Leading Law Students Forge Online Connections

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Mar 30, 2021
by Michael Lubelczyk
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Leading Law Students Forge Online Connections

Annual weekend-long event grows to month-long program as the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program on the future of international law convenes online Students and faculty from the University of Chicago Law School took part in this year's online edition of the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program

Students from 14 top law schools across the United States convened digitally this March to explore the future of public and private international law at the ninth annual Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program

Convening online rather than in-person in Washington, DC due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic meant that the program this year lasted from March 11 to 27, rather than a single weekend as in previous years. The six-session program saw law students from schools across the US engage with prominent legal professionals, public servants, and leaders in the fields of international law and public service, and build connections across their school networks that will serve them in years to come, as well as connecting them to the wider Salzburg Cutler Fellows network.

While all studying in the US, the 53 students of the ninth cohort of Cutler Fellows represented many countries, including Canada, China, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States, among others, maintaining the international nature of the program.

The 14 law schools taking part in the 2021 program included Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, New York University, Northwestern, Penn, Stanford, UC Berkeley, the University of Virginia, and Yale.

Speakers this year included Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Perry World House Professor of the Practice of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania and former Jordanian diplomat who has recently been appointed President & CEO of the International Peace Institute; Sue Biniaz, the Senior Fellow for Climate Change at the United Nations Foundation and previously lead climate lawyer for the U.S. State Department; William Burke-White, Richard Perry Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and leading expert on U.S. foreign policy, multilateral institutions, and international law; and John B. Bellinger, III, Partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and former Legal Adviser to the US Department of State and National Security Council. 

Al Hussein spoke candidly with Fellows about his previous role as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the “diplomatic art” of human rights advocacy. “The power of human rights is immense when wielded properly,” said Al Hussein. Bellinger and Biniaz held an engaging discussion regarding the creation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the move to rejoin it under the new Biden Administration. Burke-White also once again served as the faculty chair for the year’s program alongside Mark Wu, Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

In addition to hearing from these keynote speakers, Fellows received individualized critiques on their student papers from faculty of the participating law schools, as well as further advice on how to seek publication in journals. This year’s papers covered diverse topics, ranging from cyberespionage, to refugee rights, to the interaction between international law and environmental sustainability. 

In the program’s Knowledge Café, students discussed personal ambitions and potential career routes in international law with mentors from The World Bank, New Markets Lab, Rock Creek Global Advisors, the International Monetary Fund, Equality Collective, and the Office of Human Rights & Refugees in the US Department of State. 

“Having the opportunity to meet and learn from the diverse array of experts, faculty, students, and staff. It was tremendously rewarding to be able to learn from them about their area of research and expertise and how they leveraged their experiences to pursue an extremely meaningful career in international law,” said Bao Kham Chau from University of Virginia Law.

Meeting fellow public-interest-minded law students was a highlight for many participants - especially in this age of COVID-19 and online classes. 

“I got to know a number of students from other law schools, which I had not gotten to do yet in law school,” remarked Julia McCartney from Northwestern Law.

Sean Brennan of Michigan Law added: “I would highly recommend participating in the Cutler Fellows Program to any student interested in developing their legal writing skills, and particularly for those interested in a career in public international law. It was great to meet so many other students who are passionate about this field - as well as working professionals and academics; I look forward to (hopefully) calling many of them colleagues one day.”

Concluding this year's program, Stephen L. Salyer, President and CEO of Salzburg Global Seminar, said: “Being a Salzburg Global Fellow is a life-long learning and problem-solving opportunity; we look forward to working with you and continuing these connections in the future.”