Mulualem Getachew Adgeh’s extensive career in foreign affairs includes representing Ethiopia, his home country, in negotiations for the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration and working on the country’s appeal for accession to the World Trade Organization. His work solidified his desire to build a career in international law and led him to pursue an LL.M. degree in the United States.
“There is an enormous influence of the U.S. legal system and school of thought in the international law,” Adgeh said. “Although my country is more influenced by civil law countries like France, international law was massively developed after or during the creation of the United Nations where United States had played a grand role. It is a plus for anyone who wants to pursue international law to thoroughly study the U.S. legal system.”
Adgeh says he first learned about the LL.M. in U.S. Law degree at the University of St. Thomas School of Law from colleagues Solomon Legesse ’16 LL.M. and Samuel Woldemariam ’16 LL.M. After hearing about their positive experiences, he started to wonder if the program might be a good fit for him, too.
“I started to research about the school and its culture,” Adgeh said. “It was fascinating to learn about St. Thomas’ goals and mission in relating faith and reason to advance the common good of the society.”
When he became an LL.M. student a few years later, he discovered firsthand how St. Thomas Law’s mission and focus on creating a supportive law school community make it a unique experience for international students.
“The professors give special attention to LL.M.s and they even assign special office hours for us so that we can ask and interact with them freely,” Adgeh said. “They are so interested to hear our perspectives from the standpoint of our legal systems, and they nudge us to actively engage with J.D. students both in the classroom and out of the classroom.”
He says participating in the Mentor Externship Program was a highlight of his time as an LL.M. student. The mentor program, which is part of the curriculum, pairs each student with a lawyer or judge in Minneapolis.
Adgeh was paired with Judge Stephen L. Smith of Minnesota’s Second Judicial District.
“I got the opportunity to observe court procedures, had plenty of conversations with him on vast varieties of topics, and he also introduced me to his colleagues,” Adgeh said. “It was an extremely helpful experience in understanding how the legal system functions in practice.”
During the spring semester of Adgeh’s year in the LL.M. program, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, he was a student in the Catholic Social Thought and the United Nations legal clinic which is led by Professor Teresa Collett. The course culminates each year with a one-week lobbying trip to the U.N. headquarters in New York City. The trip had to be canceled due to the pandemic, but Collett was able to arrange video conferences with senior diplomats and permanent representatives to the U.N. from various countries.
“It was still quite an insightful opportunity to understand current global hot topics and how countries are grappling in addressing those challenges with limited resources and in a polarized environment,” Adgeh said.
After earning his LL.M. in U.S. Law degree in May 2020, Adgeh decided he wanted to stay in Minnesota to pursue a J.D. degree at St. Thomas Law.
“Once I stepped in and started to learn more about U.S. law, the quality of legal education at St. Thomas, the kind of attention you get from the professors and the job prospects – these were appealing factors for me to pursue a J.D.,” Adgeh said.
He says he is still unsure of his exact course once he graduates in 2022, but he hopes to continue his career in international law in the areas of global trade and business.
Adgeh holds a postgraduate diploma in international relations from the Ethiopian Civil Service University and an LL.B. from the Hawassa University College of Law and Governance in Ethiopia.