International Law Week #7

October 27, 2011

Today, we take a quick moment to return to last week’s focus on international law opportunities at our law school with an interview with one of our recent alumni, Sarah Mielke. Sarah is currently working for the US State Department, and, as she details below, she took advantage of a great many of our international law offerings during her time at W&L Law. She even spent the summer after her second year working for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria and Nairobi, Kenya. Click here to read more about Sarah’s summer experiences.

Last week, we sent Sarah a few questions about her current position and how her experiences at W&L Law shaped her professional path. Her responses are below.

What are you currently doing?

I am working as the Piracy Officer for the UN Political Office for Somalia, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

How did you get that job?

My ‘real job’ is at the State Department in DC, where I run the US’s Rule of Law and Corrections programs for Pakistan. I was initially hired through the Presidential Management Fellowship, so as part of my job, I have the opportunity to take short, temporary assignments (3-4 months) to almost anywhere in the world. I helped the UN Office of Drugs and Crime launch their Counter Piracy Programme during law school – I’ve maintained contact with the Programme Coordinator, and he suggested this would be an exciting opportunity.

What does your average day look like?

My time with the State Department has been action packed. During my assignment here with the UN in Kenya, I have produced a report for the UN Security Council, helped secure the release of 14 hostages with a complicated repatriation issue, and am currently working with Somali officials to help declare the Exclusive Economic Zone off their coast, which will expand their jurisdiction for the purposes of curbing piracy, combatting illegal fishing and dumping, and enforcing environmental regulations. In the near future, it looks like I will be helping draft an agreement to construct a pirate prison in Somalia, and conduct criminal justice assessments in Comoros and Mozambique.

As part of my permanent position in DC, my days are filled with everything from writing talking points for senior officials, to briefing Congress, visiting prisons in Pakistan, developing projects with the UN in Islamabad, and discussing possibilities for gender justice programs based on our experiences in Afghanistan. I manage approximately $20 million dollars in foreign assistance money, so my time is always full.

What’s your favorite thing about your current job?

I am absolutely in love with my work, but the best part of the job by far has been the people I’ve met and with whom I have the privilege to work. Those I get to count as friends include someone who helped manage the South Sudan referendum for statehood, one of General Petraeus’s 12 advisors in Afghanistan, the US point of contact for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and someone fighting drug cartels in Colombia. Not only is conversation never dull, but I have endless people and places to visit and am constantly challenged with new ideas and perspectives.

Did you have any international experiences during your time in law school? If so, how did they prepare you for what you are doing currently?

During my time at W&L, I took every single international opportunity I could weasel my way into, and there were many – classes, extra-curriculars, practicum courses with travel components, journal experiences, and summer placements. Before law school, my only international experience was an undergrad semester abroad, but by the end of my three years at W&L, I was a stand-out candidate for a position in international law and development work.

Did you take any of the international law classes during your time at W&L? If so, how did they prepare you for what you are doing currently?

I took almost every international law class W&L had to offer. The academics  – both in the intricacies of international law, and basic competencies such as writing, issue spotting, and critical reasoning – gave me a good foundation for my job, but the experiences and relationships I gained from W&L are what really prepared me for this profession. I had the opportunity to do hands on work in
the field that had a genuine place on my resume, and my professors made sure I was linked in with top people in my field of interest – some of whom I now work with in my position at State.

What would you tell a student interested in international law who is considering W&L?

International law is a small field that rewards actual experience and strong relationships. No school can hand that to you, but if you’re willing to aggressively pursue a career in the field, W&L absolutely provided me the opportunities I needed to land a cutting edge job with the type of international legal components that interested me.

If you could tell a prospective one thing (or a few things) about W&L Law, what would you tell that student?

You have to go to a school that’s the right fit – W&L or otherwise –  but I think it’s easy to let the US News rankings dictate what ‘fits’. Obviously going to a good school is important, but beyond good academics, W&L is a place where you will build real relationships – both with professors and fellow students. Whether it’s Friday afternoon rec football and beer, frantically cramming for a 1L contracts exam, traveling to Liberia over Thanksgiving, or going to a conference in DC – these people will become your colleagues and hopefully your friends. Lexington is a small town and W&L will be your family. It’s easy (and good) to focus on grades during your time at school, but in the broader scheme of things, the relationships will likely matter more. W&L pushed me hard, but I also had a ton of fun, a full social life, and came to know so many people whom I will count as friends throughout life.

International Law Week #6

October 21, 2011

To wrap up International Law Week, we have one final interview, this time with Professor Erik Luna about his brand new Law and Terrorism seminar.

In this course students study the rapidly evolving and controversial field of legal responses to terrorism and examine a series of topics, including domestic criminal law related to terrorism, civil actions for terrorist incidents, foreign investigation and capture of suspects, terrorism-related searches and seizures, special pre-trial and trial procedures, the role of international law, military detentions and tribunals, and the use of extraordinary measures against suspected terrorists. This class has about twenty students and is one of many small seminars W&L Law students have an opportunity to take during their upper-level years. Click here for a full listing of second- and third-year course offerings.

Earlier this week, we sat down to talk with Professor Luna about his new course.

International Law Week #5

October 21, 2011

As previously mentioned, we have an increasing number of students working abroad and in international law-related areas during the summer. Last summer, several of our students worked in Cambodia, and a few weeks ago, Professor Brian Murchison spoke with a few of these students about their experiences for his radio show, Equal Time.

The students Professor Murchison interviewed did a variety of things during their time in Cambodia. Christopher Ford, a third-year student at W&L Law, worked for the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials in Phnom Penh. Katie Gray, a second-year student, working for International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) in Prey Veng and Pursat, Cambodia. Jamie Marr, a second-year student, worked for a non-governmental organization, Housing Rights Task Force. Click here to stream the radio interview here.

We also asked, Katie Gray some questions about her experiences working Cambodia, and what began as an interview about working in southeast Asia quickly turned into a conversation about the important role faculty members play at our law school in mentoring students, nurturing and directing their interests and assisting them as they pursue their professional ambitions.

International Law Week #4

October 20, 2011

The first half of this week we’ve focused on our human rights-related offerings. Today, we shift courses slightly and talk with Professor Susan Franck.

In addition to teaching Professional Responsibility, Professor Franck also leads several international business and trade-related courses including International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration and International Business and Investment Dispute Resolution. Last year, in connection with the Frances Lewis Law Center and Transnational Law Institute, she organized the Joint Symposium on International Investment and Alternative Dispute Resolution (  This Symposium took place in Lexington and brought together practitioners, experts and stakeholders from all over the world to discuss fundamental issues about the efficient prevention and management of investment treaty conflict.

Last week, we sat down to talk with Professor Franck about her International Business and Investment Dispute Resolution course, the UNTAD Symposium and her thoughts on teaching at W&L Law.

International Law Week #3

October 19, 2011

So, International Law Week continues apace. Today, we have an interview with third-year student, Marcena Winterscheidt.

During her time at W&L Law, Marcena has done a tremendous amount of international work. She spent the summer after her first-year in Pursat, Cambodia working for International Bridges to Justice, an organization that strives to protect due process and achieve fair trials for the accused throughout the world. Last summer, she worked in Vienna, Austria for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an office that deals with a number of issues including alternative development, criminal justice, prison reform and crime prevention, drug trafficking and terrorism prevention.

In addition, she is currently enrolled in our Transnational Access to Justice practicum. Students in this practicum work closely with law students at the Louis A. Grimes School of Law in Monrovia, Liberia on building greater access to justice in Liberia’s criminal justice system. Click here to read more about this practicum.

Last week, we sat down with Marcena to talk about her work in the Access to Justice practicum, her summer internships and her experiences at W&L Law.

International Law Week #2

October 18, 2011

Yesterday, as part of this week’s focus on our international law offerings, we featured an interview with Professor Mark Drumbl. Today, we have another interview, this time with Professor Speedy Rice.

Professor Rice leads a number of our third-year transnational practicum courses, and these offerings allow participating students to work on live legal issues in places like Liberia, Cambodia, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the European Court of Human Rights. As you might imagine, Professor Rice also has a number of professional contacts in the international law area, and, as you will hear time and again this week, he is common starting point for many of our students seeking to work internationally.

Last week, we sat down with Professor Rice to discuss his courses, our international law offerings, and what he likes about teaching at W&L Law:

International Law Week #1

October 17, 2011

And so it begins. Today marks the beginning of International Law Week at W&L Law. And what better time than now? Today at Noon, our Transnational Law Institute will host Lt. Col. Chris Jenks, Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army.  Lt. Col. Jenks will deliver a lecture titled, “Military Commissions and Indefinite Detention under the Laws of War.” Click here to read more about this event. This is one of many lectures the Transnational Law Institute facilitates each year. For a complete listing of Transnational Law Institute news and events, click here.

As previously mentioned, over the course of this week, we will highlight the many ways a student can pursue an interest in international law at our law school.  We will speak with professors, current students an an alumna to give you a sense of the broady array of curricular and extracurricular offerings in this area. What we hope you will take away from these materials is not only that W&L Law is a great place for students interested in international law (which it is), but also that it is a great place for students period (which it also is).

Today, we begin with a conversation with Professor Mark Drumbl. In addition to teaching, Professor Drumbl also serves as Director of the University’s Transnational Law Institute. His research and teaching interests include public international law, global environmental governance, international criminal law, postconflict justice, transnational legal process, and contracts. His current scholarly project examines the challenges in reintegrating child soldiers who have been implicated in acts of mass atrocity. Click here to read Professor Drumbl’s faculty profile.

Tomorrow, we will talk with Professor Speedy Rice about the transnational offerings available to our third year students. These courses allow participating students to work on live legal issues in places like Liberia, Cambodia, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the European Court of Human Rights.