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.

Georgia Law Dean Bo Rutledge, student Katherine Larsen to speak to Atlanta International Arbitration Society on ECJ ruling, proposed treaty

Later this week, international arbitration expert Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, Dean and Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law, will co-present with 2L Katherine Larsen at a luncheon meeting of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS). The lecture, entitled “Achmea and the Proposed International Mediation Convention: Implications for the U.S. Lawyer,” will take place 12 noon-1:30 p.m. this Friday, April 5, at the Atlanta office of King & Spalding.

The presentation will discuss the recent decision of the European Court of Justice in Achmea v. Slovakia, the proposed Singapore Convention on Mediation, and the implication of these developments for lawyers in the United States.

The meeting is open to the public. Persons interested in attending who are not AtlAS members should RSVP to ruskintlaw@uga.edu. 

“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.

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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.

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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.

Honored again to be honored for excellence in international law

Delighted to share the news that the just-released 2020 US News rankings place our international law curriculum here at the University of Georgia School of Law at No. 19 in the United States.

By our count, this marks the 5th time in recent years we’ve been among the top 20 or so US law schools for international law.

The achievement is due in no small part to the enthusiastic support and hard work of everyone affiliated with Georgia Law’s 40-plus-year-old Dean Rusk International Law Center. As chronicled at this Exchange of Notes blog and our Center website, these include:

► Superb members of the law faculty, including: Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, an international arbitration expert; our Center’s Faculty Co-Directors and Director, respectively, Professors Diane Marie Amann, an expert in security governance fields including the laws of war and international criminal justice, Harlan G. Cohen, an expert in global governance and foreign relations law, and and Kathleen A. Doty, a specialist in arms control and the global Women, Peace & Security agenda; Professors Christopher M. Bruner, a comparative corporate governance scholar, Anne Burnett, foreign and international law librarian, Jason A. Cade, an immigration expert, Melissa J. Durkee, whose expertise includes international and transnational law, Lori A. Ringhand, a scholar of comparative constitutional law, current U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Scholar at the University of Aberdeen, and recent visitor to Israel’s Bar-Ilan University as part of our faculty exchange there, Kent Barnett, Sonja West, and Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, who have presented overseas on administrative law, media law, and civil procedure, respectively, Walter Hellerstein, a world-renowned tax specialist, Nathan S. Chapman, a scholar of due process and extraterritoriality Michael L. Wells, a European Union scholar;

► Talented students pursuing JD, MSL, and LLM degrees, including: the dozen or so who work with us as Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassadors; the staffers and editors of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law who produce one of the country’s oldest student journals, and who led our March 2018 conference, “The International Criminal Court & the Community of Nations”; the advocates on our Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot and Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court teams; participants in our full-semester NATO Externship in Belgium and in our Global Externships and Global Governance Summer School; and the student leaders of our International Law Society;

► Superb Center staff like Laura Tate Kagel, Amanda J. Shaw, Mandy Dixon, and Christian Lee;

► Visiting scholars like Professor Yanying Zhang of China’s Shandong University, Dr. SeongEun Kim of Korea’s Konkuk University, and Jiang Xi of China’s Jilin University of Finance and Economics;

► Academics, practitioners, and policymakers, from all over the world, who have contributed to our events – conferences and lectures, as well as our International Law Colloquium and Consular Series;

Graduates who excel as partners in international commercial law firms, as heads of public law entities like the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, as in-house counsel at leading multinational enterprises, and as diplomats and public servants – and who give back through mentoring and other support;

► Our valued partnerships, with Georgia Law student organizations; with institutions like the Leuven Centre for Global Governance at Belgium’s University of Leuven; with organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, the American Society of International Law, the American Branch of the International Law Association, Global Atlanta, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, the Atlanta International Arbitration Society, and the Planethood Foundation; with professional groups including the Georgia Asian and Pacific American Bar Association and the Vietnamese American Bar Association; with university units like the School of Public & International Affairs, the Department of Comparative Literature, the African Studies Institute, the Institute for Native American Studies, the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Institute, and the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts.

With thanks to all, we look forward to continue strengthening our initiatives in international, comparative, transnational, and foreign relations law – not least, in the preparation of Georgia Law students to practice in our 21st C. globalized legal profession.

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.

Georgia Law Jessup team earns awards

Jessup team 2019Congratulations to our 2019 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court team, which advanced to the quarterfinals and brought home awards at the recent Regional Rounds in New Orleans.

The team – from left, student coach Allison Gowens, along with competitors Andrew Hedin, Lyddy O’Brien, Hanna Karimipour, and Sam Hatcher – were recognized for the 4th Best Brief. Meanwhile, O’Brien earned the Best Oralist award, and Hedin the 6th Best Oralist award.

Great effort, and thanks to faculty, alums, and friends of Georgia Law who helped prepare them for the meet.