“Let’s be honest – Charlotte Law (CSL) often has one of two types of reputations: a bad reputation or no reputation at all. My view on this is that as students and alumni, we can sit back and complain about how this makes our lives more difficult, or we can step up and build our own reputation as part of the CSL community,” CSL alumni Stephen George (George) shared. George likes to think that he has helped to either change or build many people’s opinions on CSL in a positive way. Evidenced by George’s tremendous efforts to network in the global legal market, admittance to practice in two states, the U.S. Court of International Trade, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, we decided to interview Mr. George to find out more.
Mr. George, can you provide us with a brief biography that illustrates your background, including but not limited to your educational background?
I am originally from Hickory, NC, and I lived there until I moved to Salzburg, Austria at the age of 14 to attend an American boarding school. After three years in Austria, I returned to North Carolina to complete my freshman year of college at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. I then transferred from LR to Georgetown University, where I majored in German Language and Linguistics. Upon graduating from Georgetown, a friend and I opened a tour business specialized in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and our office was based in Charlotte. When the economic crisis began in 2008, I decided it was time to go back to graduate school, and I decided to try law school at CSL due to the convenience.
May you highlight some of your experiences at CSL. You are more than welcome to discuss faculty, classes, and student life.
My time at CSL got off to a rough start. Due to medical reasons, I missed almost the entire first two weeks of my 1L year. The highlight to that experience was the support I received from the faculty, administration, and fellow students that made sure I was able to catch up on all the material I had missed. I came out of CSL with trusted friends, a solid education, great internship experiences, and memories of a few top-notch professors that helped teach me a new way of thinking. Outside of school, I stayed busy as Chairman of what was then the Middle East Council of the Carolinas and an Advisory Board Member for the Magellan Society, which is the young professionals group of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte.
The experience during my CSL time that has left the biggest impression on me, however, was starting the CSL chapter of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, now the International Refugee Assistance Project. I was looking for an International angle to my pro bono hours, and I was lucky enough to find an ABA teleconference related to international pro bono work. After the call, I followed up with Becca Heller, the Director of IRAP, and we were soon on the path towards starting a Charlotte chapter. Although I feel that my contribution to IRAP was minimal given the short time that I was involved, I learned a lot through the process of starting the chapter and making multiple trips to Lebanon to meet with refugee families and aid organizations.
What was your favorite part about attending CSL?
My favorite part about attending Charlotte Law was the great group of friends with whom I ended up studying. I’m not sure everything my study group did qualified as studying, but we helped each other through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In terms of classes, I enjoyed Contracts with Prof. Pauling and Immigration with Prof. Miller. I would be lying if I said that Property or Civil Procedure were my favorite courses, but my law school experience would not have been complete without the support and education I received from Phyllis Craig-Taylor and Meredith Jeffries, both of whom have since moved on to other positions.
What have you been doing since graduating law school?
Since leaving CSL, I have continued in the field of academia. I enrolled at the University of Vienna in Austria for an LLM in International and European Business Law. After completing my LLM degree, I decided to continue my studies with a doctorate in European Law focused primarily on Intellectual Property Law and the Internet. Last summer, I also completed a Certificate in Corporate Compliance and Ethics at NYU.
While my studies are my main focus at the moment, I also opened a travel agency in Charlotte specialized in the luxury travel market, and I am a Certified Travel Associate through the Travel Institute. Additionally, I have held multiple leadership roles in the ABA Section of International Law over the years, and I am presently Co-Chair of the Section’s Law Student, LLM Student, and New Lawyer Outreach Committee, Member of the Section’s Working Group on Students, and Deputy Officer to the Chair of the Section.
I sat for the New York and Massachusetts Bar Exams concurrently, and I am admitted to practice in both of those states, as well as before the U.S. Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
If you could go back and give your law student-self advice, what would it be?
Work hard and be successful in your studies, but remember that your future outside of law school depends heavily on what you do outside of your books and exams. Take advantage of as many clinical programs, externships, and internships as possible, and network within your professional community and community-at-large as much as you can without sacrificing your grades. The ABA makes it as easy as reasonably possible for law students to get involved, meet people, learn new things, and get your name out there through volunteering or writing articles, so just do it.
Most importantly, take advantage of every bar prep program the school offers and find a system that works for you. If you fail the bar exam, take a moment to do whatever you need to do, and then pick up the pieces and move on because you’re not alone, and your value as a person is not determined by that exam. I failed the North Carolina bar exam twice, so deciding that I was going to continue with my plan to sit for the New York Bar plus add in the Massachusetts Bar was hard, but it all worked out in the end.
George is currently in his final years of his Ph.D. program in European Law at the University of Vienna. Additionally, George’s Masters Thesis on wine labeling in cross-border trade was published as part of Stanford’s European Union Law Working Paper Series, and George’s article on family governance documents was published by the Massachusetts Lawyers Journal. Most notably, George was recently awarded the 2015 Unsung Member Award by the ABA Section of International Law.