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Lara Berlin, originally from California, is in her third year of a four-year joint-degree program with Harvard Law School and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. She spent last summer working with the Center for Civilians in Conflict located in Washington DC. The organization “works to make warring parties more responsible to civilians before, during, and after armed conflict.” The Center accomplishes this through trainings with the military, field research documenting the experiences of civilians, advocating for mechanisms to address civilian harm, and pushing forward international norms of “making amends” through the UN system. Lara was mostly responsible for monitoring the news and creative projects such as: analyzing pending civilian assistance legislation, recommending advocacy strategies in the UN, and other research-oriented projects.

Lara heard about the Center for Civilians in Conflict through a friend at Fletcher who had previously worked at the Center. She was drawn to the way they used various legal tools, and “thought strategically about going beyond the law to push forward substantive change.” One of her top priorities in her job search was having good mentorship. She found a great balance between substance that she was interested in and mentors that she could learn from at the Center.

Lara explains that her favorite parts of the experience were the people she worked with and the multi-year multi-national study on the line between fighters and civilians in modern conflicts that she spearheaded. She said that the vast part of her work was computer-based research, but that she would have enjoyed a field research component. Lara describes the Center as having “a friendly atmosphere, but very professional.” She and her colleagues worked hard during the day, but enjoyed a nice work-life balance with everyone leaving the office by 5pm.

After graduating from undergrad, Lara spent a year in Sierra Leone where she worked with Search for Common Ground, a conflict resolution NGO. This sparked her interest in the legal and political solutions to conflict issues and led her to law school. Her interests have expanded here at HLS and the Fletcher School to the intersection of conflict resolution, human rights, and international development. She has taken the negotiation workshop and has been involved in the Harvard Mediation Program and the Human Rights Clinic. She is also on the board of the Law and International Development Society and is a fellow for the Law and Social Change Program of Study. While she has been primarily focused on international law, she is also interested in looking at how domestic systems deal with mass atrocities.

From Sierra Leone to Washington D.C. to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lara has dedicated her studies and professional experiences to conflict resolution. Her summer at the Center for Civilians in Conflict was extremely beneficial and Lara would recommend it to any 1L interested in similar issues.

Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Kaycie Rupp