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ASU Law helps international transplant reach new career heights

A brunette woman in a white blouse smiles for the camera.

Mariia Sandoval is graduating from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University with her Master of Laws (LLM). Courtesy photo

May 08, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Russian native Mariia Sandoval moved to Arizona several years ago after graduating from Saratov State University with a bachelor’s degree in jurisprudence. She is graduating from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University with her Master of Laws (LLM). 

“ASU is a highly-ranked university with impressive academic programs and top-tier facilities,” Sandoval said. “Specifically, as a resident of Arizona, ASU Law appealed to me because of its prominent reputation and the variety of offered programs.”

The LLM degree allows practicing attorneys to drill down on a specific legal subject. It’s also a perfect fit for international transplants — like Sandoval — who wish to practice in the U.S. after earning their law degree abroad.

“For the past few years, I have been working for the attorney Natalia Polukhtin, who practices in the field of immigration law,” she said. “This work has been inspirational and prompted me to take a step toward getting my license here in the United States.”

After she walks the stage and earns her degree, Sandoval said she plans to sit for the bar exam and go into immigration law herself. It’s a major accomplishment for her family as well. 

“My loved ones are elated and very proud of me,” she said. “I am the first college graduate in my family to attain this level of education, so this is a big achievement for my parents and me.” 

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study law?

Answer: Philanthropic professions have always appealed to me. In middle school, I wanted to be a doctor. However, as I learned more about the world and myself, I realized that law was my passion. The law profession synergizes all my important personal qualities and objectives, including elevated duty of honesty and loyalty, room for creativity and opportunity to help others. This chance to be useful and change lives is very important to me, and the law opens the door to many opportunities to help those in need. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: ASU Law surprised me with its amazing community of peers and professionals who do not fit into the standard framework portrayed in pop culture. My experiences at ASU proved that the legal community does not have to be individualistic and highly competitive to ensure consistent professional growth. While at ASU, I learned that the American legal profession, while strict and somewhat enclosed, nurtures growth and competence through a range of supportive services and learning opportunities. As a part of the Professional Responsibility class, we had a chance to meet with a representative of the Arizona State Bar, who told us about various options to support attorneys in the state and maintain the integrity of the professional community. I think such a supportive environment is truly amazing and is very important to combat the constant stress of law practice. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Every professor I have had a chance to learn from impressed me as a wise and experienced professional in their own field who gave many lessons of substantial depth, so it is very hard to pick just one. However, I would like to note the advice of Professor Lynk, who said that it is very important for us to believe in ourselves. Like many rising legal professionals, I have doubts about so many things, including myself. But the one thing that consistently keeps me going is a reminder that I can do it and that I can do hard things. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: ASU provides many learning opportunities to those who want to take them during regular academic and extracurricular activities. Use your time at school to the full extent to learn as much as possible and reach the highest level of competence attainable. 

Q: What about advice for those considering ASU Law?

A: If you think ASU Law might be right, do not think twice. From enrollment and advising to the comfort and accessibility of the facilities, this school was founded to advance your learning and career goals. Consider ASU Law if you need flexibility because their programs cater to various professional objectives.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use $40 million to address the issue of homelessness in Arizona. Homelessness has many facets that require separate attention. While Arizona faces rising housing costs, the issue is especially acute. Moreover, people with mental health issues are highly susceptible to the risk of losing permanent (housing). Considering the lack of a publicly-funded mental health system, part of the $40 million could go toward funding a nonprofit facility that would provide systematic psychiatric support to a displaced population.

Q: Who, if anyone, helped you get here?

A: I am lucky because everyone in my life has supported me on this path. I have received nothing but encouragement from my family and my colleagues. I would like to praise my husband, Jon, who was there every step of the way and cared for our household.

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