HLSAE Featured Alumna - September 2023
Interview with Ekaterine Gureshidze LL.M. ’99:
"I have been very fortunate to meet some incredible people in my life, who taught me and inspired me and helped me in shaping my education and career."
Dear Alumni and Alumnae,
For the fall 2023 edition of our "Featured Alumnus/a" Newsletter, the HLSAE is delighted to introduce a Principal Legal Counsel at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Ekaterine Gureshidze, LL.M. '99, who was the very first Georgian to graduate from the Harvard Law School and qualify to practice in New York, served as the First Deputy Minister of Justice of Georgia and pursued an exceptional career path at IFC and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Interviewer: Please introduce yourself – where do you come from and what inspired you to become a lawyer?
E. Gureshidze: I was born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia. I completed my first law degree there. As I was finishing high school, the Soviet Union started to collapse. Becoming a lawyer seemed like a sensible thing to do during those uncertain times.
Interviewer: You were the first Georgian student to be admitted to the Harvard Law School – what prompted you to apply to HLS? What was the road to Harvard like for you?
E. Gureshidze: Indeed, I was the first Georgian to graduate from Harvard Law School. I was also the first to qualify to practice law in New York. In my case, it was not “what”, but “who” prompted, I suppose. After graduating from law school in Tbilisi, I completed my first LL.M. at Central European University in Budapest, as a recipient of George Soros scholarship, and went to work at the legal department of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. A senior lawyer I reported to, who became my mentor and a good friend, and who was himself an HLS graduate, gave me the inspiration. I have been very fortunate to meet some incredible people in my life, who taught me and inspired me and helped me in shaping my education and career.
Interviewer: What was your experience at Harvard Law School like and how different was it from your university studies in Georgia? What were your main takeaways from your studies in Cambridge?
E. Gureshidze: The year at HLS was one of the best years of my life, without exaggeration. The way law is taught is very different in civil and common law countries, for obvious reasons. The caliber of the professors and students I met at HLS was astounding. Almost every day there was something interesting and exciting happening, I could literally feel how I was growing and progressing. I made life-long friendships at HLS for which I am immensely grateful.
Interviewer: You returned to Georgia and took the role of the First Deputy Minister of Justice – please tell us about this important endeavor and in particular, what were the key reforms that you worked on after the Rose Revolution when Georgia was reshaping itself in the post-Soviet period?
E. Gureshidze: Yes, I have had the privilege to work in the Georgian government at a critical time in our history. After practicing law in NY, in a large law firm, for a number of years, I returned to Georgia. It was the time when the country was finally shaking off its Soviet past and emerging as a truly independent, pro-Western, and pro-European state. It was an unparalleled experience. The responsibility I felt was at times scary yet invigorating. I had a large portfolio at the Ministry of Justice. One of the many things I did was to lead the legal reform of commercial law, as well as certain institutions, like the land registry. Any finance lawyer will know the significance of solid secured transactions legislation and well-functioning state agencies registering security for attracting investments. I also represented the Georgian government at the European Court of Human Rights. That was challenging and exciting! The responsibility I felt was immense, but I also had strong support and a sense of mission. I was part of a young and very talented team that the Georgian government was at that time. There was so much energy and optimism! The country made unbelievable progress during those years.
Interviewer: What has been your professional trajectory after the HLS? What do you currently do professionally, and where are you based?
E. Gureshidze: I currently work at the legal department of the International Finance Corporation, which is a private sector arm of the World Bank Group. I have been based in Washington, D.C. for many years now. I am a Global Lead for our Transport practice. I always enjoyed being a finance lawyer and being in-house enables me to work very closely with business teams from day one of the investment conception. I can see the full cycle of an investment and not only an isolated legal angle. I work on financing projects globally. Currently, I focus on the Transport sector, but I have worked in other sectors as well, such as power (solar and hydro), telecoms, manufacturing, and services. I have worked in jurisdictions all over the world, from Paraguay to India, from Chile to Egypt, from Romania to Kazakhstan, you name it. Every project is different - different people, issues, jurisdictions. Although I have been in my job for a while now, I can still see new things, put myself out of my comfort zone, and learn. I think that’s very important. But what truly motivates me is the fact that I know I make my modest contribution in creating tangible infrastructure, like airports, roads, ports, or power plants in developing countries, which is essential for economic development.
Interviewer: Do you have any insider tips for those alumni/alumnae who wish to work within the World Bank Group?
E. Gureshidze: Working for the World Bank Group is a privilege. At the same time, it is not always an easy job, as it involves a lot of travel and often relocation. One needs to be passionate about development.
Interviewer: How are you managing to be a mother and a successful woman lawyer in our demanding profession? What recommendations would you have for other female lawyers facing the challenge of work and family life balance?
E. Gureshidze: The life of a working mother can be very challenging, indeed, especially when kids are young. In terms of recommendations for other female lawyers, frankly, I would not dare give out any recommendations on this. I can only share what was helpful for me: first, fully tapping into the support system that was available, and second, accepting that not everything can be done perfectly all the time.
This interview was conducted by:
Sophie Panjikidze LL.M. '17
Gvinadze & Partners