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Summer international internship program prepares law students for practice in globalized world

  • Citizen lawyers of the future:
    Citizen lawyers of the future:  Through the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, more than 200 students have interned in 51 countries since the International Internship Program was founded in 2002.  Photo by David Morrill
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The future is clear: The need for lawyers who are able to recognize and competently deal with issues outside the U.S. legal system will only increase over time. The trend is evident according to the American Bar Association: more than half of lawyers practicing today interact with clients outside the U.S., international business transactions total $1 billion or more a year across the country, and, in major law firms, an increasing number of cases have a substantial international component.

Recognizing this trend early on, William & Mary Law School has emerged as a leader in helping students gain global competency. In addition to offering a variety of courses and a concentration in international law, the school also provides unique opportunities for students to gain practical legal experience abroad each summer. Through the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (CLS/PCP), more than 200 students have interned in 51 countries since the International Internship Program was founded in 2002.

The crop of 2019 summer internships is the largest yet and includes positions with two international tribunals and organizations in 15 countries outside the U.S., including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kosovo, Myanmar, Nepal, The Netherlands, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Switzerland. Learn more here. 

These internships are made possible by contributions from generous alumni and supporters, including John J.D. ’72 and Brenda Scanelli, Denise and Andrew Koch, Lois Critchfield, Gil J.D. ’69 and Polly Bartlett, Professor Emerita Jayne Barnard, and Maryann Nolan Chong J.D. ’07.

“Our vision and preparation have paid off,” said Center Director Christie S. Warren, Professor of the Practice of International and Comparative Law. “Following graduation, some of our students have obtained prestigious fellowships and clerkships with international tribunals and courts abroad.

“They have secured jobs with the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the U.S. Department of State, the National Center for State Courts, the Carter Center and multinational law firms with thriving international practices. William & Mary graduates can now be found around the globe engaged in cutting-edge work.”

Brian Soiset J.D. ’06 worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Zhong Lun Law Firm and Dentons LLP in China before starting his current position at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

“The legal world is increasingly an interconnected one, with clients and issues crossing state borders, encompassing different states’ laws, and touching different legal systems,” he said. “In this environment, lawyers must have a global perspective to best serve their clients. My international internships and coursework at William & Mary were foundational in providing this, exposing me to different legal traditions and the distinctive challenges in states without the rule of law. I continue to draw on textbooks and notes from these courses more than a decade after graduating.”

Maryann Nolan Chong J.D. ’07 works as a program operations specialist at the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and is a member of the Board of Directors of the William & Mary Law School Association. Chong served in the Peace Corps after earning her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia. She came to the Law School intending to pursue an international career.

"My experience interning with the Center for Human Rights and Environment during my 2L summer in Cordoba, Argentina was completely rewarding" she said. "I was able to use my legal research and writing skills, as well as my Spanish language skills, and work with the NGO at the center of a major international pulp mill dispute. My colleagues were passionate and encouraging mentors.

"After graduating, I continued on the path of international work and moved to Cambodia for a post-graduate fellowship with International Bridges to Justice, traveling the country to visit prisons and courthouses, visiting legal aid clients and observing the inner workings of the Cambodian legal system. My overseas experiences provided tremendous real-world learning opportunities and also ensured that I was well-positioned for my international career.”   

For more information about the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, visit the CLS/PCP website. Visit the center’s “Voices from the Field” website to follow its interns and their work this summer.