Photography © Pat O’Hara/CORBIS
With only the lone light from his helmet to cut through the pitch black that enveloped him, he jabbed his ax into the mountain’s glacial ice as he made his way along the foot-wide path.
This was a first for Professor Brand.
In preparation for his first mountain climb, he learned how to use an ice axe, how to stop himself in the event of a fall, and how to employ crevasse rescue techniques. And, in practice, he came to learn a lot about his own climbing ability, about his own endurance levels, and about himself. Crevasses lined the mountainside. With the guidance of friends who were experienced climbers, he navigated across and around each icy abyss—treacherous caverns extending far below the surface.
He fared quite well for a first-time climber, reaching a height of 12,600 feet—1,800 feet shy of Rainier’s summit.
So why did Brand decide to climb Mt. Rainier?
“Because it was an incomparable experience,” said Brand. “Because it gives you a perspective you can’t get anywhere else—on the world and on yourself. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.” Each year, Brand looks for that new opportunity—in an attempt to broaden his perspective and give him a broader range of experience. To do that which he has never done before.
Pushing one’s own boundaries, forging new paths, creating opportunities, gaining new perspectives on the world and on one’s self—that’s Ron Brand. And characteristic of the international and comparative law program at Pitt Law—a program Brand helped to build.
Brand is one of several key faculty architects of the program, and is the founder and director of the Center for International Legal Education (CILE), a keystone of the program.
Its students enjoy incomparable opportunities—opportunities that allow them to gain new perspectives, forge new paths, and, ultimately, build careers that make a difference in the world.
The Center for International Legal Education coordinates a rich array of offerings, including the International and Comparative Law Certificate Program, offering an international law concentration for JD students; the Languages for Lawyers program, one of the only programs of its kind in the country based entirely in a law school; the LL.M. program for foreign law graduates and international moot court competitions.
Its faculty are some of the most renowned international law scholars in the country—comprising a deep pool of expertise across the legal disciplines.
Its students benefit not only from the depth and scope of scholarship and programs, but also from the highly personalized, individualized curriculum.
And its students benefit from international internships, externships and fellowships made possible from the wealth of Pitt Law’s partnerships across the globe.
“I firmly believe that the international law program here at Pitt changes people’s lives,” said Brand. “The opportunities and experiences created for our students make a huge difference in their lives—often the pivotal point in their lives.”
It has opened doors onto the world stage, giving students the opportunity to do that which they have never done before.
Just ask Corin Stone, ’98.
“As a third year law student, I was given the opportunity to be a recording secretary at a meeting of The Hague Conference on Private International Law,” recalls Stone. “While I was there, I met many U.S. State Department officials and made many contacts. That single opportunity was a huge launching point for me and helped shape my career. It opened doors to a world that I, otherwise, would never have known. All thanks to Pitt Law taking an interest in me and giving me that first opportunity.”
And what a launching point it was.
Soon after graduation, Stone went on to work at the U.S. State Department as part of the team working on the claims before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal. There, she drafted briefs, reviewed evidence and eventually revisited The Hague to argue one of the Tribunal’s disputes.
What followed was nothing short of remarkable.
In March of 2004, Stone volunteered to go to Baghdad as part of an interagency task force, and when the U.S. Embassy was established in Baghdad four months later, Stone was soon named Legal Advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad working for newly appointed U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.
When, less than a year later, Negroponte was nominated to become the new Director of National Intelligence, Stone was once again asked to be on the transition team, handling legal work and preparing for Negroponte’s confirmation hearings. Upon his confirmation, Stone was appointed Deputy General Counsel at the new Office of National Intelligence—a position she holds today.
“The last 10 years have been absolutely incredible,” said Stone. A journey that Stone believes stems, in large part, from that seminal experience made possible by Pitt Law. And nothing has ever really been the same since then.
Corin Stone is one of countless Pitt Law students who point to the international law program as one of the most influential and enlightening experiences in their education.
The internship abroad program is an integral part of that experience. JD students span the globe, articipating in unique internships from Asia, to Europe, to Africa, to South America, gaining invaluable comparative law experiences.
This summer, students interned in places such as Phnom Penh, Cambodia; with the Legal Policy Division of the Department of Justice in Prishtina, Kosovo; with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland; and with the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City in the Philippines.
“The difference is this,” said Brand. “We do not create summer study abroad programs and encourage our students to attend those programs. We try to avoid set structures that students must find a way to fit into. Instead, we find the best internship or opportunity that best fits a student. Students express particular interests. We know their individual capabilities. So we find the best fit for them.
“It’s time-intensive, but it makes a huge difference in their lives. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Sandy Kunvatanagarn, ’08, is one example of a student who benefited from Pitt’s individualized approach. An internship opportunity was created for her in Ethiopia with the WTO Succession Project. This fall she has an internship in the Legal Advisor’s office at the U.S. Embassy in Geneva, Switzerland. Other Pitt Law students recently have interned in the U.S. Embassies in Geneva and The Hague.
It speaks to what the program will do for its students. And it speaks to the caliber of Pitt Law’s reputation abroad.
The newest opportunities available to students are the Nordenberg Fellowships, granting three second-year students summer internships with some of the most prestigious legal and academic institutions in Europe. The Fellowship is funded by the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Professorship held by Dr. Alberta Sbragia, Director of Pitt’s European Union Center of Excellence & European Studies Center.
The inaugural 2007 Nordenberg Fellows are Kate Drabecki, ’08, Fellow at the Institute for European Studies; David Willey, ’08, Fellow at the Max Planck Institute; and Claudia Garman, ’08, Fellow at the Human Rights Division, Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.
The Institute for European Studies in Brussels, Belgium—a leading source of scholarship and programs on European law—has agreed to host a Nordenberg Fellow each summer, as has the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, Germany. A Max Planck Institute internship is a most prestigious appointment—and highly coveted among European law students. Through the Nordenberg Fellowship, Pitt Law is the only U.S. law school to offer an annual summer internship at the Max Planck Institute.
Pitt Law’s ability to connect JD students with one-of-a-kind opportunities around the globe is a direct result of its strong partnerships with law faculties throughout the world—particularly those from countries in transition toward the rule of law, democratic systems and market economies.
In the past 10 years, Pitt’s international and comparative law program, through the Center for International Legal Education, received four U.S. State Department grants totaling a million and one-half dollars to advance the rule of law and democracy in Kosovo, Serbia and Ukraine.
“No country in transition can survive successfully without an effective legal system and a culture in which respect for that system is common practice,” explained Brand. “We try to work at the roots of legal systems to strengthen both the understanding of these principles and the ability to apply them in practice.”
Four State Department-funded partnerships have flourished into dynamic, long-lasting relationships between Pitt Law and Donetsk National University in Donetsk, Ukraine; the University of Belgrade in Serbia; Kiev National Taras Shevchenko University in the Ukraine; and the University of Prishtina in Kosovo.
Through the partnership grants, CILE has not only helped develop law curricula and faculty training programs, but has also helped establish and coadminister international law resource centers in Donetsk, Kiev and Prishtina; held seven summer schools in partner cities; and helped establish a clinical law program in Donetsk. Pitt Clinical Professor of Law, Stella Smetanka, offered her insights and expertise to the Donetsk law faculty, helping them to create and administer a clinic that is now known as one of the best in all of Ukraine.
The newest partnership extends Pitt Law’s reach and expertise into the Persian Gulf, establishing the first Gulf area team for the Vis International Arbitration Moot competition in Vienna. Professor Brand and two Pitt Law students will spend a week in Bahrain each semester working with law students as they begin writing for the moot and as they prepare for oral arguments.
Developed by Pitt Law’s CILE, this program is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program, funded by the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative.
Junior faculty from each partner institution—whether from Bahrain, Serbia, Kosovo, or Ukraine—participate in Pitt Law’s LL.M. program, the Master of Laws program for foreign law graduates. It provides lawyers who have obtained their law degree outside of the U.S. with a personalized course of study with a small, close-knit group of approximately 15 students from all over the world. They immerse themselves in U.S. culture, language, legal system and legal education system in this one-year program.
“We train the trainers—the junior faculty members in law schools from around the world,” explained Brand, “knowing that one of the most effective ways of having a long-term influence on the development of the rule of law is through the education of young members of law faculties.”
Over 100 scholars from nearly 50 countries have graduated from Pitt’s LL.M. program. The impact has been significant and lasting.
These young scholars return to their home countries and law faculties with a new teaching methodology, with a new perspective and with an uncommon depth of experience. Many return, serving as important bridges to a nation’s future legal, political and economic leaders. Many become leaders themselves in their countries’ political, economic or legal systems.
The experience has undoubtedly enhanced careers and changed perspectives. Jelena Arsic, ’05 and Yjosa Osmani, ’05 are but two of the countless examples of how the LL.M. experience broadens one’s perspective and changes a life.
Jelena hails from Serbia and Vjosa is from Kosovo—two countries whose battle scars have barely healed, where ethnic tensions still linger, and animosity still runs deep. There is nothing amicable about the relationships between Belgrade, Serbia and Prishtina, Kosovo. And yet, Jelena and Vjosa came to Pitt from universities in those two cities and soon found themselves talking about commercial law and the rule of law. Not only did they talk to each other, they soon became the very best of friends. The experience forever altered their lives and the way they view the world—and each other.
They have now returned to their respective countries to positions where they can effect change. Vjosa Osmani is the Legal Advisor to the President of Kosovo and Assistant Professor at the University of Prishtina Faculty of Law and Jelena Arsic is an attorney for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA/ROLI) and Assistant Lecturer at Union University School of Law in Belgrade.
Vjosa and Jelena, like so many Pitt LL.M. graduates, continue to maintain strong ties with Pitt Law. Those ties open doors of opportunities for Pitt JD students. It is a symbiotic relationship—one that benefits both the LL.M. student and the JD student.
The reach and strength of Pitt’s international law program is ultimately rooted in its faculty—a faculty renowned for their international law expertise.
It’s who the U.S. State Department turned to when it appointed a U.S. national correspondent to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). They turned to Professor Harry Flechtner, one of the world’s top scholars on the UN Sales Convention.
It’s who the U.S. State Department turned to when it appointed its U.S. delegation to The Hague Conference on Private International Law. They named Professor Ron Brand to that delegation, recognizing his scholarship in the area of recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.
It’s who the U.S. State Department turned to in naming Professor Vivian Curran as its U.S. representative to the Austrian government’s General Settlement Fund. The State Department looked to Professor Curran’s rare combination of expertise. A leader in the new generation of comparative law scholars, Professor Curran is also one of the country’s premier legal scholars on the Holocaust, a teacher of inheritance law, and fluent in French and German.
The Fund provided compensation to surviving victims of the Austrian Holocaust for property and professional losses suffered at the hands of the Nazis. In recognition of her work, Professor Curran received the “Grand Decoration of Merit in Gold for Services Rendered to the Republic of Austria,” granted by the Austrian Federal President.
There is a known breadth and depth of international law expertise among Pitt Law faculty. In addition to the work of Professors Brand, Curran and Flechtner, there’s the pathbreaking work of Elena Baylis on international human rights, specifically her look at parallel courts in Kosovo. There’s Tony Infanti’s expertise in international tax law and Janice Mueller’s work in international patent law. Haider Hamoudi is an expert in Islamic commercial law. Jules Lobel continues his involvement with the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights and has litigated on behalf of the Guantanamo detainees. And Kevin Ashley is known around the world for his work in artificial intelligence and the law.
This is but a sampling of the spectrum of international scholarship at Pitt Law. But it is this rich pool of scholarship together with an impressive array of program offerings, incomparable internships and opportunities for its students, and a high caliber of international students that sets Pitt’s international law program apart.
Professor Brand does believe that the international program changes lives, having witnessed it time and again in the lives of students like Corin Stone, Jelena Arsic and Vjosa Osamani.
And as for Ron Brand? He will continue to push boundaries, create incomparable opportunities and forge new paths for his students—and for himself.
And he will continue to do that which he has never done before. Next summer, he plans to hike the Inca Trail in Peru with one of his former LL.M. students. He undoubtedly will.