Pedro Urdaneta LL.M. ’94: Adapting to
“Everything that happened during the summer of 1992 convinced me that Cornell was meant for me,” says Pedro Urdaneta, LL.M. ’94. In Ithaca studying for the LSAT after finishing law school in Venezuela, Urdaneta began frequenting the Law School, “eager to learn and help in any way.” That is how he came to be introduced to Hon. Walter J. Relihan Jr. ‘59 of the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. Relihan allowed Urdaneta to attend common law court hearings and discussed the cases with him. “Since then, Judge Relihan became a great mentor and friend, and together with his lovely wife Joan, welcomed me as a family member in Ithaca.”
As an LL.M. student, Urdaneta continued to make the most of his experiences at the Law School. In January 1994, while fellow international students were still on vacation, he took a “brutal” legal research and writing seminar. When he approached Professor Winnie Taylor to request she take it a little easier on the only LL.M. in the class, she told him no student would receive special treatment. “To this date, I thank Professor Taylor for those words and for every minute of her class,” says Urdaneta. “Those long, cold, dark, and hard-working January days, and the blizzards that followed, taught me that I was able to compete against anyone and achieve great things, even if I did not have all the cards with me.”
Such experiences gave Urdaneta the confidence to start his own law firm at the age of twenty-six. Having followed his LL.M. with a year as a corporate/international lawyer at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., and two years as a senior associate at a large firm in his native Venezuela, in 1997 Urdaneta joined forces with his brother-in-law to form a full-service law firm currently called Imery Urdaneta Calleja Itriago & Flamarique. Imery Urdaneta has been recognized by Chambers as one of Venezuela’s leading firms, and as co-managing partner and head of the firm’s corporate/international group, Urdaneta serves multinational clients including General Motors, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pernod Ricard, Best Western, AIG, Epson, and Lenovo.
“Lamentably, I live in a country where the rule of law is being questioned every day,” says Urdaneta. “As a corporate attorney I have to help my clients navigate through the turbulent waters of ‘Twenty-First Century Socialism.’” Once again distilling inspiration from trying circumstances, Urdaneta sees this challenge as an opportunity. “I am excited about the prospects of rebuilding our legal system and redesigning the institutions to eliminate corruption once and for all. It will be an effort requiring vast amounts of public service on the part of legal practitioners. It will also require the comparative law skills learned at Cornell, since we will need to research the latest developments of laws and institutions around the world to implement the ones that best adapt to our new realities.”
Urdaneta credits his time at Cornell with cultivating this global perspective. “Cornell opened my mind to different cultures and different legal systems. We were constantly bombarded with relevant information on what was going on in the world, and we had the opportunity to listen to the best speakers in every field of the law.” As a member of the Alumni Advisory Committee, he has fostered a continuing engagement in cross-cultural exchange among fellow alumni, organizing two Latin American symposia in Miami and bringing together Cornell professors and administrators with alumni from South Florida, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Urdaneta’s advice to incoming international students: “All LL.M. students should think about sitting for the New York Bar Exam. Being admitted to practice in New York is a wonderful credential in a globalized world and commands respect from the international lawyers they will be dealing with in the future.”