Alumni Spotlight

Aaron Schildhaus '68

As a law student in the late '60s, Aaron Schildhaus remembers looking around and seeing very few women in his classes. The imbalance struck him as unfortunate, particularly in a law school founded by women.

"I grew up in a family environment where my three sisters and I were always treated the same," he explains. "It was obvious to me early on that this was an exception, and that women were not always treated equally," he says. "I felt it necessary in my professional life to ensure that women and other minorities were given the same opportunities as men."

Since his 1968 graduation from WCL, Schildhaus has been a very successful attorney practicing international law. He's also held true to his word about ensuring diversity. Recently, he was unanimously chosen by an all-female committee to receive the Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law. Presented by the American Bar Association's Section of International Law, the award honors an international practitioner who has encouraged women to engage in international law careers or advanced opportunities for women in international law. Schildhaus is the first male, and one of only five people, to earn the honor.

"Aaron has really stood out over time as someone who, from the very beginning, has consistently been a huge supporter for the advancement of women," notes Aileen Pisciotta, general counsel for Trans-World Telecom Caribbean and chair of the nominating committee. "He's been a long-term leader in the section for the 15 years I've known him," says Pisciotta, "and he's always promoted women's participation."

Schildhaus' unofficial motto is, "Don't just tell women and minorities; show them." An active member of the ABA Section of International Law, he initiated and organized a program called Pathways to Employment in International Law, which is offered four or five times a year. "The program is a way to introduce seasoned practitioners to law students and help them find success in international law," describes Pisciotta.

Additionally, he has organized conferences and panel discussions on diversity and gender. "He always made sure at least half of the speakers were women," Pisciotta adds. When chairing committees, he made sure they were gender-balanced

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Schildhaus' choice to practice international law after graduation was somewhat uncommon, especially given that the law school then offered only a one-semester course in the subject. But Schildhaus was focused on his goal.

After his second year of law school, "I decided the only way to do international law was to get firsthand experience of the culture abroad," he asserts. He sold his car, took the money and spent his summer traveling through a dozen countries. "That experience showed me that the world was a lot bigger," recalls Schildhaus. "It really opened my eyes."

Currently in solo private practice in Washington, D.C., Schildhaus had a successful career working abroad. He lived in Paris for 11 years, the first year working for a Franco-German law firm, the remaining 10 as a solo practitioner.

In addition to the Rasmussen Award, Schildhaus was recently elected vice chair of the ABA's Section of International Law. In his new role as a future chair, he will continue his work on behalf of women. "Although women and other minorities are increasing in numbers in the profession, we still have a long way to go before they enjoy the levels of participation and leadership that they merit," he notes. "We all need to work together to make this happen."