Passing the New York Bar Helps Attorney Sharpen Her Global Skills

Successful foreign lawyer Alexia Maas benefits from her dual qualification as the global General Counsel for Volvo Financial Services in Greensboro, N.C.

I am Alexia Maas, Senior Vice President, General Counsel for Volvo Financial Services. I lead the global Legal & Compliance Function, which supports the business across the 48 countries in which it currently operates.

I originally qualified to practise law in Scotland in 1997. I then spent 16 years in private practise with large law firms in the U.K. and Norway as a corporate and banking lawyer. After working with CHC Helicopter as a client — at the time the world’s largest helicopter operator — I decided to take my shipping and aircraft finance experience in-house and went to work as European Counsel for the offshore transport company.

I developed a real passion for in-house work and, four years later, I was approached by Volvo Financial Services to join them as their Regional GC for the EMEA region based in Gothenburg, Sweden. I spent a year there before being promoted to SVP General Counsel for VFS and relocating to the company’s global headquarters in Greensboro, N.C.

Although there is not a strict requirement in North Carolina for foreign in-house lawyers to be dual qualified, I thought about the possibility of this changing in the future and ultimately decided that it would be in my best interest to become U.S. qualified. I chose to sit the New York Bar Exam because of its recognition in international law and commerce. I felt it was important from both a licensing perspective and in my new role as Global GC to be as well-versed in U.S. law as I was in U.K. and European Union law.

I looked around at the various online bar review programmes and found there wasn’t much structure to a lot of the materials. One evening over dinner with some fellow GCs, the subject came up and many who had previously gone through the process recommended BARBRI.

I began with the Foundations in U.S. Law programme as a first taste and then went all-in with the 6-month extended programme. In order to make the most of my time on top of a very demanding day job, I fully immersed myself in the programme and tuned in to lectures while in my car, traveling, at lunch, and generally on the go. It’s amazing what you can absorb while just getting around and listening.

Whilst the overall preparation for the bar and the time commitment were challenging, the actual part of studying wasn’t a difficult process with BARBRI. I used the BARBRI Personal Study Plan, Mini Review, and the BARBRI app to listen to the lectures whenever and wherever to dive in and zip through topics. As a foreign qualified lawyer, I found the course content to be right on point with regard to teaching the foundations of U.S. law and the need-to-know principles for the bar exam to quickly get up to speed.

The interactive learning tools were extremely effective, both for teaching the substantive law and for acquiring essential exam techniques. I watched and listened to the online lectures multiple times. Not only were they superbly delivered by excellent teachers, but they were highly entertaining as well.

I noticed right away after diving into studying that what I was learning was already useful in my day-to-day work as a global GC. The programme helped me develop new knowledge and new expertise that was immediately relevant and helpful. Now I have this additional qualification that adds to the depth and breadth of my existing skills and competencies as a lawyer.

Taking the New York Bar Exam was definitely a commitment. But with BARBRI, it was a combination of everything that led to my success. The way it’s put together, by giving you what you need in little doses and not just through books to read, made such a difference.

Having graduated with my first law degree over 20 years ago, I felt far removed from being a student. Getting back in the mindset of studying and sitting an exam was quite the challenge, but BARBRI clearly knew just what would work. I wasn’t sure I would even pass the bar when I started the process. I ended up doing very well and passed the first time — thanks to the BARBRI methodology. It works!