Luciana Pineda ’16 Master of Laws, Environmental Law

It was a natural choice for Costa Rica native Luciana Pineda (LLM ’16) to become an environmental lawyer. Growing up in a country recognized as a global leader in environmental policy, Pineda is a keen environmentalist. She also comes from a family of prominent lawyers. Notably, her grandmother, Sonia Picado Sotela, was the first woman judge in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and served as ambassador of Costa Rica in the United States 

After earning her law degree at the University of Costa Rica, Pineda spent two years practicing environmental law as an associate attorney at a firm in the country’s capital San José, but aspired to deepen her knowledge in environmental law and international legal savvy. She began exploring law schools with LLM programs, landing on the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law as the perfect fit. 

Ranked 13th for environmental law in the United States, Maryland Carey Law offered the rich curriculum she sought in a prime metropolitan setting with easy access to other major East Coast cities. “Maryland was my first and only choice, says Pineda. 

Upon moving to Baltimore for two years, she wasn’t disappointed. Pineda fell in love with her adopted city for its first-rate museums and restaurantsand found the LLM to be a rigorous and supportive program offering her the specialized knowledge she needed to take her practice to the next level back in Costa Rica. 

“One of my favorite things about Maryland Carey Law,” remembers Pineda, “was that the professors were always there for us, helping us, especially the foreign students. At the same time they were always pushing us, leading us to give more of ourselves.”  

After a shy start, Pineda reports gaining confidence thanks to support from multilingual staff and professors, for whom she says she will always have a great appreciation. Having faculty members with an open door policy and willingness to accompany students during the LLM process was critical, explains Pineda, because, even with excellent English skills, language remained a challenge. “Legal English can be very technical and different from the regular English we speak…It’s a barrier that I think many LLM students that are not native English speakers have to overcome.  

The Costa Rican attorney went on to be a star student in Maryland Carey Law’s Environmental Law program, earning the top excellence award for an LLM student in her graduating class, which recognizes academic performance, service to the faculty, and commitment to the activities of the LLM community. 

Pineda credits the LLM program with contributing to her career advancementAfter returning to Costa Rica, she started her own practice in environmental law for one year, but couldn’t resist signing on with the prestigious Nassar Abogados when she was invited to lead the firm’s Environmental and Regulatory Law department. With offices in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and alliances with firms in the United States, Europe, Panama, and the Caribbean, Nassar offers Pineda the opportunity to work with international clients, many of whom are investors from the United States.  

Maryland Carey Law’s LLM, says Pineda, equipped her with the knowledge and skills to best serve those clients, “tools I use tremendously throughout my career.” 

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