Students Hone Legal Skills through International Summer Placements

Close to 20 law students recently completed summer placements abroad, working on legal issues in Africa, Belgium, Cambodia, India, Thailand, and the Netherlands.

Since 2002, more than 100 Washington University law students have interned and studied in Africa through the Africa Public Interest Law & Conflict Resolution Initiative, a student–faculty collaboration designed to foster study, research, and professional experiences in Africa. In summer 2010, some 15 law students interned in Africa for 10 weeks, providing volunteer legal services to low-income individuals in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria with assistance from Karen Tokarz, the Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law & Public Service and director of the Dispute Resolution Program; Kim Norwood, professor of law and professor of African & African American Studies; and Michael Peil, associate dean for international programs.

Seven of these students worked at the Legal Aid Board and Lawyers for Human Rights in Durban, South Africa, where law students have externed for the past nine years. The Legal Aid Board provides free legal assistance on civil and criminal matters to indigent South Africans, while Lawyers for Human Rights provides free legal services to refugees and immigrants. In these placements, Washington University law students engaged in client counseling, prison visits, community education, negotiation and dispute resolution with agencies, legal research and writing, trial preparation, and appellate-brief writing. The 2010 South Africa summer interns also witnessed several World Cup soccer games in Durban and surrounding cities.

Five law students interned in Accra, Ghana, at the Legal Resource Centre and at the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Ghana). The Legal Resource Centre works with communities to ensure human rights, social progress, and economic development, especially in the areas of civil liberties, health, employment, education, and housing. FIDA provides free legal advice and representation in court for indigent women and children, undertakes literacy programs, and advocates for legislative reform. This past summer, the students were involved in client counseling, client advocacy, community education, and dispute resolution.

One student interned in Nairobi, Kenya, for the Federation of Women Lawyers office (FIDA-Kenya), providing assistance to indigent women and children. Another student interned in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, with Millennium Challenge, which provides funding for projects aimed to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. The student worked primarily with a former Burkinabe judge who is leading the conflict management portion of a major land re-organization project.  And, another student interned for the Legal Action and Women’s Rights Programs of the Social & Economic Rights Action Center, in Lagos, Nigeria, investigating and documenting human rights issues.

Several Washington University students have interned with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh during the past three years. This past summer, one student worked with defense counsel at the EEEC. She was the sixth Washington University law student to assist the tribunal, which is prosecuting crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge era. Students also have interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, with defense counsel, the Office of the Prosecutor, or in the Chambers. In 2010, two students also interned for Samata in Andhra Pradesh, India, working on mining and environmental issues, and one student interned with Bridges Across Borders in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

Most of the students received primary funding through the law school’s Summer Public Interest Stipend Program, and several were also awarded travel stipends from the school’s Office of International Programs or had Dagen-Legomsky Fellowships.

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute’s Dagen-Legomsky Fellowship Program enables students to study and work abroad, particularly in areas of international law and human rights law. Endowed by a gift from Margaret Dagen and named in honor of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute’s founding director, Stephen H. Legomsky, now the John S. Lehmann University Professor, the program has supported students working and studying abroad for the past 10 years.

In summer 2010, Oyinlola Oguntebi provided assistance to defense counsel in trials before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia. Also this past summer, Genevra Alberti traveled to Belgium for an externship with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. Additionally, 2010 Dagen-Legomsky Hague Fellow M. Imad Khan attended The Hague Academy for International Law in the Netherlands. This prestigious opportunity is available to very few U.S. law students, and is made possible by a special arrangement between the Harris Institute and The Hague Academy of International Law.

Additionally, for the fifth consecutive year, Washington University School of Law and Case Western Reserve University School of Law jointly offered an exciting opportunity for students to study at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Through the Summer Institute for Global Justice, more than 200 students from the United States and Europe have attended courses taught by prominent experts on a variety of subjects including atrocity law and policy, international criminal law, international human rights, comparative antitrust law, comparative constitutional law, international tax, international institutions, and international intellectual property law. Students travel to The Hague to observe trials at the Yugoslavia Tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the International Criminal Court; visit the International Court of Justice; and travel to Brussels to learn first-hand about European Union law-making and institutions.  Distinguished Visiting Lecturers in the program have included Justice Richard Goldstone, Ambassador David Scheffer, and Professor David Crane, and guest speakers have included Judge Philippe Kirsch, former president of the International Criminal Court; Judges Thomas Buergenthal and Sir Christopher Greenwood of the International Court of Justice; and Fatou Bensouda, deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The institute is directed by Leila Nadya Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Harris Institute.