Ron Walters is forging his own path in law school. It’s a little different than the typical approach — and it is working for him.
Walters is from Charleston, West Virginia, but he has set foot on five continents and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
He lived and worked in England for a year and a half while earning his Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in International Management with a focus on international finance from University of London.
Prior to law school, he spent 10 years working as a financial consultant for clients who acquired large sums of money through litigation.
That’s when he caught the law bug. As a financial consultant, Walters often worked with lawyers, and he came to law school to gain a deeper understanding of the law that would help him build on his prior experiences.
Walters graduates in May 2018 and he’s keeping his career options open. He says he might go into a field that combines his financial skills with his legal education. Or, maybe he’ll practice in another area of the law. Whatever he does, he wants to pave his own way.
“I think in law school, oftentimes students think that if they aren’t pursuing a job at a big firm after graduation, or if they don’t have a big summer internship lined up, then they haven’t succeeded,” explains Walters.
“Doing what’s right for your life shouldn’t be defined by what might be the standard approach. If you don’t take unorthodox experiences into consideration, like a study abroad program instead of a summer internship, you might be selling yourself short. Even if I don’t practice law after graduation, law school has impacted the way I will think about the world, and society, and business moving forward.”
Gaining an International Perspective
While many of his classmates were building their legal resume last summer in externships or as summer associates and clerks, Walters went in another direction. He opted for an experience that would give him a unique international perspective on the law.
Over the 2017 summer break, Walters participated in the Paris Summer Institute, a study abroad program in international and comparative law at the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. The program is hosted by Cornell Law School and the Sorbonne Law School and — importantly for Walters — it is open to students from all over the world.
“I’ve worked for a large firm, and I enjoyed it very much. I gained great experience, but I didn’t feel like that atmosphere was really for me,” said Walters. “I knew that if I worked another summer, my experience would be a good stepping stone toward getting a great job after graduation. But I was looking for something a little bit different. I wanted a different perspective.”
Walters went to Paris in order to better understand how law is practiced outside of the United States. The Summer Institute appealed to him because it attracts internationally diverse students.
“In the field of law, understanding the perspective of others is key,” he explained. “It is also important to understand the systems of law in an international context, as well as the participants in those systems. My classes were full of law students from all over the world, many coming from countries that use a different a legal system from the United States. They gave me insights that I might have never been able to get from just taking an American law class.”
Walters took the program’s comparative legal studies class, which focused on the common law system and civil law systems.
Common law, used in countries including the United States, England and India, depends on legal precedents to determine the outcome of cases. Civil law, used in much of the world including France, Mexico, Japan, and many African countries, depends on organized statutes and ordinances to outline laws.
“I don’t think I could have fully appreciated the structure of and policy behind the civil law system without this experience because it allowed me to meet and talk to people from places that use it,” said Walters. “I got a taste of their culture in that way, by seeing how they diagnosed or solved legal problems. You can’t get that same perspective by only being with people who share your culture and your values. It was perfect for me because I like to see and I like to experience things for myself.”
In the true spirit of a Mountaineer, Walters is pioneering his own path forward. Whatever comes next probably won’t be typical — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.