Zeta Terpollari's journey from the bench to the classroom.
Growing up in Albania, Zeta Terpollari ’23 was always drawn to American movies—particularly courtroom dramas.
“My dream of becoming a lawyer and a judge began from the American courtroom,” she says. “While watching those movies, I realized how influential a lawyer can be in the outcome of a case and in a person’s life.”
Terpollari went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees (summa cum laude) in law at the University of Tirana in Albania. She then finished first in her class at the Magistrate School of the Republic of Albania, where she pursued advanced studies in law that allowed her to become a judge.
“I've felt the weight of the courtroom and a great responsibility to become fair and unbiased,” she recalls. “I believe I did it, and being a judge was like a mission that I completed successfully.”
But after a decade on the bench, she was ready for change.
“After all these years of sitting on the bench, trying to find the truth in the name of justice, I thought it was time to find my own truth,” she says.
For her, the truth was those legal dramas she watched as a child, and the dreams she had of practicing law in an American courtroom.
“I wanted to end my legal educational journey where it had begun,” she says.
She knew her next stop would be her last in her journey for legal education. A one-year LL.M. program in the United States could give her the tools that she needed to make her American dreams a reality.
She had one shot to get it right, but there was no contest. There was only one program in the country that had everything she wanted.
“Because of technological advancements, intellectual property law is one of the most exciting and stimulating areas of practice for lawyers,” she says. “Thus, joining Chicago Kent’s LL.M. in International Intellectual Property program was the best decision I have ever made for changing my legal path to become an IP attorney.”
“It was interesting to learn that IP intersects with various fields such as law, business, technology, and the arts, and how we can investigate and discover connections between them,” she says. “Furthermore, because intellectual property rights have global implications, I learned about how IP laws differ across countries and gained a global perspective on how innovation and creativity are protected and encouraged globally.”
The path wasn’t always easy. Even though she had more than a decade of legal experience, cultural and legal differences posed extra challenges for Terpollari.
“I encountered diversity not only in the legal system, but also in culture, language, and community adaptation. It was tough, but it was worthwhile. My academic journey at Chicago-Kent began with a steady enthusiasm and ended with great success,” she says.
Terpollari graduated in May 2023 with high honors—her family was literally right next to her.
“I’d refer to it as my family academic experience because I attended the master’s degree at Chicago-Kent at the same time as my husband,” she says. “Along with our two little children, we were entirely students. Our daily life was like a marathon. This was our first academic and personal test.”
Despite the extra pressures and challenges, Terpollari managed to succeed with the support of faculty, who empathized with her struggle.
“I was astounded by the outstanding professors and their empathy for their students. They do take your efforts into account,” she says.
She faced a particular challenge with legal writing. Her first course was especially challenging.
“Using precedents, researching, summarizing cases, and citing appropriately were all new and difficult skills for us as international students,” she says. “However, our professor’s amazing and interactive teaching style kept me deeply involved in the course.”
Terpollari ended up not only succeeding in the course, but she also earned a CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Legal Writing IV for having the highest grade in the course.
“I am a woman, a wife, and a mother of two little children. I did it, and you can, too!” she says.