Students Learn How Legal Training Can Be Used for the Public Good




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Mar 06, 2017
by Sarah Sexton
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Students Learn How Legal Training Can Be Used for the Public Good

Fellows discuss issues ranging from human rights to monetary law at the fifth annual Cutler Law Fellows program in Washington, DC Fellows and faculty members from the fifth annual Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program

As the Trump Administration in the United States and political movements across the world raise questions around the continuity of international legal frameworks put in place since World War II, the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program gathered 56 students from 11 top U.S. law schools to explore the future of public and private international law.

Over two days, February 24-25, the students heard from prominent legal professionals and public servants, including Kristalina Georgieva, the newly-appointed CEO of the World Bank, and Jared Genser, Founder of Freedom Now, a non-profit organization aiming to free prisoners of conscience around the world. 

The students also worked closely with faculty advisors from each of the participating law schools – Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Stanford, UVA, and Yale – to workshop research papers tackling issues in international law ranging from human rights to monetary law. 

The Cutler Fellows Program was named in memory of Lloyd N. Cutler, the Washington “Super Lawyer” who served as White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton. Cutler also served as Chair of Salzburg Global’s Board of Directors for a decade and believed strongly in the power of mentoring young leaders with a commitment to making the world a better place through law and rule of law. 

The Cutler Fellows Program was founded in 2012 to carry forward Lloyd Cutler’s legacy and to empower a next generation of legal professionals. This year, we welcomed the fifth cohort of Cutler Fellows, the largest, most diverse group to date, collectively representing 26 countries, including Australia, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, and Iran.

Opening the program on Friday at the United States Institute for Peace, Jared Genser shared the story of James Mawdsley, a British citizen who in 1999 was sentenced to 17 years in solitary confinement in Burmese prison for advocating democracy and distributing leaflets in Burma. In early 2000, Genser petitioned the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Mawdsley’s behalf and went to work urging the U.S. Department of State and the U.K. Foreign Office to call for Mawdsley’s release. 

When the UN Working Group later ruled that Mawdsley was being held in violation of international law, the pressure Genser had generated through his political and public relations advocacy efforts forced the Burmese government to release Mawdsley in October 2000. Shortly thereafter, Genser founded Freedom Now. 

Through Mawdsley’s story, Genser emphasized the importance of reinforcing human rights law with political and public relations advocacy strategically designed to maximize pressure on governments to release prisoners held in violation of international law.

In the afternoon, the Cutler Fellows Program co-chair, William Burke-White of Penn Law moderated a faculty panel on “The First Year of the Trump Administration: What to Expect?” featuring Rachel Brewster of Duke Law, Paul Stephan of Virginia Law, and Allen Weiner of Stanford Law. 

The panelists commented on the apparent retreat from globalism across the world and discussed what they described as the Trump Administration’s “transactional approach” to international law, one that seeks individual gain and discounts the ideological broader good. 

The following morning at New York University’s Washington campus, keynote speaker Kristalina Georgieva echoed the faculty panelists’ concern for the dwindling sense of global community. Georgieva, who previously served as European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, grew up in post-World War II Communist Bulgaria, and commented on how her home country and its neighbors in Europe had learned twice in the past century what happens when nations try to confront problems independently. 

“I hope we do not have to learn in the hardest way possible that we are in this world together,” Georgieva said.  

She also fielded several questions from the Cutler Fellows, including how to make social welfare more effective and how to facilitate better coordination between various actors working to respond to crises such as the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  

After this, students engaged in small group discussions exploring how legal training can be used for the public good. These discussions were aided by Michael Bahar, Staff Director and General Counsel at U.S. House of Representatives, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Katrin Kuhlmann, President and Founder, New Markets Lab; Gomiluk Otokwala, Counsel at the International Monetary Fund; and Mark Vlasic, Senior Fellows and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law and Principal at Madison Law & Strategy Group. 

At the end of this year’s Program, Salzburg Global Seminar President Stephen L. Salyer announced the Cutler Fellow with the most outstanding finance-orientated paper would receive a Salzburg Global scholarship.

This scholarship will allow one student to travel to Salzburg Global Seminar’s home at Schloss Leopoldskron, Austria, to take part in the June 2017 session of the Salzburg Global Forum on Finance in a Changing World, during which the world’s leading bankers, regulators, and policymakers will engage in off-the-record conversations on the issues affecting the future of global markets. 

The decision will be made by select faculty. Salzburg Global plans to offer a single scholarship each year to allow future Cutler Fellows to engage in other Salzburg Global programs that align with their interests.