenced by many professors, notably Jerry Black, who inspired her to think about a career in litigation. After practicing in Texas for many years, Morgan decided to go back to school and studied at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy, where she obtained a diploma in international studies.
Currently, Morgan works for the IRS at the US Embassy in Paris. This year the IRS will close its foreign offices, but Morgan will not be returning to the States. Instead she will be analyzing French domestic issues for the State Department as a political assistant.
Although she hasn’t been practicing as an attorney, Morgan feels her legal education plays an important role in her current profession.
“It absolutely prepared me,” she says. “My legal education taught me to analyze a matter from all angles and how to take a problem apart and put it back together again. It provides you with a logical perspective and changes the way you analyze and approach a problem. Law school prepares you to do so many things.”