Tag Archives: international law

A Great Experience With an International Externship

Dino Gojac

Dino Gojak

Cooley student Dino Gojak is having a great experience with an international externship.  In this post, he offers insightful thoughts to fellow Cooley students.

When considering choices for the practical experience (externship, clinic) the law school requires, I thought about using the opportunity to learn about law in the country of my birth – Serbia. Information about how to have a new externship site approved was on the portal, and I began to look for law firms that might accept me.

A simple web search turned up numerous small- and medium-sized law firms, mostly local and not “international” ones. After talking to others and thinking it over, I decided that the best plan was to look for a medium-sized local firm with foreign clients in the hope that it was there that I could do the most good. The law firm agreed, and the externship office approved the site.  In the two months that I have been at this law firm located in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, I realize that I had made the right choice.

The strategy was to find a law firm that had great lawyers but needed some of the skills that I could bring in order to more effectively compete with the large, and more expensive, international law firms with home offices in London, New York, Vienna, or Berlin. After the initial period of getting to know each other, I am now helping to translate legal documents from Serbian into English (the other way around is a bit harder for me), to proofread important client letters, due diligence reports, and as the partners at the firm have begun to trust my abilities, to research commercial and labor/employment laws (the firm is a business law firm). I also am trusted to file legal documents at government offices since I speak enough Serbian to do that right.

A big break came when the formatting on a due diligence report failed, and I spent long hours reformatting because I had the right knowledge of the software. Now I am helping to create a legal database of information that is easily found on websites for firm-wide use.

This week, a partner asked me to proofread some work on “personal liens” and “real liens” for a German client. These sounded familiar to me and after some thought, I remembered that common law countries call these easements in gross and easements appurtenant, which we learned in Property class. This allowed me to explain myself well and to recognize those aspects of Serbian lien law that differ from the American forms and traditions. Now that my colleagues see that I know what I am doing, I am getting really busy at the firm.

There are special challenges with remote externships. Luckily, I have family in Belgrade that I could stay with, which meant that I was not faced with what is probably the hardest thing to negotiate in a foreign language –  rental agreement. (Similar-minded students may be able to work with the law firm to at least get help with this process). Despite the difficulties, the opportunity is a great one and is worth the extra effort. Speaking Serbian was not a requirement,  though it has helped, and so other students who consider this kind of option can find a way. I am truly amazed at how rewarding this experience is turning out to be.

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Greetings From Belgrade

Prof. Paul Carrier

Prof. Paul Carrier

By Professor Paul Carrier

Professor Paul Carrier has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship – his second – to teach International Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.  He is writing a series of posts about his  experiences.

Greetings from Belgrade! On assignment at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, I had the good fortune to meet with the President of the Serbian Bar Association recently. There are some very exciting legal happenings afoot.  Along with teaching and skills course work, I will try to lend a hand and to learn as much as I can about a national bar in the state of transition. I may also pick up a few tips and pointers regarding an international extradition case.

The Serbian Bar Association is an independent organization promulgating and enforcing the rules of admission and membership since 1868. There are eight regional bar associations for the eight administrative regions in the country, with a Council comprised of members of each regional bar association. Authority to self-govern was granted by the Ministry of Justice, and the main governing body is the Council. (The bar associations of Kosovo and of Metohija are currently not involved in Serbian Bar Association activities due to their steps to become self-governing and fully autonomous regions).

Current issues facing the national bar are a new, voluntary continuing legal education training system responding to EU requirements for accession into the union and a ruling by the national constitutional court that arguably establishes government control over licensing in contravention of the nearly 150 years of autonomy. With regard to the former, a new voluntary system of continuing legal education is set to take effect for the legal bar, with the possible implementation of a mandatory system in due course. The early focus is on criminal law and criminal procedure as the country undergoes transformation from a civil-law advocacy system to a more adversarial one. Of utmost priority is training of attorneys in criminal procedure, especially for witness examination, cross-examination, the use of leading questions, and related matters. Following these efforts, the Advokatska Komora Srbije (AKS) will turn to training regimes for other major practice areas (called “katedra” here, or major practice areas) such as civil law and international law.

A recent decision by the constitutional court has now put into question the autonomy of the AKS. Serbian law only allows review of administrative issues, and not substantive ones. The issue then is one of the separation of powers, i.e., whether it is the Ministry of Justice or some other governmental agency or court to act as the final arbiter of AKS rules and practice, or whether it will remain with the bar association as it has for the last 150 years.

The AKS is also attempting to license, govern and discipline all lawyers in Serbia. Currently, the AKS only has authority over attorneys at law, and not judges or prosecutors, who have their own rule-making and standards-enforcing systems. The AKS also does not have authority over in-house counsel, who are governed and sanctioned in their dealings at commercial courts by their own corporate employers.

The AKS President is involved in an extradition request on an Interpol warrant for a dual citizen of the United States and of Israel involving an international extradition treaty.

Finally, I am also supervising an extern working at a Belgrade business law firm in addition to my duties at the Faculty of Law. In addition to the truly unique legal issues that I am learning here, I will be trying to open more doors to rewarding externship opportunities.

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Gone Abroad, But Hardly a Stranger in a Strange Land

Prof. Paul Carrier

Prof. Paul Carrier

By Professor Paul Carrier

Professor Paul Carrier has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship – his second – to teach International Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.  This is the inaugural post in a series that will recount his experiences.  Professor Carrier has for years made important contacts around the world on behalf of Cooley.  Cooley students should in particular note the wonderful international externship opportunities available to them.

I just finished a three-week intensive Slovak language course offered by the Philosophy Faculty, Comenius University, Slovak Republic as a way to refresh my connection to Central European languages and culture. I have also met or corresponded with a variety of former colleagues and friends in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Their professions range from former law clerks who worked with me, to Slovak judges who I have met and taught Legal English, to the named partner of a Viennese arbitration firm who has already accepted three externs from Cooley. 

One of my goals was to try to put myself back into the right frame of mind, culturally and linguistically, as I am about to embark on a teaching assignment with the Faculty of Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

Another goal was to continue professional relationships as a way to establish externship opportunities in international law for Cooley students who would like to gain legal experience abroad.

Externships that I have helped to establish include law firms in Bucharest, Romania; Beijing, China; Singapore; and, now, Belgrade, Serbia. Cooley has a truly unique and highly professional externship program. To date, every externship site that I have worked with has been pleased with their Cooley externs, and, though some are on-again, off-again due to student interest, all are willing to consider future externs from Cooley. The only hurdle that I have experienced with the establishment of foreign externships is to convince a first-time site to take a Cooley extern. Once the first extern is in place, the program’s value becomes clear and then sells itself. In fact, some sites such as a business law firm in Madrid, Spain regularly ask whether there are any good candidates for upcoming terms (not always easy to fill).

My primary assignment in Serbia is to help the law students at the University of Belgrade with skills-based courses and moot court opportunities such as the VIS International Arbitration Competition held in Vienna, Austria every year. While there, I hope to broaden my understanding of civil law systems based on the Austro-Hungarian codes model, on teaching and learning trends in Central Europe and in the Balkans for law students, and to delve more deeply into different legal philosophies.

I look forward to sharing insights on different legal philosophies and on different teaching methods and learning expectations with regard to the Serbian law students with whom I will have the pleasure to work over the next two semesters.

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