During January term, 2010, 13 Harvard Law School students traveled to 11 countries on Cravath International Fellowships to do clinical work and independent research. Their projects ranged from researching aboriginal title in Australian national parks to working with the Cambodian court conducting trials of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The fellowships, which provide funding to a select number of HLS students to pursue academic projects with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus, were created in 2007 by a group of partners and HLS alums at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, led by Sam Butler ’54 and the late Robert Joffe ’67. Since the fellowships were launched, more than 65 students have traveled abroad as Cravath Fellows to more than 40 countries.

Below, four students weigh in on their experiences overseas.

Kate Van Akin ’11
Dubai International Financial Center Authority
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

“For my Cravath fellowship, I arranged an independent clinical at the legal department of the Dubai International Financial Center Authority during Harvard’s January 2010 semester.  My relationship with Dubai began in 2005, when I moved there after college.  While working in Dubai as a paralegal, I became fascinated with the government’s strategy of creating independent legal jurisdictions (“free zones”) to entice multi-national corporations to establish regional headquarters there.  The Dubai International Financial Center was the government’s flagship free zone, and companies established under its jurisdiction enjoyed a legal regime, regulatory structure, and courts system separate and independent (for the most part) from the rest of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.  While I had often dealt with the DIFC on behalf of clients looking to establish businesses there, I wanted to be more involved with its strategic development.

My independent clinical gave me the inside perspective and experience I had been seeking.  While there, I worked for the acting head of the legal department, and I was responsible for drafting company regulations, reviewing internal contracts, assisting with a fraud investigation, attending court, and reviewing documents submitted by DIFC-licensed establishments for compliance with the legal regime.

The highlight of my experience, however, was the opportunity to interview high-level people within the DIFC as part of the research I was conducting for the paper that accompanied my clinical.  I evaluated the DIFC as a model for developing countries that are trying to attract more foreign investment in their economies, what its strengths and weaknesses were, whether the model was sustainable, and how the DIFC could help Dubai-proper tackle some of the problems it has been facing (such as the recent near-bankruptcy of government-owned companies).  I was able to speak with people in the DIFC Courts, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (the independent financial regulator), the strategy department of the DIFC Authority, the Registrar of Companies, and with lawyers and other employers working for DIFC-licensed establishments.  These interviews added depth to my independent research and really gave me a good feel for how the DIFC functions on a daily basis and what its prospects for success are.”

Robert Williams ’10
Public Interest Law Institute
Beijing, China

“With the assistance of my faculty mentor William Alford and classmate Bruce Sun, I connected with Zhang Jingjing at the Public Interest Law Institute and spent the January term working with her team in PILI’s Beijing office.  PILI is a U.S.-based NGO that aims to advance human rights around the world by stimulating public interest advocacy and developing the institutions necessary to sustain it.  The focus of my stint in China was to assist PILI’s efforts to become the first NGO to submit an amicus curiae brief in Chinese court.  To that end I developed a set of training and educational materials outlining the historical development and strategic function of amicus briefs—and their analogues in civil-law jurisdictions—as tools of advocacy.  The curricular materials I designed were partly informed by personal interactions that I had with a number of leading Chinese public interest lawyers during my stay in Beijing.  Attending conferences with these lawyers and gaining exposure to their perspectives on the challenges confronting China’s legal institutions was personally meaningful and intellectually enriching.

I came away chastened by the reality of the vast political, cultural, and educational obstacles to realizing the goals of public interest advocacy in China.  But I also returned home with a sense of optimism and confidence in the ability of China’s growing community of highly committed and capable legal professionals to find innovative yet politically feasible ways to help vindicate the rights of many Chinese people who have not shared in the promise of their nation’s historic economic development.  While this experience reinforced my belief that American legal institutions are not the appropriate recipe for justice in every cultural context, I am convinced that there are significant mutual benefits to be gained from the positive and respectful exchange of ideas that I had the good fortune to witness during the Winter Term.”

David Zimmer ’10
Business Development Initiative
Sierra Leone

“For my Cravath Fellowship, I worked for the Business Development Initiative in Sierra Leone.  I lived in Sierra Leone for a year before coming to law school, and BDI was founded while I was living there by two of my friends.  The purpose of the organization is to aid small and medium sized business in terms of management and financial advice to help them grow.  They work closely with a private investment fund called ManoCap that invests in small and medium sized enterprises in Sierra Leone.  ManoCap is funded largely by British investors.

I worked on two projects while I was working with BDI.  The first was to help create a due diligence checklist of local legal requirements for small businesses to help attract investment.  I went through a series of Sierra Leonean laws, including a new Companies Act just passed last year, and pulled out the requirements that businesses would need to follow.  My second project was to help companies conform with the new Goods and Services Tax that took effect on January1 of this year.  The GST replaced a series of sales taxes that had been in place, and is designed to be a simple, administrable way to increase government tax revenue.  Unfortunately, several of our companies had disputes with the National Revenue Authority about the applicability of the GST to their business, so I spent some time working on that.

I am doing a joint degree with the MPA/ID program at the Kennedy School, so my Cravath Fellowship provided me with an excellent way to combine both my legal and international development training.  It also provided me with a great opportunity to work with an organization that I had observed in its early days when I lived in Sierra Leone nearly four years ago.”

Joy Wang ’10
International Labour Organization

“I received funding from Cravath to work with the International Labour Organization in Thailand during the January term. The ILO Subregional Office for East Asia in Bangkok is designing a project to significantly reduce the exploitation of labour migrants in the region. The six countries included in the project are Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Each of these countries is powerfully affected by human trafficking and labor exploitation, whether as a source, destination, or transit country. The global economic crisis has exacerbated both worker desperation and employer abuses. Rather than hardening border controls, the ILO project will focus on creating safe and legal migration channels and ensuring decent work opportunities for the millions who are driven by economic need to find work outside their home country.

The ILO project aims to build the capacity of governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations at all levels to better implement safer migration policies and to increase regional cooperation. Improving migration management is high on the agenda for these countries, and there is a strong political will to develop safer recruitment processes and better protection policies.

As a legal intern, I conducted research on remedies for exploited workers and the regulation of recruitment processes. Given the geographical proximity of the Mekong countries and China combined with relatively fluid borders, a unique feature of the Mekong region is the recent enactment of bilateral agreements between countries that establish quotas and procedures for registered workers. Much of my time was spent analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of such agreements, as well as the current laws and policies affecting migrant workers.

I learned a great deal during my internship not only about the relevant laws in the region but about institutional competence on a global scale. The ILO is in a unique position to improve migration management and protect workers because its constituents are workers, employers and governments.  Due to the complexity of the Mekong region and the prevalence of cross-border trafficking and irregular migration, a longstanding, transnational organization such as the ILO is essential to regional collaboration on issues of human rights and accountability.”

Other Cravath Fellows:

Bradford Adams ’11 worked in Mali researching how the land rights of nomads are affected by international commercial interests.

Phil Assmus ’10 traveled to Sydney and Ulura-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia, during winter term, to research aboriginal title in Australian national parks.

Alejandra Azuero Quijano LL.M.’10 developed an experimental methodology to work with women in Sucre, Colombia, who have survived paramilitary massacres. This project is related to her current research project on women’s narratives of political violence and to her interest in the improvement of methodologies for human rights research.

Ryan Citlau ’10 conducted a project on German board-level co-determination, which requires that employees in large firms select one-half of the members on the supervisory board.

Whitney May ’10 spent her winter term in Aceh, Indonesia, as part of a multidisciplinary group organized by the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research to study peace-building and relief efforts following the 2004 tsunami and a 2005 peace settlement that ended a 29-year civil war in the region.

Ryan Park ’10 interned in Cambodia at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a locally run nonprofit, where he wrote a legal memo on inferring genocidal intent for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which is currently conducting trials of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Vera Ranieri ’10 worked at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa on issues relating to fair dealing, copyright reform, and privacy rights on social networks.

Ethan Schiffres ’10 spent winter term in Sydney interning at the Arts Law Centre of Australia, where he drafted information sheets and license agreements for artists participating in creative enterprise hubs designed to revitalize city centers.

Elizabeth Steinfeld ’11 worked at the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in Sydney, Australia, helping to prepare for the federal prosecution of a conspiracy to import and manufacture commercial quantities of narcotics.