European Site Visits, Part IV: The Hague and our International Practicum

I’m home.

The last time I arrived in The Hague was as a wide-eyed student, immediately after 2L. In fact, Field Notes began as a way for me to keep in touch with my friends and family while living and working abroad, and as a way to begin institutionalizing knowledge of global programs at St. John’s. It’s funny how 2.5 years later, I’m traveling across Europe checking in on our students working and studying all across Europe and planning for more students to begin working at UN agencies in Vienna and Geneva in the near future! From 2012 Josh:

Four weeks ago, I found out that I would be working in Europe this summer. So, it is a bit surreal that I just completed my first week of work. I am a Defence Intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). I work and live in The Hague, Netherlands.

Our International Practicum was created after the resounding success of our NATO Practicum. The International Practicum allows our students to work at UN agencies, international organizations, and international tribunals in Vienna, Geneva, and The Hague. Like our NATO Practicum students, they receive 13 credits to spend the semester working abroad. They fulfill their advanced writing requirements as well. They also have the mentorship and guidance of our adjunct professor in The Hague, Daphne Vlachojannis ‘06, who works at the International Criminal Court.

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It’s only fitting that our inaugural International Practicum students are working at the ICTY. They are both working in the Office of the Prosecutor’s Appeals Division, on a very high profile case. The Hague has been our St. John’s European outpost over the past few years. In addition to Daphne at the ICC, we’ve had Liane Aronchick ‘09 working at the ICTY. In addition to Liane being the reason I had a summer internship, she also hired another former student, Andrew Seaton ‘14, as a summer intern. Last summer we placed Ashlee Aguiar ’16 and Artem Skorostensky ‘16 at the International Criminal Court for summer internships. We hope to continue this growing tradition next summer.

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For this trip, my job was to check in on Colleen and Todd, our two International Practicum students. Both students are enjoying the work they are doing, highlighting the following points:

  • Almost everything they are doing is legal work. No policy work, no administrative work, no programming work. With the ICTY closing down in the near future, everything that is being done by the legal interns is legal, which allows them to get the most out of the entire experience.
  • They are working for some extremely well-known international criminal lawyers within the Office of the Prosecutor. The ability to demonstrate their abilities is something both students enjoy, and the ability to get mentorship advice from these people is invaluable.
  • There are so many opportunities outside of the actual work that they take advantage of. Both students attend OTP workshops and larger lectures geared toward interns. They both try and attend outside events on other issues, and greatly enjoy the sheer amount of information they are exposed to on a daily basis.
  • They both enjoy the multicultural dynamics of the internship program. They are in an office with law students from all over the world, and get to learn from them on a daily basis about law in their jurisdictions.
  • They both enjoy the amount of support they get from St. John’s. From having an adjunct professor in The Hague to work with them on their scholarly papers and offer advice, to the back and forth dialogue they have with St. John’s Law School through bi-weekly evaluations, neither feels left alone.
  • They both enjoy living in The Hague, and exploring Europe more generally.

I also had a chance to speak to their direct supervisors and learn more about how they are doing in the program, and what we need to improve from our end to make the International Practicum even greater. It was great to speak with lawyers from around the world, and to let them know all about our global programs at St. John’s. I sincerely hope that we can send more students next fall, and perhaps even find an excellent candidate for the spring semester. The OTP lawyers were extremely gracious with their time, and spend well over four hours talking to me in total. Right before I left the ICTY, I went to say goodbye to Colleen and Todd in their office. I found myself walking into a celebration as one of their colleagues had just passed the Pennsylvania bar exams. Interns from around the world were congratulating the successful candidate, and I was taken back in time to summer 2012 and my own fond memories of this building.

On my second day in The Hague, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours catching up with my old boss, Christopher Gosnell.  Here’s a quick bio:

Christopher Gosnell has or continues to represent several high-profile accused before international courts, including Charles Taylor, Goran Hadzic and Ljubomir Borovcanin. He recently represented former Rwandan Interim Government Minister Justin Mugenzi, who was acquitted of all charges on appeal. He has in the past worked with the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICTY and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims at the ICC. He is admitted to the bar in New York where he was formerly in private practice, and has been a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School.

He also serves as an editor for the International Criminal Law casebook that Dean Walker uses in his class. I am forever grateful for the ability to work for him for a few months in 2012, and the fact that he still remembers me (and my work) was extremely gratifying. He has already had three St. John’s graduates work for him, and I hope that we can continue sending students to him. After saying goodbye, I was officially off the clock and my European site visits had come to a close. A train ride to Amsterdam, a stopover in Iceland, and then my bed in New York!

Final assessments of the entire trip and a St. John’s article to come soon!

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