Update from Nigeria: attorney Chukwudi Ofili, LLM Class of 2018, reflects on his post-graduation year

This is one in a series of posts by University of Georgia School of Law LLM students, writing on their participation in our LLM degree and about their post-graduate experiences. Author of this post is alumnus Chukwudi Ofili, a member of the Class of 2018.

Chudi photoIt has been an eventful year for me. In January 2018, during my last semester at the University of Georgia, I began a corporate in-house counsel externship – an experiential learning opportunity open to qualified Georgia Law LLM students – at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta There, I had the opportunity to work on issues such as cybersecurity, imports, and Office of Foreign Assets Control compliance.

Following graduation, I took the New York bar examination in July.  When I learned that I had passed, I was in London, participating in the highly selective International Lawyers For Africa (ILFA) 2018 Flagship Secondment Programme (IFSP), which each year places lawyers from various African jurisdictions at highly reputed international law firms and corporations for a period of three months. I was placed with Trinity International LLP, a niche project and corporate finance firm focusing on energy, infrastructure, resources, and industry. During my secondment, I worked on some international transactions, with focus on financing power and infrastructure projects across the African continent.

Chudi speechIFSP was an enriching and exciting experience. It included training programs and networking events that introduced the participants to some of the brightest minds in the international legal market, in diverse practice areas. In particular, the networking opportunities were immense and may not be replicated in our lives on such a scale. I was pleased to selected to deliver the valedictory address for the London IFSP cohort at the ILFA Gala Night, which marked the end of the program.

I am now happy to be back in Nigeria at Bloomfield Law Practice, in the Corporate, Securities, and Finance practice group. I was recently interviewed for an article in THISDAY Newspaper Nigeria Legal Personality of the Week. In the interview, I expressed my hopes for good prospects in 2019. The year is already off to a good start: I’ve just completed a co-authored article,  Recognition and Enforcement of Cross-Border Insolvency; Nigeria in Perspective.

I came to Georgia Law after working with my firm, Bloomfield Law Practice, having graduated with first-class honors from Babcock University in Nigeria. At Georgia Law, I was the recipient of a prestigious graduate research assistantship, and participated in the Business Law Society.

I will always recommend the Georgia Law LLM curriculum, as it is tailored to each student’s career goals; for example, preparing to sit for a U.S. bar exam, or pursuing a concentration. Plus, students come to find out that Athens (which is just about an hour away from Atlanta) is a lovely place for studies, with friendly people.

“Excited to pursue the conservation of biodiversity around the world”: Andrew Hedin on his Global Externship at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

This is one in a series of posts by University of Georgia School of Law students, writing on their participation in our Global Governance Summer School or Global Externship Overseas initiative. Author of this post is Andrew Hedin, a member of the Class of 2020 who spent his 1L summer as a GEO, or Global Extern Overseas.

Strange Clouds.jpg

Malo! (“Hi” in Samoan.) This summer I lived in the tropical paradise of Samoa, working for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). During my externship, I worked on environmental law issues and had the opportunity to attend a major conference in Fiji. Following my internship, I was invited to observe the first United Nations conference to work towards a treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas.

35750776_408257666318944_551903434974953472_n

SPREP is an international governmental organization serving the fourteen island nations of the South Pacific, as well as five states with territories in the region, including the United States. Headquartered in Apia, the capital city of Samoa, SREP addresses environmental issues ranging from waste disposal to climate change to biodiversity. It also serves a data collection function, which facilitates identification and monitoring of environmental issues. The work of the organization is critical because the Pacific Island states encompass over fifteen million kilometers of marine territory, and are considered to be the largest source of marine biodiversity in the world. However, these ecosystems are fragile and have faced significant reduction due to increased human activity both within and outside the region.

20180724_123546During my externship, I worked closely with SPREP’s legal counsel, and participated in various projects on topics like preventing the practice of shark finning and banning the use of non-reusable plastics. My most extensive assignment related to the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Protocol seeks to ensure that there are predictable conditions for access to genetic material, and that the benefits of genetic resource research are shared with the country of origin. Thus, the Protocol requires parties to enter into a contract that obtains prior informed consent of the resource provider, clearly lays out the benefits to the providing community, and defines the scope of access for the user of the genetic resource. The Protocol also creates intellectual property rights in traditional knowledge associated with genetic material in order to protect indigenous communities’ use of local resources. I had the opportunity to assist in the drafting of model implementing legislation and contract templates, and to conduct an analyses of implementation issues in the Cook Islands and Tonga.

I was fortunate to travel with the access and benefits sharing team to Fiji to attend a conference on this topic hosted by the International Development Law Organization and the ABS Initiative. This provided a global context for my work; I learned about how the Nagoya Protocol was being implemented in other regions. It was also a tremendous opportunity to meet practitioners working in this area.

Faga-Loa BayThe opportunity to work on biodiversity was amplified by the chance to do so in Samoa. When I wasn’t working, I spent the summer exploring the natural wonders of the small island nation. Consisting of two main islands – Upolu and Savai’i – and eight small inlets, Samoa boasts an extensive coral reef ecosystem, pristine beaches, massive waterfalls, and miles upon miles of coconut trees. It is also home to 200,000 people, who keep alive one of the world’s oldest cultures. Family and community are integral to the Samoan way of life, and Samoans take great pride in maintaining traditions that have been passed down for thousands of years. One of these, familiar around the world, is the Samoan art of tatau, or tattooing. Practiced for more than 3000 years, the art involves tattooing from the waist to the knees, entirely by hand. The traditional tattoo is highly respected, symbolizing an individual’s determination, endurance, and ability to assume responsibility. While I did not get any tattoos, having the opportunity to see the incredible natural world of the Pacific renewed my resolve to forge a career in international environmental law to protect these valuable resources.

Hedin_UNAfter completing my internship with SPREP and returning to campus this fall, I was pleased to be selected by the American Society of International Law, of which the University of Georgia School of Law is an Academic Partner, to serve as an NGO observer at the United Nations. As noted in the most recent edition of the ASIL Newsletter, I attended the first Intergovernmental Conference for an international legally binding instrument, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

At the conference, I watched as state delegates, and representatives of intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations debated the four foundational pillars of the potential agreement:

  • accessing marine genetic resources and sharing in their benefits;
  • area-based management tools;
  • environmental impact assessments; and
  • capacity building with associated marine technology sharing.

This experience was incredible because I observed firsthand how treaty negotiations begin. Although representatives discussed an array of issues and expressed many concerns, there was near-consensus on the importance of protecting the genetic diversity in our oceans. While this is no small task and there is a significant amount of work to be done, after observing the proceedings, I am optimistic that reaching an agreement is possible.

Tu Soa 4x5While I knew that I was interested in international environmental law, before this summer I had never heard of the Nagoya Protocol. Now, I have an understanding of the contracts that govern access to genetic resources, and of their value to indigenous communities. I also built a network of professionals doing great work to advance this initiative. I am incredibly grateful for my time in Samoa and at the UN, and am excited to build on these experiences to pursue the conservation of biodiversity around the world for the benefit of generations to come.

Georgia Law scholars head to D.C. for this week’s American Society of International Law Annual Meeting

The University of Georgia School of Law and its Dean Rusk International Law Center will be well-represented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, to be held March 27-30 at the Washington Hilton, Washington, D.C.

In addition to the book award for C. Donald Johnson, our Center’s Director Emeritus, on which we posted yesterday, participation will be wide-ranging. Once again, a Georgia Law student will volunteer at the meeting, supported by our Center’s Louis B. Sohn Professional Development Fellowship. This year’s Sohn Fellow will be 1L Joshua Jones. Furthermore:

Diane Marie Amann, Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and the Center’s Faculty Co-Director, will lead a roundtable entitled Challenges and Prospects for International Peace and Security: UN Peacekeeping, NATO, and the UDHR at 70. To be held 9-10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 28, the session also will feature Michael W. Doyle, University Professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs; Steven Hill, Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs at NATO Headquarters in Brussels; Bruce Oswald, Professor and Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law in the Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne; and Rita Siemion, International Legal Counsel at Human Rights First.

After noting that UN Peacekeeping, NATO, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all are marking their 70th anniversaries, the roundtable description asks:

“Have they failed to deliver on their original promise or have they adapted effectively to contemporary global realities? Is their future dependent on the continuation of Western hegemony and unity? Can they adapt to the changing nature of security threats, rising powers and a waning commitment to multilateralism? Are they instruments for peace, security and the promotion of international law? What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?”

Amann also will present a tribute to Judge Patricia Wald (1928-2019) at the ASIL Women in International Law Interest Group luncheon on Friday, March 29.

Harlan G. Cohen, Gabriel M. Wilner/UGA Foundation Professor in International Law and the Center’s Faculty Co-Director, will, in his capacity as Vice Chair of ASIL’s International Legal Theory Interest Group, co-convene a workshop entitled New Perspectives in International Legal Theory. To be held 9-10:30 a.m. Friday, March 29, the workshop will feature 4 junior scholars: David Hughes, University of Michigan; Karin Loevy, New York University; Valentina Vadi, Lancaster University; and Ka Lok Yip, Hong Kong University. Commentators will be Janne Nijman, University of Amsterdam, and Greg Shaffer, University of California-Irvine.

Georgia Law faculty also will take part in ASIL side meetings: Amann, an ASIL Counsellor, will participate in the Executive Council session; Melissa J. Durkee, J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law, is Vice Chair of the Membership Committee; and Cohen is a member of the Editorial Board of the American Journal of International Law.

Full Annual Meeting program here.

Alumna Anita Ninan speaks to LLM students on business immigration

Last week, attorney Anita Ninan (LLM’91) spoke on “The Road to U.S. Employment: F-1 Visa Work Options and Onwards” here at the University of Georgia School of Law. Her remarks acquainted foreign-educated lawyers studying for their Master of Laws (LLM) degree with opportunities and challenges associated with obtaining U.S. work authorization.

Ninan, a member of our Dean Rusk International Law Center Council, outlined the available work visas, discussed the impact of an April 2017 executive order on immigration, and explained the details of Optional Practical Training.

An expert in corporate and business immigration law, Ninan advises corporate clients and foreign nationals regarding all aspects of employment-based U.S. immigration law. She is a dual licensed attorney, admitted to practice law in both the State of Georgia and India.

Ninan has worked as Of Counsel with Arnall Golden Gregory LLP and Greenberg Traurig LLP in their Immigration and Compliance Practices in Atlanta. Previously, she served as in-house Legal Counsel with Standard Chartered Bank, a British multinational Bank, in Mumbai and New Delhi, India.

President of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Ninan also serves as an Honorary Legal Advisor to the Indian Consulate General of Atlanta.

LL.M. students take professional development trip to learn about accountability courts

LLM courthouseLL.M. students at Georgia Law took a professional development trip to the Athens-Clarke County courthouse for an introduction to the local justice system. Organized by Paige Otwell (J.D.’88), Assistant District Attorney, the students were treated to a panel on Accountability Courts.

In Georgia, voluntary participants in these innovative judicial programs plead guilty to the offense with which they have been charged and agree to enhanced supervision, including mental health or substance abuse treatment measures, in exchange for reduced terms of confinement and sometimes shortened periods of probation. For the large majority of the foreign attorneys present, this approach to criminal justice was unfamiliar.

llm courthouse2The students heard from Nicole Cavanagh, Felony Drug Court Program Coordinator; Will Fleenor, Chief Assistant Solicitor General, who discussed DUI/Drug court and Veterans Court; and Elisa Zarate, the coordinator of the Treatment and Accountability Court Program.

The panelists stressed the high level of success of these courts, both in terms of the decrease in re-arrests among participants as well as anecdotal evidence of the positive impact on participants’ lives. Describing the non-adversarial, team approach of the courts to the LL.M. students, Cavanaugh remarked that prosecutors, defense attorneys, and court personnel are “all trying to work together to get people to succeed in the program.”

The LL.M. students will have the opportunity to visit the courthouse again in the coming months to watch a trial.

Georgia Law Professor Diane Marie Amann profiled by ATLAS women

img_2013cropProfessor Diane Marie Amann, holder of the Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law and our Center’s Faculty Co-Director, was profiled at ATLAS yesterday, in a post written by the organization’s co-founder, barrister Sareta Ashraph.

ATLAS, which stands for “Acting Together: Law, Advice, Support,” is a community of female-identifying lawyers, activists, and jurists with expertise in public international law. Founded in 2012, the organization aims to create a space where women in the field can reach out to each other for information, career advice, and mentoring. ATLAS builds upon and is complementary to the ethos of IntlLawGrrls, a blog Amann founded in 2007. Her charter coeditors, as she notes, were Beth Van Schaack, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, and our Center’s Director, Kathleen A. Doty. Amann joins 8 other women so far featured by ATLAS.atlas+empowered+women+empower+women

In her profile, Amann reflects on her career path and its high points, including teaching, working with inspirational people such as Mireille Delmas-Marty, clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and serving as Special Adviser on children’s issues to Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Amann also comments on diversity of the profession, noting:

“Many (or perhaps, only some) in the profession have become more aware and more vocal on the need for diversity when it comes to gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. That has not yet translated into a level of progress that is both right and required. At the same time, there have been far fewer conversations, and less awareness, of the lack of diversity within our profession when it comes to class. There seem to be few international lawyers who come from a working-class background, who are in their family’s first college-going generation.”

Amann goes on to offer advice to young women hoping to work in international law: follow your heart; move towards the positive; never stop learning; build a network of friends and mentors; build skills; and find time to do the things that make you happy.

Read the full profile here.

Georgia Law faculty take part in ASIL Midyear Meeting and Research Forum

From left, Melissa J. Durkee, Diane Marie Amann, Kathleen A. Doty, and Harlan G. Cohen

Four members of our University of Georgia School of Law faculty took part last weekend in the American Society of International Law Midyear Meeting and Research Forum at UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles.

Diane ASIL► Professor Diane Marie Amann, the Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of our Dean Rusk International Law Center, presented “Glimpses of Women at the Tokyo Tribunal,” which will appear as a chapter in a forthcoming volume commemorating this week’s 70th anniversary of the judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Amann, who is serves as a Counselor of the American Society of International Law, also took part in the Society’s Executive Council meeting.

Professor Harlan G. Cohen, holder of the Gabriel M. Wilner/UGA Foundation Professorship in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center, participated in the meeting of the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law. He was elected to the Board last year and serves as Editor of AJIL’s International Decisions section.MJDurkee

◄ Professor Melissa J. Durkee presented her work, “The New Functional Sovereignty: Private Authority in Global Governance,” on a panel exploring the roles of corporations in international law.

IMG_7538

► Center Director Kathleen A. Doty offered career advice to current law students and recent graduates as part of ASIL’s International Law Speed Networking. This event was part of a series of offerings at the Midyear Meeting aimed at professional development for students and early-career lawyers.