Raphael Ng’etich of Kenya has known that he wanted to study and teach law since he was in high school.
As a law student at Strathmore University in Nairobi, he jumped at opportunities to serve as a teaching assistant for several professors. He also worked as an undergraduate research assistant at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at Strathmore, and earned a certificate in international criminal law at the Nuremberg Academy in Germany.
After graduation, he went on to earn a post-graduate diploma in law at the Kenya School of Law and started work in a law firm. But he continued to look for opportunities to teach.
“In Kenya, you have to have a master’s degree to teach,” Ng’etich explained.
He decided to continue his studies in the United States, because the U.S. is more advanced than Kenya in its protection of intellectual property rights and technology, his areas of interest. He hopes to take ideas back home.
“For example, we have some good intellectual property laws, but enforcing them has been a challenge,” he said. “And, of course, the use of technology is increasing in everyday life. We don’t have appropriate laws for data protection or privacy. I am here to see the mechanisms that have been enacted here.”
One reason that Ng’etich chose to pursue his LL.M. at Notre Dame Law School is that he received some financial support from the Law School. Another reason is that Notre Dame Law School allows LL.M. students to develop an individual study plan tailored to their areas of interest.
“Other programs have already-determined courses. You are going to take a class or two that doesn’t fit,” he said. “But the LL.M. here allows you to pick your own cocktail of things that you would like to focus on.”
Raphael Ng'etich, right, is an LL.M. student at Notre Dame Law School. Photos by Alicia Sachau/Notre Dame Law School.
For example, Ng’etich chose to study with Stephanie Bair, a visiting law professor from J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. Bair, who spent the fall 2018 semester at Notre Dame, focuses on areas that include the current legal and policy challenges in intellectual property law. Bair’s guidance in intellectual property courses and a directed reading was key to Ng’etich understanding and relating the U.S. intellectual property law with Kenya’s system.
This is Ng’etich’s first visit to the United States. He said he found the University to be very supportive in helping him settle in here. Students in the LL.M. program check in with Margaret Lloyd, the LL.M. student services program director, once a month to review how things are going, and she is available when they need help navigating the U.S. system.
“This is a home,” Ng’etich said. “It’s not just like you are going to school. I remember when I was making arrangements for a place to stay. Margaret was there to say, ‘These are good options.’ All the guidance is really great.”
Professors are also supportive. Currently, Ng’etich is learning about U.S. law and says the professors in every class are very kind and willing to explain the intricacies of the U.S. legal system.
“I have never felt excluded from what’s going on in any class,” he said, adding that it is amazing to be able to study with people who “are the best from every part of the globe.”
The LL.M. will open a lot of opportunities for him, he said, because of his association with Notre Dame and its alumni network. He was recently offered a place to pursue a Ph.D. program in law at Cardiff University in Wales.
“The opportunities are endless,” he said, noting that he plans to connect with Notre Dame alumni in Kenya when he returns to teach there. Alumni in Kenya are involved with various law firms and non-governmental organizations. “I can invite them to come to my lectures and to share their experiences with my students.”
Learn more about Notre Dame Law School's LL.M. programs at law.nd.edu/LLM.