Professional Experiences of Alumni & Current Students
Ian MacDonald | Ilan Berman | Jennifer Toole | Jason Steinbaum | Knox Thames | Omar Vargas | Erica Bomsey | Jennifer Pendarvis Harris | Shibani Malhotra
Anita Sarah Jackson | Nathan P. Kirschner | Laura Martino
- Ian MacDonald
While studying at WCL, I interned at two organizations where I gained invaluable experience in both public international law and immigration law. In the summer of 1997, I worked as a legal intern for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York. I assisted the attorneys in representing refugee and asylum applicants. My work involved engaging in client intake interviews, making presentations to asylum applicants at detention centers, conducting case analysis and strategy, appearing in court, and researching and analyzing regulations and legislation. In the summer of 1998, I served as a Legal Clerk at the United Nations' headquarters in New York. In this position, I researched and analyzed various international agreements and UN resolutions for UN policy makers engaged in various peacekeeping operations. I also examined the effectiveness of UN implemented sanctions in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and Iraq as mechanism for enforcing peace. This project involved critically analyzing the unintended economic effect on third party countries and their humanitarian impact on civilian populations within the targeted states. Since graduating from WCL in 1999, I have been working as an Associate at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP. I represent national and international employers before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Labor and Department of State in connection with applications and petitions for immigrant and nonimmigrant employees. Specifically, I work on certain niche areas of business immigration, such as the representation of foreign investors in the United States and the immigration consequences of mergers and acquisitions.
- Ilan Berman
While pursuing my JD and MA, I supplemented my education at the Washington College of Law and the School of International Service with practical experience in foreign policy as a Research Associate at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). At JINSA, a Washington-based institute covering defense and foreign policy, I researched and wrote extensively on U.S. Middle East policy, strategic resources, and Palestinian politics for such publications as the Washington Times, Strategic Review and Nativ, Israel's leading foreign policy journal. My resulting book on U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, entitled Partnership in Transition: U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation Beyond the Cold War, was published in 2000. After graduating from WCL, I joined a private national security consulting group as an Attorney/Analyst. In that capacity, I worked in conjunction with noted specialists and federal agencies on issues relating to international law, U.S. counterterrorism policy, and homeland defense. In 2001, I returned to the think-tank community, first as a Fellow and then as Vice President for Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. I now write and speak widely on regional security issues in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Russian Federation, as well as teaching foreign policy and international law at the graduate level at the American University School of International Service.
- Jennifer Toole
As a JD/MA student I was an extern with the United States Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser, in the Treaty Affairs office ("L/T"). That externship led to a paid law clerk position with the International Claims and Investment Disputes office ("L/CID"), under the Department of State's Office of the Legal Adviser. Through both externships, I was able to apply credit towards my JD/MA degree. Additionally the JD/MA program afforded me the opportunity of studying for the summer in Beijing, China, where I also interned at a Chinese law firm. From an extracurricular standpoint, the JD/MA program allowed me the opportunity to participate in the Jessup International Moot Court Competition [where my team was a regional finalist]; publish an article on the United Nation's Organization and Conduct Mission in East Timor; and teach legal research and citation to first year law students. I have since completed my law degree and am finishing my master's degree part time. I have remained with the State Department, now am an Attorney-Adviser in L/CID on the NAFTA Arbitration Team. In addition, I am an Adjunct Professor of Legal Rhetoric and Writing at the Washington College of Law. My position as Attorney-Adviser is one where international law and policy truly intersect. In my first year of practice I had the opportunity to draft submissions and present oral argument to international arbitral tribunals while assisting other federal agencies on present-day policy issues.
- Jason Steinbaum
As a JD/MA student, I served as a Legislative Assistant for Foreign Affairs and Defense with Senator Donald Riegle (D-MI) from 1990 to 1993. In this position, I drafted legislation, advised the Senator on votes, wrote his speeches, and represented him in meetings with community and interest groups. I had the unique opportunity of drafting a Senate resolution demanding that Syria withdraw its armed forces from Lebanon, as well as the Senator's speech prior to the Gulf War. Furthermore, my positioned afforded me the opportunity of travel throughout Asia and the Middle East. Since working for Senator Riegle, I joined the staff of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in November 1993 and have served as his Legislative Director and am now his Washington Chief of Staff. With Rep. Engel, I have served as Staff Coordinator of the Congressional Albanian Issues Caucus, helping to promote legislation and issues affecting the Albanian regions of the Balkans and have been very involved in matters relating to the Middle East, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland.
- Knox Thames
During my time at WCL and in the joint JD/MA program, I took advantage of the many internship opportunities Washington, DC provides. In the summer of 1999, I served as a legal intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Regional Office for the Americas. My responsibilities included researching and drafting advisory opinions pertaining to areas of first impression regarding the intersection of international law and US refugee and asylum law. I also focused on international refugee and human rights law, as well as stateless persons and nationality. In addition to specific refugee cases pending in the office, I analyzed human rights conditions in countries of origin or first countries of asylum. That following fall, I externed at the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, a federal agency that works with Congress and the State Department to promote human rights in the OSCE region. While externing, I researched Helsinki Final Act issues on human rights, rule of law and labor rights affecting OSCE participating States, and drafted action reports. I was also able to participate in legislative planning meetings, communicate with House and Senate offices regarding pending foreign policy initiatives, assist with Congressional hearings and briefings, as well as draft memoranda on legal and legislative issues. My final internship was with the State Department's Office of Legal Advisor, in the Spring of 2000. I worked in the Legal Office for Human Rights and Refugees (L/HRR) and Legal Office for Economics and Business (L/EB). By being able to divide my time between two offices, I was exposed to many facets of international law. I was tasked with drafting replies to international tribunals on issues relating to US law and international commitments. In addition, I examined substantive issues involving treaty interpretation; foreign and international court rulings, and integration of US and international law. Overall, by being able to work in the NGO sector, as well as with the legislative and executive branches of the US Government, I gained invaluable experience, which has helped greatly in launching my professional career. Due to my externship at the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I returned to the Commission full-time upon graduating from the JD/MA program, serving as Counsel. I now focus on religious freedom issues and migration issues within the 55 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is very exciting and challenging, as I work on foreign policy and human rights issues in both the domestic and international arenas. I feel certain that the opportunities the JD/MA program offered, through diverse class offerings, extracurricular activities and internships, strengthened my abilities to advocate for human rights.
- Omar Vargas
The JD/MA joint degree program is the most important reason why I chose to study at American University. As a joint degree student, I made every effort to blend the opportunities offered through the Washington College of Law and the School of International Service. I quickly found that by mixing the two disciplines, I was adding a different dimension to both my academics and professional experiences. For example, by infusing the lessons and issues of an international trade law course with a course on political economy or international development, I developed a heightened level of technical and analytical knowledge. This blend of disciplines was reflected in my graduate level research and writing on issues concerning international trade in Latin America, economic development, and human rights. My research ultimately earned recognition by the U.S.-Mexico Law Institute in 1998. The same was true while working as a summer clerk at the U.S. Court of International Trade. In this capacity I served as a clinical-student attorney with the International Human Rights Law Clinic and as a policy intern at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This led to my current position as a Special Assistant with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of Justice Programs where I focus on developing and analyzing current legal policy issues.
- Erica R. Bomsey
I applied to American University specifically for the JD/MA program, having decided long ago that public international law and international politics operate hand-in-hand. After my first year, I decided to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities available through the program and traveled to Tokyo for the summer semester through another law school. During my second year, I was fortunate to secure an externship for WCL credit with the Office of the Legal Adviser at the United States Department of State, in its Office of International Claims and Investment Disputes ("L/CID"). As an extern, I worked on numerous issues, some of which utilized my Japanese language skills. At the end of the semester, I was offered a Law Clerk position in L/CID and was able to receive credit towards my master's degree. Although I never participated in journal or moot court, I received plenty of experience with briefs and cite-checking at L/CID, providing support for extensive litigation before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, and for various NAFTA arbitrations. During my third summer I decided to acquire practical experience and secured a position within a local law firm. I accomplished all of the above, finishing the law degree in May 2001, the Master's degree that December, and the New York Bar the following February. I will be starting in the Treasury Legal Honors Program as an Attorney-Adviser in the fall, a position that requires an understanding of the relationship between law and policy. I will be participating in the Honors Program within the Treasury Department. The Honors Programme is a two-year program, comprised of four six-month rotations among the various bureaus and offices within the Department, and will expose me to the various complexities of the Department.
- Jennifer Pendarvis Harris
While I was already heavily invested in the international arena, having lived and worked in Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Mexico, the JD/MA program helped focus and guide my career ambitions. Throughout my time in the program, I continued to develop international experience, both academically and professionally, in concert with the pursuit of a JD and MA. I was a member of the editorial staff of the Human Rights Brief and the American University Law Review, I authored two published articles that were printed in the Human Rights Brief, Kosovo: An Application of the Principles of Self-Determination and Refugee Women: Failing to Implement Solutions, and co-authored Succession to Debts and Assets: Modern Law and Policy, which was printed in the Harvard Journal of International Law. My work experience during this period included working as a special assistant to the director for an environmental non-governmental organization in the Yucatan, Mexico, as a summer associate for a criminal defense attorney practicing in Virginia and DC, and as a dean's fellow for Professor Paul Williams, the JD/MA program director. I also took advantage of WCL's clinical program for two semesters; defending juveniles and assisting states attorneys prosecute the domestic violence docket the second semester, in Montgomery County, Maryland. After graduating from WCL and SIS, I accepted a clerkship position at the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. The clerkship provided me with the opportunity to enhance my legal research and writing skills, focusing on a vast array of legal issues while working with numerous distinguished judges. Following the appellate court clerkship I chose to accept a second clerkship in the felony division of the trial court in an effort to extend and contrast my experience. The trial level clerkship is providing valuable first-hand work in a court and I expect the clerkship to give me the added insight and experience I need as I pursue a career in the newly emerging field of international criminal law.
- Shibani Malhotra
While I was a JD/MA student, I spent six months in Hanoi, Vietnam during which time I was an International Intern at the United Nations Development Programme and assisted the Senior Legal Advisor in working with the Office of the National Assembly, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuracy in reforming the legal framework of Vietnam. This unique opportunity allowed me to research and draft pertinent memos on the organization of the Vietnamese court system as well as on various legal activities in Vietnam. I was able to earn credit towards my master's degree for the internship at the UNDP, fulfilling one of the major requirements of the MA program. In addition, during my time in Vietnam, I was a legal intern at a British law firm, where I assisted the attorneys in various project finance work and researched the legal status of non-governmental organizations in Vietnam. While I was there I participated in a summer program in international law in Indonesia, focusing primarily on comparative law and international environmental law. I am currently an Associate in the Litigation Section of Dickstein, Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky LLP. I represent my clients in antitrust litigation matters, guiding them through the discovery process, preparing them for, and defending their depositions, drafting various legal documents, and communicating with co-counsel and opposing counsel on various issues. Prior to my current position I spent six months in the International Trade Remedies division. In that capacity I represented foreign producers, as well as foreign and domestic importers and exporters in antidumping and countervailing duty investigations and subsequent administrative reviews and investigations conducted by the International Trade Administration (ITA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce and by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).
- Anita Sarah Jackson
I am currently a third year JD/MA candidate at American University. I came to AU specifically because of its comprehensive human rights course offerings and its well-renown faculty. In the human rights world, WCL stands out with an exceptionally high concentration of international experts and practitioners in the field of human rights. I chose to attend American University because of the opportunity to pursue a joint degree with WCL and SIS in International Affairs. American University's School of International Service is well-regarded in Washington D.C., and there are numerous opportunities for students to interact with professionals downtown through public, private and not-for-profit organizations and institutions. In the summer before I came to WCL, I lived in Mutare, Zimbabwe, working at a rural women's health clinic and orphanage. Taking time to travel before starting the JD/MA program was wonderful because it provided me an international context with which to ground my academic and professional experiences. While pursuing my JD/MA I have been able to take specialized human rights courses such as International Business and Human Rights and to participate in the activities offered by the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. I am working with Prof. Michael Tigar on cases representing victims of human rights violations from Chile and Chagos. This has been a unique opportunity as it has put me in contact with several well known dignitaries - a key defendant in the Chile case is Henry Kissinger. This summer I am working for the American Association for the Advancement of Science-Science and Human Rights Program. This program has been instrumental in developing rigorous research methods to discover and analyze human rights violations. The faculty at WCL is a group of exceptionally talented scholars and practitioners. I am currently a research assistant for Professor Paul Williams, who is an expert on the various conflicts in Eastern Europe. Professor Williams teaches a course in public international law as part of the JD/MA program. This course provided me substantive opportunities to test my oral argumentation and persuasive writing. I felt that no other class taught me as much about how negotiations actually play out in the real world. Furthermore, I have also found strong institutional support for my work and interests. For instance, this past year I received the Pittman Potter Award for excellence in the study of international law from the School of International Service. Finally, to fund my work this summer, I received an Equal Justice Foundation grant through WCL.
- Nathan P. Kirschner
Through the JD/MA program I have had the opportunity to study the theory behind international law as well as the opportunity to take classes that include practical training in the field of international negotiation. During the summer of 2001 I participated in a study abroad program at Moscow State University (MGU) in Russia. In the MGU program I studied Russian Law in Transition under the World Bank Representative to the Russian Federation in addition to law and its relation to the reform of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. When I returned from Moscow I received course credit to write a paper on the Kosovo conflict from the Russian Perspective. The opportunity to see regional conflicts, legal theory from a different political perspective is truly invaluable towards my pursuit of a professional career in the field of international law. The spring of 2002 I was able to put my fluency in French to work when I participated in the Concours International des Droits de L'Homme René Cassin (René Cassin International Human Rights Moot Court Competition) in Strasbourg, France. This opportunity afforded me the chance to network with students and practitioners from all over Europe and the Americas, with the common bond of improving human rights standards across the globe. American University Washington College of Law is the only US school that sends a team to this competition - the most prestigious French language human rights law competition in the world. It was truly a unique and invaluable experience.
- Laura Martino
The joint JD/MA program enriches the academic experience by offering students a broader contextual framework for the study of international law. After a year of rigorous legal studies, I enjoyed deepening my international law curriculum by exploring the underlying policy, history, and theory that surrounds it. Equipped with this knowledge, students interested in practicing international policy and law become ideal candidates for positions in government, private firms in Washington, D.C. and organizations across the world. I enrolled in the joint MA/JD program with the hope that I would be able to take a more flexible and creative approach to building a career in international law. My experiences working at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has reinforced this notion. As I experienced first hand the making of trade policy through both the negotiating rounds and treaty interpretation, I discovered the many options available to students with a broad background, ranging from general counsel to more political positions. I learned that to be a successful negotiator, an understanding of the legal rules of an agreement and the differences in the legal regimes of our trade partners is necessary, but not sufficient A solid grasp of the underlying political and cultural perspectives that shape a country's negotiating position is also a necessary aspect of the negotiations. Hence, a legal and policy background places professionals in a unique position to truly explore the gamut of career choices available to them in international law. Importantly, my summer at USTR has demonstrated how the joint degree program equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to explore their legal careers at these various levels.