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Celebrating 42 Years of the Penn Carey Law European Society

April 23, 2024


The Penn Carey Law European Society (PCLES) is a vibrant and diverse community of LLM and JD graduates from around the world.

By Eleanor Mallett

Each year, the Penn Carey Law European Society (PCLES) gathers at a different European city for a weekend of informal gatherings, gala dinners, city tours, and academic discussions with local university and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School faculty.

A wonderful manifestation of Penn Carey Law’s spirit of collegiality, this community-built celebration of friendship, culture, and mentorship keeps alumni coming back year after year to experience European cities as locals, develop new friendships, and catch up with colleagues.

The Penn Carey Law European Society began one evening in 1982 at a restaurant in London where a small group of friends gathered for dinner. Many hadn’t seen each other since their LLM graduation years before, so they spent the night merrily reminiscing and discussing their new lives as lawyers. The group vowed to return the following year to reunite, and from then on, a dinner party tradition was born.

At first, they referred to themselves as the Friends and Alumni in Britain of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, as inscribed in the first entry of the PCLES scrapbook they kept over the years. PCLES event, 1983 PCLES event, 1983 Pasted into the beginning pages of this scrapbook are original copies of their four-course dinner menu from Lincon’s Inn, a handwritten guest list, and photos of the members in elegant black-tie attire. The group consisted of roughly 20 attendees, was organized primarily via word-of-mouth invitations, and always met in London.

By 1994, the Friends and Alumni in Britain had been joined by a growing number of Penn Carey Law LLM and JD graduates from outside the UK, prompting the first event in Dublin, Ireland. There, they planned a full weekend of programming, including an informal gathering on Friday, a gala with a formal dinner on Saturday, and an academic presentation and sightseeing tour around the city to finish on Sunday.

By 2000, the number of guests had more than tripled from the original number, due in large part to the group’s embrace of all Law School graduates. “Opening PCLES to a broader Penn community allowed us to enjoy an even greater experience,” Christophe Rodius LLM’90 explained. Gracious alumni from across the continent agreed to host weekends in France, Luxembourg, Portugal, Belgium, Iceland, and Greece, among others.

Christophe Rodius LLM’90 and his wife Marie Rodius hosted last year’s reunion in the idyllic southern town of Draguignan-Provence-Verdon, France. Over a perfect June weekend, friends from near and far, including a new generation of younger alumni, enjoyed a weekend exploring the region and getting to know each other.

“My favorite memory was the visit to the village of Tourtour and the typical lunch of aïoli we had in an old agricultural estate overlooking the village,” Christophe Rodius recounted. “It was exactly as Marie and I had hoped: simple, with beautiful weather, charming environment, and excellent company!”

Alumni often extend their trip beyond the weekend. Marika Fain L’18 and Elyssa Eisenberg L’18, who joined PCLES for the first time last year, used the weekend in Provence as a jumping off point for a two-week trip around Europe. As younger alumni joining a community of experienced professionals in the field, they appreciated how they were greeted with helpful career advice and open opportunities for mentorship and networking.

“Meeting people from all around the world and having Penn in common was so special,” Fain said. She encouraged other recent graduates to use these alumni events as a chance to meet incredible people in the profession and to see unique parts of the world.

Most recently, Yvette Van Loon LLM’90 and Cristina Capitano LLM’02 took over PCLES as Co-Vice Presidents, following in the footsteps of Nils Petersen-Hagh LLM’80, who led the group for the past 15 years. As they share the responsibilities of coordinating and planning a weekend of exciting new programming for 2024, they hope to expand access to this opportunity to alumni of all ages from around the world.

“Being part of a group like PCLES is an extraordinary value,” Capitano notes. “PCLES is fun, joy, sightseeing, food, culture, friendship, networking.”

Christophe Rodius agreed and emphasized the importance of staying engaged with the Penn Carey Law community.

“Do not forget the strong ties you have with your law school. The LLM and JD programs offered by Penn Carey Law are among the best law curriculars offered in the U.S. but keeping the connections with former students and enlarging your network with other alumni is paramount,” he said.

Van Loon echoed this sentiment. “PCLES is about friendship! These annual weekends are a great way not only to reconnect with alumni and friends but also to visit cities around Europe. In these turbulent times, it is good to have these returning anchor points.”

The Penn Carey Law European Society will reconvene in Cambridge, England on July 12-14, 2024, and stay at St. John’s College.

Registration is open now for any Penn Carey Law alumni and their families who want to share in this rich tradition. If you have any questions about this year’s reunion, please contact Marissa Silverman from the Development and Alumni Relations office.

Learn more about staying connected with fellow Penn Carey Law alumni.