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Summer employment dispatches: Joan Piasta L’15

August 08, 2013

 Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the U.S. and abroad. This dispatch from Joan Piasta L’15 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Through the Penn Law International Internship Program (PLIIP), Piasta, who grew up in Sonoma County, California,  and graduated summa cum laude from the University of San Francisco, spent the summer at a leading Japanese law firm.

A Life-Changing Tokyo Summer

This summer, I worked in Tokyo as a summer intern at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune (AMT), one of Japan’s “Big Four” law firms. The firm’s Tokyo office consisted of approximately 300 bengoshi (lawyers qualified in Japan), 10 lawyers qualified in foreign jurisdictions, 130 other professional staff such as immigration lawyers, translators, and paralegals, and 180 other general staff members.

On the 37th floor of the firm’s futuristic Izumi Garden Tower office, I peered out the windows at the horizon peppered with skyscrapers, the Tokyo Tower, beautiful sunsets, and occasionally Mt. Fuji.  The brilliant, talented, and kind attorneys and staff members were the highlight of my experience.  Not only was I energized by my co-workers’ friendly spirit and team mentality, but I was inspired by their urgency, high standard of excellence, and client focus, which they applied to each task.  

The work assignments and exposure could not have been more rewarding.  After spending four summers in a small litigation firm in Sonoma County, California, I was thrilled to gain experience in Big Law transactional work.  The assignments not only spanned international borders, but a wide array of legal areas.  For instance, on my first day at AMT, my supervising attorney detailed me to work on an 86-page due diligence report – to polish it, annotate it, and make it as user-friendly as possible for our clients.

I primarily worked on a cross-border joint venture by participating in negotiations and helping finalize share purchase agreements, shareholders’ agreements, and other documentation.  Besides my work on the joint venture, I analyzed and summarized an international art lending agreement for clients and attorneys to reference.  I was also able to attend a witness examination and help finalize a defendant’s brief in a contract and employment dispute before the Tokyo District Court of Justice.

In addition to the substantive and challenging work, I was grateful to experience Japanese professional legal culture and customs. I even had the opportunity to play in the firm’s futsal league.  Most of all, I forged professional relationships and lasting friendships.

I admit that I was initially daunted by living in a foreign country, in a place I had never been and where I did not know a soul. But every day I worked at AMT, I could not have been more enthralled by the law, nor more grateful for the professional experience of a lifetime.  I am grateful to Penn Law and PLIIP for opening so many doors and for presenting me with this life-changing opportunity.

Read more summer employment dispatches.