Master of laws program creates lifelong bond

Seventeen years ago Marion Welp, Mercedes Guzman and Jacqueline Busterna had little in common, except one goal: earning master of laws degree in comparative law at The Dickinson School of Law. One year together in Carlisle forged a friendship of a lifetime, and the trio graduated in 1996.

One snapshot of their time together during 2012 Alumni & Reunion Weekend this past September conveys the core of their friendship. Excitedly awaiting the arrival of her friends on the steps of Trickett Hall Guzman exclaimed, “Here come my sisters,” as Busterna and Welp approached. “It’s been a year since we last saw each other, but it seems like only yesterday. We are as much sisters as if we were born into the same family,” said Guzman.

Post-LL.M., Guzman, who was born in New York but lived in the Dominican Republic, and Busterna, who is from England, settled in the United States while Welp returned to her home in Germany. Guzman lives in Metuchen, N.J., and works as an attorney in the area of corporate law. Busterna, who lives in Pennsylvania and works primarily in New Jersey, is a senior claim representative defending medical malpractice claims at Coverys, a medical professional liability insurance company. Welp is senior vice president and general counsel for the fashion company Esprit in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The beginning

Guzman and Welp roomed across from each other on campus and became best friends. “We did everything together. We had classes together, studied together and ate meals together,” said Guzman. “After Marion got a car, we went on trips together.”

After spending some time with Guzman and Welp, Busterna decided she wanted to become part of the club. “I wasn’t invited in,” she joked, “but I managed to slowly poke my way into the friendship.”

Welp recalls Busterna’s keen method of working her way into the friendship like it was yesterday.

“Jackie’s husband Stephen Busterna, a 1982 juris doctorate graduate who she was dating at the time, was an excellent cook so she would casually invite Mercedes and me over for dinner. That was her way of conning me into giving her a ride home to Camp Hill,” Welp said.

“Since Marion agreed to drive me home from Carlisle to Camp Hill, I figured the least I could do was feed her and Mercedes,” Busterna joked. Johannes Schulte a 1996 graduate and LL.M. student from Germany, often joined in the fellowship, too. 

“We had each other in good times and bad times,” said Busterna, who insisted that Guzman and Welp be in the bridal party of her wedding to Stephen. Whether it was her legal training showing through or the fact that she didn’t want to spend money on a new dress, Welp’s acceptance did not come without some negotiation. “Marion told me that she would love to be in my wedding but my bridesmaids’ dresses had to be blue. She only had one dress which was blue and she had no intentions of buying another one. It was a small sacrifice to pay to have Marion and Mercedes be part of my day,” Busterna said.

For Busterna, who is from London, the path to The Dickinson School of Law was an easy one. “I wanted to study law abroad, and I was too scared to go somewhere I didn’t know anyone. My aunt lives here and told me to get on the plane. That’s how I ended up at Dickinson.”

The road was a little more circuitous for Welp. “In Germany, we have a code law system, so there is no arguing about cases. We don’t have a jury. We just talk professionally to the judge,” Welp explained. “Then I saw all these American movies with people speaking to a jury. I found the element of psychology that is needed to talk to the jury very interesting, and I thought that it would be useful in negotiating contracts.”

Welp learned about the Ambassadorial Scholar Program through Rotary, which awards $15,000 a year for use in the United States in exchange for some speaking obligations on behalf of the organization. “Thanks to a professor’s recommendation, I got the scholarship,” said Welp, who explained that she would not have been able to afford law school tuition without the scholarship. “When I told them that I wanted to use if for a university, they picked Harrisburg as the territory. That is how I ended up at Dickinson.”

After attending a large public university in Germany, enrolling at a law school with a population of approximately 500 was a welcome change. “In Germany, I started with 1,500 students in my class. We didn’t even fit in the room. We only had seats for 600, so we needed to be there an hour early to get a seat. Being able to come to a small law school and live in the dorm was nice because it was all so personal,” Welp said.

Like Welp, Guzman chose Dickinson School of Law because she was looking for a different atmosphere. “Initially, I was planning to study in France for my master’s degree, because it’s a civil law system and our system is based on the French. Then I thought, if I go there, it’s going to be the same thing. When I started doing my research looking for schools, I found The Dickinson School of Law. I liked the small town and safe atmosphere. I have never once regretted coming here.” Guzman divides her time between New York City, where she works, and New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, Paul, and three children.


Media Contacts: 
Last Updated July 22, 2015