By Samantha Morales 3L
Third-year TJSL student Jason Miller never imagined he would find himself in Istanbul, Turkey working for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a global powerhouse network of firms spanning 158 countries and delivering assurance, tax and advisory services.
He credits William Byrnes, TJSL's Associate Dean for Graduate & Distance Education Programs, as being instrumental in connecting him to PwC. "Dean Byrnes told me to go forth and conquer,” said Miller, who was in Turkey from May 21 to August 14.
And conquer he did.
Working directly for Umurcan Gago, a partner and director of PwC's International Tax Services for Europe, Miller wrote four chapters over the summer for Lexis Nexus treatises on anti-money laundering, company law, foreign tax and trade briefs, and FATCA. Law students generally edit the chapters after professionals write them, but Miller wrote the four chapters after researching and conducting interviews with professionals in the field, professors and PwC partners from Turkey and NY.
“It was neat having the resources of PwC to help me write these articles," said Miller. "PwC has someone who specializes in every area, and everyone was always accommodating and eager to help me."
Miller is no stranger to immersing himself in foreign cultures with different languages. At the end of his first year, he participated in TJSL's summer study abroad programs in both France and China. However, nothing could have prepared him to witness Istanbul’s streets erupting into riots within days of arriving in Turkey.
“I was caught up in tear gas several times after work when I was just trying to get home," he recalled. "I saw protesters forcibly removed with tear gas, water cannons and riot gear. I witnessed the government shooting water canisters at people and hitting them. Hundreds of people were injured in the first few weeks.
“Every night at 9 o'clock on the dot, the women would bang their pots and pans in the windows to show their support. That's how their society works and it was neat talking to people with different viewpoints."
The riots made headlines around the world. “'We don't know how to protest - this hasn't happened in 30-40 years!'” Miller says people repeatedly told him. He also was repeatedly asked by concerned friends and family if he wanted to return home to the U.S., but he chose to stay in Istanbul and fully embrace the opportunity to witness a pivotal moment in Turkey's history, and broaden his education and perspectives.
Miller also made time to experience the natural beauty of Turkey. "After discussions with Umurcan Gago and several friends I met in Istanbul, I learned that a must-see experience was taking a hot-air balloon ride above the rock formations around Cappadocia," he explained. "Admittedly, I was a bit timid about putting my life in the hands of people I didn't know. We departed at 4:30 in the morning in order to be in flight for the sunrise. There were approximately 70 hot-air balloons in the air that morning, which was an incredible feat in its own right. Many of the balloons seemed to be on top of each other, and it’s surprising there aren't more accidents.
"There are three volcanos in the region, which over time have caused these unique and beautiful rock formations. Other than hearing and seeing the flames shoot into the balloon, I would have never realized we were off the ground. We glided ever so gently in between canyons and rock formations, and rose as high as 7,500 feet! The sunrise was spectacular, and while I had walked through some of the formations the previous day, witnessing them from the air was a breathtaking experience."
Miller is just one of several TJSL students who have chosen to gain real-world experience outside the U.S. in recent years. In 2011, five TJSL students interned at The Hague with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a United Nations court. Two other students did the same this past summer, while another student interned in Geneva, Switzerland at WaterLex, a non-governmental Swiss organization dealing with water governance and human rights that is affiliated with the U.N.
“We strongly encourage our students to enhance the legal education TJSL provides by taking advantage of the many experiential learning opportunities available, including externships, legal clinics, performing other public interest work or arranging for a summer legal position, just as Jason did," said TJSL Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Linda Keller, who recently was a Visiting Professional at the International Criminal Court. "Jason is a stellar example of how our students can and should strategically prepare for their legal careers."
“I don't think any school makes the person - the person makes his or herself," said Miller, a current member of TJSL's Law Review, a prior clerk for the Hon. Judge Steven Denton of San Diego Superior Court and current law clerk for the in-house counsel at Innovus Pharmaceuticals.
“The world is your oyster," Miller said. "It is all about the connections you make and what you put into it. You can sit and be on your laptop on Facebook all day or you can actually try to learn the material from class. If you do the right things and try to better yourself, then you will."