Globetrotter: University of Michigan Law School grad seeks international law career


by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Passionate about travel, Stephanie Zable has visited 45 countries, and already has an eye to her next trip.

So it’s not surprising that the legal interests of this recent University of Michigan Law School graduate are in the field of international law, and her career goal is a job that allows her to work with other cultures, travel internationally, and perhaps even to live and work overseas.

After earning her undergrad degree from Oberlin College, Zable taught English, math, and SAT prep in public and private schools in Dalian and Shanghai, China, and spent a year traveling through Europe and Asia.

“I love the moment when a student ‘gets it,’” she says. “It was also a phenomenal experience for me, getting to be a small part of the lives of students from very different backgrounds and experiences.”

“I absolutely loved living in China. Highlights included the market on my street, where every day there was a very local market that stretched three blocks with all sorts of produce you don't even see here—plus bugs, which I skipped; traveling in western China, where I went to an absolutely stunning town that is only accessible by climbing or riding a donkey over a 1,300-foot mountain; and being part of a community of expats from all over the world.”

Zable, who speaks Spanish and Chinese, continued her travels during law school. Over spring break 2016 she did pro bono LGBT rights work in Belize through the LawBreaks program, and got the chance to visit Mayan ruins in Guatemala; and later that year was a summer associate in the anti-trust department at Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she worked with major U.S. firms and multinationals.

“The office I worked for was responsible for promoting and coordinating international trade, so I got to do a wide variety of really interesting work in a really interesting, timely field—international trade law,” she says. “I also got to work on projects that touched a large number of countries, which is always fun.

“It was also a lot of fun to see how the Argentinian legal system works, and it was a time of change in Argentinian politics so it was really interesting to watch the legal industry adapt. I loved Buenos Aires, it's one of my favorite cities, and Iguazu Falls is the most amazing waterfall I've seen.”

Zable was one of five MLaw Cutler Fellows who in February explored the future of public and private international law at the sixth annual Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program in Washington, D.C., where she gave a presentation on “The Chinese Playbook: Exercising a Third Dimension of Power.”

“It was great to get to meet my peers who are also interested in international law and who will someday be doing really exciting international work,” she says.

Zable, who followed her mother into the field of law, studied concurrently for her J.D. at MLaw, where she was an articles editor for the Michigan Journal of International Law, and for her M.A. in international economics and strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). With MLaw graduation in the rear view mirror, she will graduate SAIS in December.

“Law undergirds every society, everything we do, consciously and unconsciously,” she says. “I wanted to study and practice law because it's the best way to understand how to affect the world around us.

“When I was choosing a law school I wanted a school that would minimize, rather than exacerbate, the stress of law school, and U-M really is that,” she adds. “I've loved being surrounded by smart, passionate people, and getting a chance to learn from people who are really excited not only about what they're teaching but also about teaching itself.”

Zable is a summer associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP in the nation’s capital, and later this summer will intern at the Office of the Legal Adviser in the State Department. She also had an internship in D.C. last summer.

“I'm from New York, so I like being in a city, and D.C. is fun because there are so many things going on that are absolutely critical to what happens next in the world,” she says.

And that world beckons with plenty of opportunities to indulge her wanderlust.

“I'm pretty much always planning where I'm going next—probably Mexico City, but I'm also thinking about the country of Georgia,” she says.