Richard Weir (JD ’16)
Attending the American Society of International Law’s (ASIL) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC this year was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my international legal education as a JD student at Berkeley Law. From the Meeting, I gained valuable insights into cutting-edge international legal scholarship, the practical realities of litigating complex international legal issues, and the role international law continues to play in the maintenance of global security.
Importantly, attendance at the Annual Meeting helped me to build and expand the breadth and depth of my international legal education. Throughout the course of the Meeting, I attended ten panels and was afforded the opportunity to hear a major policy address by the Obama Administration. These panels addressed a diverse set of issues: the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the laws of war, the proposed amendments to the Rome Statute, complicity, and the current refugee crisis. Each of these panels dove deep into the heart of some of the most pressing legal questions international lawyers face each day. Indeed, I had the chance to hear from the legendary Nuremburg prosecutor Ben Ferencz, as well as the US Department of Defense’s Stephen Preston, who detailed the Obama Administration’s latest legal theory for use of force against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) under international and domestic law. All of the discussions were important, timely, and consequential.
The ASIL Annual Meeting brings together the most prominent figures in a variety of international legal disciplines, and being present afforded me the tremendous opportunity to discuss their work with them, as well as how I might succeed, as they have, in my future career. I spoke with partners at large global law firms, government lawyers, legal advisors from international organizations, and preeminent legal scholars, all of whom had constructive advice. In short, I left with a much clearer view of the field than the one with which I arrived.
It was a tremendous honor to represent Berkeley Law and the Miller Institute as this year’s JD fellow. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to establish relationships and build on my international legal experience and coursework. I hope to make the trip to ASIL’s Annual Meetings for many years to come.
Naomi Fenwick (LLM ’15)
The American Society of International Law Annual Meeting is a unique opportunity to engage with current issues in international law and network with leading professionals. The Annual Meeting attracts practitioners and researchers from a very diverse array of fields, ranging from international criminal justice and international human rights, energy and environmental law, and international finance and investment. The Meeting further hosts a number of the Society’s Interest Groups, organized around a theme such as the Disaster Law Interest Group, or around its members such as the Young Professionals Interest Group.
Focusing on international human rights law and refugee law, I attended a number of panels dedicated to exploring the challenges facing governments in navigating an ever-changing security landscape, and implications for those seeking safety from violence. This year, the Meeting addressed the question of how private and public international law was adapting to a rapidly changing world. Panelists often had differing views, leading to always thought-provoking and often spirited exchanges! Most panels were composed of both academic and practitioners, thus allowing for contrasting perspectives and approaches on the questions debated.
Aside from the thematic panels, a number of events this year were organized specifically with students and young practitioners in mind. The panel on “The Future of International Law: A Roadmap for New Professionals” included professionals practicing international space law, forest law, and in other lesser known but booming areas of international law practice. Similarly, the Women’s Mentoring Program Reception offered young women to network with leading professionals and receive the exceptional benefit of their advice on navigating a career in international law as a woman, including advice on addressing different cultural expectations.
The best aspect of the Meeting was without doubt the unique opportunity to network with professionals with very different career paths, including academics, government attorneys, legal advisors from major international organizations, and UN field officers. This wealth of experience highlighted the many capacities in which young professionals such as myself can engage with the issues they are most passionate about and transform that passion into a meaningful and rewarding career.
I am very grateful to the Miller Institute and the Advanced Degree Programs Office for this fantastic opportunity and their support throughout.
Jerome Hsiang (JSD ’15)
I am honored and grateful to have been chosen as the Miller Institute and the Advanced Degrees Program (ADP) Office’s inaugural JSD fellow for the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting. Now that I have had some time to reflect upon the trip, I can safely say that attending the Annual Meeting was an incredibly rewarding experience. I hope by sharing a few of my thoughts here, I will be able to convince future JSD students to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity offered by the Miller Institute and the ADP Office.
I believe it is absolutely worthwhile for JSD candidates to attend the Annual Meeting for three main reasons. First, the contacts you will make are invaluable. In just a few short days I met people from the World Bank, ICJ, NATO, the OECD, the Red Cross, various universities around the world and more. For aspiring scholars, the practitioners present at the Annual Meeting are invaluable founts of knowledge about international law as it is practiced. Many of these practitioners will gladly share their insights and observations, potentially giving you fresh research ideas and opportunities at collaboration.
Second, the Annual Meeting can put a human face on international law, even at the highest level. Let’s face it. Sometimes legal academic debate can seem distant and, well, academic. But at the Annual Meeting you will come to see how passionate international law advocates interact with each other during debate panels and networking events. I believe that this is valuable experience for aspiring scholars because it is impossible to disaggregate the study of international law from the advocacy, politics, and even the individual personalities of the practitioners. In the end, your scholarship and thinking will become all the richer because of it.
Finally, experiencing first-hand the panels at the Annual Meeting will help underscore the fact that the study of international law must be rooted in practical considerations as well as in theory. No more was this more evident than in the policy keynote speech given by the Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston, who outlined the Obama administration’s stance on the use of force authorization for military operations against ISIS. Throughout the speech, Mr. Preston made it clear that the US government’s position reflects and engages the academic debate about use of force authorizations. It is important to remember that since much of the development of international law stems from state practice, as serious scholars we cannot ignore the nexus between politics and law.
In short, my experience at the Annual Meeting was all around excellent. I believe future JSD students will find their experiences similarly enriching. I hope this will be the start of a long Berkeley Law tradition of sending our graduate-level students to experience one of the great annual international law gatherings in the United States.