Many law students can point to an experience that led them in the direction of law. For Arvidas Remeza, it was the year he spent in Lithuania, on a Fulbright Scholarship, studying the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe. As the son of Lithuanian immigrants, Mr. Remeza had grown up with a strong sense of his heritage.
He was not disappointed when, in 1988, he landed in that cold and beautiful country. "The people are the greatest charm," he says. "They've seen so much and it was interesting to exchange ideas." Mr. Remeza's time in Lithuania not only helped him form a better sense of his own identity but also opened his eyes to various perceptions of America. Living abroad was so rewarding that he stayed in Europe for a second year, earning a masters degree in international relations at the London School of Economics.
While in Lithuania, Mr. Remeza was impressed with the sweeping changes taking place before his eyes. "Ten years ago in Lithuania," he says, "people didn't have much; they were mainly focused on the basics. Now, a lot of people have the money to subsist, and the concept of democracy is strong. To see it change that quickly is impressive." He believes that changes in Lithuania's legal structure paved the way for economic development to flourish, improving everyone's quality of life.
Seeking a career in which he could contribute as much as possible to such economic growth, Mr. Remeza concluded that law school was the next logical step. He chose Columbia because of its excellent international law program, broad student body, and location. "The availability of several dual-degree programs told me that the school had the same philosophy as I," he says, "that is the importance of having a global outlook on the law." At Columbia, he has taken courses in International Law and Peacekeeping, which both addressed traditional concepts of state-to-state politics and how they affect human rights. His course in European Corporate Law with Professor Katharina Pistor was particularly helpful in preparing him for his future work in Europe.
Mr. Remeza was accepted to Columbia's dual JD/LLM program with the University of London in England, where he aimed to find work after graduation. He is now working in London for Kirkland & Ellis, an American firm, advising American companies seeking to expand in Europe. "One of the reasons I wanted to be in the U.K was the opportunity to work with changing economies rather than in the U.S. where big business is well-established. Here, there's a sense that people are more adventuresome as well as socially aware. It's very interesting legal work: you might be working with, say, an American company buying an English company with factories in Germany and the Czech Republic. The multi-jurisdictional element makes it like a puzzle, and you have to be aware of issues in different countries."
Beyond the dynamic legal environment of Europe, Mr. Remeza also felt drawn to the cultural life of London. A classical music fan, who was a flutist for the Dartmouth Chamber Orchestra, he has found in London many cultural opportunities that complement those in New York.