Splitting time and succeeding

Russian-based LLM student and in-house lawyer, Olga Rybina, talks about patenting inventions, upgrading her legal qualifications and writing children's poetry
LLm student Olga Rybina
Balancing work, family and study: current LLM student Olga Rybina
I decided to study the LLM in order to improve my capabilities for analytical and independent thinking, to upgrade my legal qualifications, and to improve my position in the legal market

Olga Rybina tells Leila Zerai why she chose to study an LLM through the University of London International Programmes and how she manages her workload.

Olga originally studied law in Moscow. She explains her journey to where she is today. “I graduated from the Law Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2003, where I studied Civil Procedure and International Arbitration,” she says.

“I had previously obtained a Masters Degree at the French University College of Lomonosov Moscow State University - a joint project of Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Sorbonne. My studies focused on French and International Private Law.”

However, Olga did not stop at Masters level. She wanted to continue her studies. “In summer 2007, I received a PhD degree from Moscow State Social University,” she explains. “My PhD research dealt with the legal status of LLC participants in Continental Europe. I participated in legal conferences and wrote several legal publications on the topic.”

In parallel to her studies, Olga also became a practicing lawyer in Russia. “I worked as a legal consultant at Sojuzpatent, a well-known Russian patent firm,” she says. “I provided high quality assistance in patenting inventions, utility models, and industrial designs. I also prepared and appealed claims before civil courts and courts of appeal and handled settlements of disputes.

Olga became a lawyer at Sojuzplodoimport, a popular Russian food and beverage company, in 2004. “I worked on international, regional and national trademarks and geographical indications protection, negotiated with foreign attorneys, and participated in the regulation of state enterprise activity,” she says.

“Then I joined the French JSC “Total E&P Russie,” one of the largest oil & gas companies, as a lawyer,” she explains. “Assisting in international arbitration cases was among my responsibilities. I provided legal assistance on areas of oil transportation, insurance and other contractual issues related to business projects in Russia and abroad.” 

At the French oil and gas firm, Olga would often participate in meetings with bidders and contractors, preparing legal reports and undertaking various day-to-day duties. 

“I assisted in the incorporation of new legal entities, kept and updated French and Russian companies and represented the company before various registration, tax and other government authorities,” she explains.

Today, she remains in Moscow, working as an in-house lawyer. “My current location is still Moscow, Russia, where I am working at PricewaterhouseCoopers,” she explains. “I handle business name conflicts, legal researches related to copyright, know-how and unfair competition.”

“I am also developing policies and procedures which ensure that the company is compliant with general legal and professional requirements. I provide consultation to clients and legal support to the risk management department through the development of legal template documents.”

The University of London International Programmes LLM

Olga is currently studying for an LLM through the University of London International Programmes, while based in Moscow. She explains her reasons for studying with the University of London.

“I decided to study the LLM in order to improve my capabilities for analytical and independent thinking, to upgrade my legal qualifications, and to improve my position in the legal market,” she explains.

"I chose the LLM with the University of London International Programmes because the University of London is one of the best-known and most reputable universities in the world, with a history in the field of distance learning."

“I chose the LLM with the University of London International Programmes because the University of London is one of the best-known and most reputable universities in the world, with a history in the field of distance learning. I was also attracted by the fact that external students are evaluated to the same academic standard as students studying on campus.”

Distance learning: the advantages and challenges

“Certainly, the main advantage of studying by way of distance learning is the flexibility,” says Olga. “The course is very convenient, since most of the distance learning students have work and family obligations. It allows students to choose the time and place of study, the number of courses they wish to take each semester and the location of the examination centre.”

“The second benefit is the easy online access to an impressive electronic library with a wide range of legal study materials, including popular legal databases such as LexisNexis, Westlaw and Kluwer Arbitration,” she adds.

And what about the inherent challenges of distance learning study? “I think that the main challenge in studying the LLM by way of distance learning is the need to split your time between family commitments, job duties and study,” she says. “It is best is to study frequently, in small chunks, at every opportunity – even if that means studying on the bus or during lunchtime.”

However, for Olga, returning to study was relatively easy. “I have been studying continuously,” she explains. “I had previously studied law up to PhD level, as well as undertaking several English language courses, a General Course of Intellectual Property (WIPO) and various short courses on professional issues and soft skills. So it wasn’t hard to get back into the habit of studying.”

Courses

Olga has chosen to study courses which are closely related to her current job and her previous professional experience. She has also chosen to focus on subjects with an international approach which will provide her with knowledge applicable in various countries around the world. Her chosen subjects focus on international commercial arbitration and intellectual property.

“I integrate knowledge obtained from my IP law courses into my practice,” Olga explains. “The International Commercial Court is very popular with our clients. The course on ‘Applicable Laws and Procedures in International Commercial Arbitration’ has given me a better understanding about this area.

"I would advise current LLM students to refrain from taking long breaks during their studies if possible, since it is difficult to get back into one’s studies after such long interruptions."

Study advice

“I would advise current LLM students to refrain from taking long breaks during their studies if possible, since it is difficult to get back into one’s studies after such long interruptions,” says Olga.

“I also recommend forming study groups or communicating more frequently with fellow students. Doing so provides moral support, facilitates the sharing of valuable information and ideas and provides you with the opportunity to become a part of the student community as well as offering networking opportunities.”

Olga acknowledges that students need to be hard-working and career-oriented in order to succeed. Time-management skills are also important.

“I try to study two or three hours daily and even more during weekends and before the exams,” she says. “I make notes for each subject from the study guide, from essential and recommended readings and summaries of cases. I also practice writing answers from past exam questions, recording my time."

“As for dividing my time between the different subjects, I have never chosen more than three subjects per semester. My main objective is to complete the required reading a month before the exams.”

Looking to the future

“I see myself as an in-house lawyer with a focus on intellectual property law in a foreign company in Russia or abroad in five years’ time,” she says. “I haven’t excluded the possibility of teaching Intellectual property law or International arbitration law at a university in the near future.”

“As for my hobbies, family and interests, I have two lovely kids, which is why I enjoy writing children’s poems. You can read them if you know Russian, since I occasionally publish them. My second hobby is photography - since my children are growing so fast I want to catch as much as possible of their lives, whenever I have a chance.”

  • Find out more about studying for a University of London degree in Russia.
  • This article first appeared in issue 6 (October 2012) of the LLM Newsletter.
  • Watch a clip of Olga discussing why she chose to study a University of London LLM via distance learning: