Promising Lawyers Inspired to Unlock Their Potential

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Mar 12, 2019
by Allison Cowie
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Promising Lawyers Inspired to Unlock Their Potential

Cutler Fellows leave Washington encouraged to leverage the law to strengthen communities around the world Participants and faculty of the seventh annual Salzburg Cutler Law Fellows Program

When Wendy Cutler would sit across the table the world’s top trade delegations, the former diplomat and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would rely on three critical traits to successfully broker deals and carry out the American trade agenda: her listening skills, her patience, and her resilience.

Addressing a room full of the country’s top international law students and faculty at the United States Institute of Peace on Friday, February 22, Cutler charged her audience with developing these skills to help them become more effective lawyers and negotiators.

“Listening is key,” Cutler said. “By listening, you can really deal through a drafting change and put your proposal forward. You also have to be patient - negotiating can take a long time,” she said, recalling late nights with little progress across the negotiating table from foreign trade delegations.

It was in times like these where she needed to balance standing firm and finding compromises. “You need to be resilient and figure out how to turn an impasse around. It’s like dating,” Cutler said, to chuckles in the audience. “It’s important to have a problem solver that is able to bring everyone back together, despite disagreements in trade negotiations.”

Cutler’s remarks opened the seventh annual Salzburg Cutler Law Fellows Program, which gathered students from 11 law schools and 22 countries in Washington, DC to discuss the future of international law and public service. Wendy Cutler bears no relation to Lloyd N. Cutler, for whom the Cutler Fellows Program is named.

Over two days, February 22-23, Cutler Fellows met with top lawyers, negotiators, and public servants. Speakers included Cutler, who now serves as vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute; Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel to George H. W. Bush; Kathy Ruemmler, White House counsel to Barack Obama; and John Bellinger, former U.S. legal adviser to the Department of State and the National Security Council.

In anticipation of the program, Fellows prepared substantial working papers on emerging questions in international law. Faculty advisors from each of the participating law schools - the University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, New York University, Penn, Stanford, the University of Virginia, and Yale - led Fellows through workshops to improve their papers for eventual publication in academic journals and SalzburgGlobal.org.

On Friday evening, Gray, Ruemmler, and Bellinger shared their perspectives on the role of the President’s legal counsel. Their conversation gave Fellows and guests an inside look at how the White House considers international law when making foreign and domestic decisions. Judge William Webster, the former FBI and CIA director, attended the Friday evening program and joined Bellinger and Fellows for dinner at the Army and Navy Club sponsored by Arnold & Porter LLP.

Fellows gathered on Saturday at NYU Washington, DC, where program chair Mark Wu and Cutler Fellows co-founder Bill Burke-White led a panel discussion on the intersection of international law and development work.

Katrin Kuhlmann, president and founder of New Markets Lab, lent the panel her legal expertise in trade and development. Kuhlmann emphasized the law’s power to operationalize trade as a tool for improving livelihoods and living standards in developing countries.

Adejoké Babington-Ashaye of the World Bank shared her stories of prioritizing human rights in development work. In working with truth and reconciliation committees after the Lord’s Resistance Army’s takeover of northern Uganda, she would meet with witnesses and victims, many of whom were telling their stories for the first time. As an investigator, she “gave people a chance to tell their stories of what happened to them.”

“The future of international criminal law is actually national,” said Babington-Ashaye. She added: “International development work is not going in and telling people what to do; there are rule of law issues everywhere, not only in developing countries. Rather, it’s working together in a manner that is respectful of national expertise.”

Later that day, students met in small groups with Kuhlmann, Babington-Ashaye, and three other mentors for candid career conversations. Two mentors, Thomas Weatherall from the U.S. Department of State and Sara Salama from Coptic Orphans, were former Cutler Fellows; they were joined by Gomiluk Otokwala of the International Monetary Fund as well as Babington-Ashaye and Kuhlmann.

Fellows came away from the program with a keen sense of this calling. “Being able to connect with so many people also interested in international law, as well as scholars and professionals, made me feel very inspired to keep at it,” one Fellow said.

“It has re-energized my interest in public service and international affairs,” another added. “My whole perspective changed on what it means to be an international lawyer.”

Established in 2012, the Salzburg Cutler Law Fellows Program honors the legacy of Lloyd N. Cutler, the Washington “superlawyer” and counsel to U.S. Presidents Carter and Clinton. Cutler, who also served as Chairman of the Board of Salzburg Global Seminar, firmly believed in mentoring young leaders to use the rule of law as a tool to make the world a better place.


The Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program is held under the auspices of the Lloyd N. Cutler Center for the Rule of Law. The annual program collaborates with eleven of the leading U.S. law schools. This year's program is being sponsored by Arnold & Porter LLP, and NYU Washington, DC, and contributors to the Lloyd N. Cutler Center for the Rule of Law.