By Rachel DeLetto
The impact of a Berkeley Law education often inspires younger generations to follow in the footsteps of the previous ones, usually decades later. But, despite being at vastly different stages in their careers, Jean-Luc and Marc Fournier, the first parent-child students enrolled simultaneously at Berkeley Law, will both graduate with the Class of 2018.
“My son wanted to come here first, but I beat him to it,” said Jean-Luc, 62, a citizen of France who completed the first summer of the LL.M. professional track program in August. His son, Marc, 25, chose the LL.M. traditional track, which immerses international masters of law students within the law school during the August-to-May academic year.
ANNOUNCING A NEW LL.M. HYBRID TRACK
In addition to traditional (one academic year) and professional (two summers) LL.M. tracks at Berkeley Law, a hybrid online-in residence option is now available.
The new program is designed for highly talented and qualified international lawyers who need to limit time away from their home countries due to professional or personal commitments.
Consisting of two terms of online courses plus one summer in residence, the hybrid option offers a convenient way to study part-time at home, while preserving the unique value of the relationships international students build during their time in Berkeley. Learn more about the LL.M. hybrid track here.
Ten years ago, Marc spent a summer in the Bay Area as an exchange student. “I have a photo of me under the UC Berkeley arch [Sather Gate]. Ever since then, I wanted to go to school at Berkeley; not New York, or Chicago, or London,” Marc said. “And here I am. It’s very cool!”
The Fourniers have a history of professional collaboration and business expertise. Jean-Luc, Marc, and Françoise (wife and mother) all studied finance at ESSEC Business School in Paris. Following graduation, Jean-Luc served his compulsory year of military service in Madrid, Spain, where he became fluent in Spanish. Later, he was certified as a chartered accountant and earned a Ph.D. in law at the Sorbonne. Instead of joining a big accounting or law firm, he decided to launch his own financial services firm, Fournier & Associates P.C. Françoise joined the firm a few years later.
The private practice allowed Jean-Luc to apply his background in finance, accounting, and law, which turned out to be a strong combination of assets due to the way cases involving financial matters are adjudicated in France.
In the U.S., each party calls its own expert witnesses, and the judge weighs the evidence from both sides to reach a conclusion. In France, explained Jean-Luc, the judge appoints an independent financial expert to analyze the financial aspects of the dispute and provide a report to the court. Based on this report, the judge will rule on the case.
Jean-Luc has been approved to serve as such an expert before the Paris Court of Appeal, the Paris and Versailles Administrative Courts of Appeal, and the High Court of Justice. His deep expertise and multi-lingual capabilities have made him a valuable expert for the courts, particularly in business disputes.
As a leading expert, Jean-Luc is often called upon to analyze the financial aspects of mergers and acquisitions between U.S. companies seeking to acquire French companies. That’s one reason why he decided to come to Berkeley.
“I work on many cases where all the documents are in English and under U.S. law, I needed to improve my fluency in speaking and reading English and understanding U.S. finance and contract law,” Jean-Luc said.
After completing his masters degree in European business law, Marc, too, wanted to increase his depth of knowledge and expertise in U.S. business law. He was in the process of applying to the LL.M. traditional track program, when his father heard about the professional track option from a colleague at the Association France-Amériques, where he serves as president.
“I thought I was too old,” said Jean-Luc, but a long call with Erin Weldon, director of admissions for the Advanced Degree Program, convinced him to apply. Jean-Luc and Marc spent a month studying for the English language test, primarily by watching American television.
During the first week of classes, Jean-Luc confessed, he was worried he’d made a mistake. As a native of a civil law country, the complex framework of the common law system was overwhelming.
“In France it’s just ‘what’s the rule of law.’ Here in the U.S. you also have to look at the cases that apply in each state or federal jurisdiction. It’s very, very complicated,” lamented Jean-Luc.
Certainly, going back to school after a long professional career was a big challenge. But one of the hallmarks of Berkeley Law’s LL.M. programs is the close relationships among classmates, who come to Berkeley from more than 70 countries. Jean-Luc and other civil law students were able to wrap their heads around the complex American legal system with the help of common law classmates and a course on Fundamentals of U.S. Law, among others.
Sharing a unique experience
“My son is a lucky guy to be here,” said Jean-Luc, fondly. “It’s a big challenge, listening and reading and writing in a second language.” He advised Marc to prepare for lack of sleep and some culture shock. But he urged him to also “take advantage of the big community of people from all over the world.”
The atmosphere of collegiality and collaboration between students at Berkeley Law is one of the things Marc is most excited about.
In France, “university is very impersonal,” said Marc. “You are in a huge lecture room, maybe 400 students. You just sit and type as the professor lectures.” Marc said he had little interaction with professors during law school and that there were no student organizations or a social life among the students.
Here at Berkeley Law, Marc plans to participate in the top-rated business law courses, frequent programming from the Berkeley Center of Law, Business & the Economy; and the law school’s startup and venture capital initiatives.
He also hopes to spend a lot more time with classmates, as compared to his dad, who used his limited free time to analyze financial reports for the Paris courts and seek out the best French wine in the Bay Area.
“If I just wanted to study, I’d attend some online courses from my office in France,” Marc said. Instead, he plans to make the most out of the experience and the diverse community around him. “I think it will be a good opportunity to practice my English and discuss many subjects. I’m looking forward to organizing events and trips with friends, and maybe visit Lake Tahoe.” (See sidebar about the new hybrid LL.M. option)
Jean-Luc patted his son on the shoulder, “don’t forget you’re here to study!”
Luckily, Marc will have his father’s Fundamentals of U.S. Law binder to give him a head start.
Following each other’s footsteps
As he returned to Paris—leaving Marc in Berkeley to begin his own journey—Jean-Luc said his first-summer of study would be a great benefit to his practice. He noted particularly useful pronunciation workshops and his increased comfort in comprehending American contracts.
Next summer, Jean-Luc will return to Berkeley to celebrate his son’s May graduation, and then begin his second-summer term before his own graduation in August.
Marc takes pride in this timeline. “I wanted to come here first. My dad started first. But I’ll graduate first.”