Six Years and Growing: An update on the LLM Program
Six years ago, the College of Law launched its first master’s degree program, the LLM in the US Legal System. It is a program for students who have earned a law degree outside of the United States and now seek graduate level education in in US law.
Nora Burke Wagner, Assistant Dean for International Student Programs and LLM Director, sat down with Updates to discuss the program’s first years, the successes of graduates, and its future.
Q: How has the LLM Program developed over the last six years?
A: We had imagined a diverse program that would bring many different backgrounds and perspectives to the College of Law—both in and out of classes. We’ve definitely been successful in this area. We’ve brought the world to UC Law.
The first year, we started with five or six students, and the growth has been steady. Since then, we’ve enrolled 60 students from 28 different countries, so we’ve actually exceeded our own expectations. Moving forward, we’re turning our attention to the Middle East and looking at firming up partnerships in Africa, which will open doors to many more international attorneys.
Q: How does the program collaborate with other universities?
A: We have at least a half dozen partner universities in a wide variety of countries, and we’re working on creating additional partnerships. We’re already seeing new opportunities opening for law students in terms of travel and overseas internships.
We’re also seeing new opportunities for faculty. They’ve been able to teach abroad and conduct research at partner universities. For example, Professor Jennifer Bergeron delivered a lecture on the innocence movement at the University of Graz in Austria earlier this year. Professor Lynn Bai gave a series of lectures on US business law topics at the University of Lorraine in France. And, Professor Marjorie Aaron had the opportunity to lecture at the University of Bordeaux, one of the top universities in France. (Professor Ronna Schneider will be lecturing there this fall.)
Professor Ildiko Szegedy-Maszak from Javeriana University, a very highly regarded university in Bogotá, Colombia, taught international trade to our students this year. She also lectured to the broader legal and business communities.
We’ve been able to launch our first dual-degree program with Javeriana University. This arrangement allows students who are in the fifth and final year of their bachelor’s of law program to come here and spend one year also earning their LLM. I’m excited to share that this year we have our first students from Javeriana. It’s great for our LLM program, because it brings several highly qualified students in each year, and hailing from Latin America, they further broaden our diversity. It is particularly exciting and promising given the existing business relationships between Cincinnati and Bogotá.
Q: What sorts of places are alumni of the LLM program now?
A: Students come to us with wide ranging goals, so unsurprisingly, their lives and careers after graduation run the gamut. We’ve had students from Africa who return home to pursue careers in academia. We’ve had students who stayed in North America and are pursuing additional degrees, both here and in Canada. We’ve also had students from Europe and the Middle East who have returned home and landed dream jobs with big companies or teaching.
We also have graduates working in Cincinnati area law offices. We think we’ll see more of this as the local legal community meets and gets to know our students. LLM students are attorneys in their home countries. Many of them have wide-ranging professional experiences. If you find yourself in need of technical language or cultural expertise, let us connect you with one of them.
Q: What are some plans for future development and growth?
A: Every year our recent graduates are helping us forge new networks, establish new contacts, reach out to new sets of students, and create new relationships with additional universities. Because of them we have a whole new set of opportunities, allowing us to grow not only in terms of our general international work and partnership opportunities , but also our recruitment efforts.
It’s hard to say exactly what the next six years will have in store, but if the last six are any indication, we know there’s always a host of opportunities right around the corner.
College of Law Receives $125,000 Gift for Student Scholarships
Cincinnati, OH—The University of Cincinnati College of Law has received a $125,000 gift targeted specifically at the College’s scholarship program. The donor, who has requested anonymity, said his donation reflects the significant role the College played in his success, giving him the tools to excel in the legal and business worlds.
“Gifts of this level represent a powerful vote of confidence in the institution,” said Verna Williams, Interim Dean at the College of Law. “We could not be the exceptional institution that we are without this kind of support, which will ensure that we continue to attract and retain an academically talented and diverse student body.”
In today’s highly competitive law school environment, scholarships are a priority for students and for the law school. “We are fortunate to have such a strong supporter,” said Tom Giffin, Senior Director of Development at the College. “This alum’s experience at the College of Law made him excited and happy to be able to ‘pay it forward’. ”
The scholarship will be awarded in the spring semester of the academic year to a student who “demonstrates exceptional ability, promise and/or need, as well as having demonstrated the highest ethical standards.”
About the University of Cincinnati College of Law
As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history of educating and inspiring leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. Its ranks include many distinguished alumni, including a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The College cultivates an intimate learning experience with a9:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources, such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit www.law.uc.edu.
A Note from LLM Grad Natia Mezvrishvilli
Dear Professor Williams,
I hope you remember me. First of all thanks for all wonderful opportunities UC law school gave to me throughout the year. Each professor I met at the university was new experience for a student coming from different system of law and completely different system of high education.
I am writing this e-mail to express my gratitude towards school, professors, students and especially professors - Lassiter and Moore. Professor Lassiter ensured my smooth transition from Civil Law to Common Law system, inspired me by his teaching methods, friendly and professional attitude toward student who was experiencing serious difficulties in the process of learning. The assistance Professor Moore provided is immeasurable. She connected me to various professionals at Prosecutor’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and etc. which was extremely helpful for practicing lawyer.
As you are aware, Georgian criminal justice system is based on codes, thus hundreds of Supreme Court cases at the beginning of semester was the toughest thing could happen to me. However, with the assistance and almost constant encouragement of professor Lassiter, that I was able to succeed, I managed to get highest grades in the most difficult subjects, including his Criminal Procedure. We started working on a project, encompassing comparative analysis on Georgian-American Criminal Procedure. Although I could not finish it due to my heavy workload at school, I have succeeded back home with respect to teaching future lawyers. I am sharing this news being confident it might please you as a dean and representative of the law school as this particular success is mainly triggered by Professor Lassiter’s encouragement to share American experience with Georgian colleagues and impact of wonderful professors of UC law school as a whole.
I will be teaching Criminal Procedure of Georgia in two leading Georgian Universities this fall. I used to teach before coming to the UC law school, but what makes more sense now is that I will use American methods of teaching, the one I learned from Professors Lassiter, Moore, Bryant, Bilionis and others. There will be something innovative in the Syllabus of Georgian Criminal Procedure and for Georgian law students on behalf of UC law school. I am considering to pursue PHD in Constitutional Law - the area I would never imagine to step in. This interest and decision was greatly conditioned by Professor Lassiter’s advice to work on constitutional aspects of American and Georgian Criminal Procedure… and by fascinating Constitutional Law courses taught by Professors Bilionis and Bryant. Professor Moore's way of teaching made me reconsider the way my department defines criminal justice policy within the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. I hope I can manage to establish new approaches in policy making, which will ultimately ensure the effective functioning of Georgian criminal justice system.
Hope I did not take much of your time. Thanks once again. … My gratitude belongs to school and all professors. … (The) experience and knowledge I gained in UC law school will definitely influence development of Georgian Prosecution Service and education system.
Natia Mezvrishvili, LLM (‘17)
Head of the Department of Supervision Over
Prosecutorial Activities and Strategic Development
Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, Tbilisi, Gorgasali str. 24.
Martha Stimson – At 100, Still Never Afraid
While interviewing Martha Stimson’43 at her home in Cincinnati, it quickly became apparent that she isn’t much different from other Cincinnati Law alums. She enjoys recalling her days of strenuous study, the constant worry about her grades, the professors that impacted her life, and the lunches she shared with her best friend before heading back to class – memories that all grads have.
However, one discovers Martha is unique from her fellow alums because when she says, “back in the day,” she’s talking over 74 years ago—from 1940 to ’43.
What was happening in the world at that time? It was the height of the Second World War, the global war that involved over 100 million people and 30 countries. Nazi Germany’s attempt to invade Moscow was beginning to fail. The Star of David was required wear by all Jews in the Netherlands and Belgium; Jews in other Nazi-controlled countries had already been forced to wear it. And, the Japanese naval advance in the Pacific would soon be halted thanks to the American victory at the Battle of Midway.
It was also a period of time when Martha, living at home, was deciding where to submit her applications to law schools.
Interestingly, Martha toured Italy and Germany as World War II continued to explode. Asked if she was ever afraid during her excursion held while the world appeared to be separating at the seams, Martha said, “I was a little scared. It was a period where all the homes had black curtains.”
She quickly added, “But when I communicated with my parents, I always told them that I was alright. Never afraid.”
Making the Case for Cincinnati Law
Martha cut her trip short due to the war. Soon, however, she was accepted at Cincinnati Law. Martha, and one other female, Dale Case, whose father was a professor at the University of Cincinnati, comprised the women in the Class of 1943. The two became fast friends and often ate lunch together between classes. Martha shares, “There was very little social life.”
Nine men and the two women made up the class. But did she or Dale ever consider themselves “trailblazers for women in the legal field”? The humble, soft spoken Martha politely shakes her head no. Not one for protest marches and bullhorn parades, her inroads were made with a quiet dignity, the daily pursuit of excellence, and a confidence in her classroom work.
“I enjoyed law school,” Martha softly states. “Some people were surprised I enrolled and I was told, ‘Only men do that.’ That is what men said then and that is what they always will say.”
Though it would take another 37 years before Cincinnati Law had its first tenured female faculty member, Martha reports there was never any pushback from her instructors.
“The professors were glad to see you in class. They were a valuable part of your life,” she fondly recalled.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1916, Martha’s path took her through Long Island to Cleveland, Ohio and finally to Cincinnati in 1937 following the infamous Ohio River flood that left over a million people homeless from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois.
Later, an aunt urged her to apply to prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts, which she did. In today’s competitive nature of law school acceptance and emphasis on LSAT scores, Martha shyly states that her excellent undergraduate grades at Smith were credentials enough for her to gain entry into UC Law.
She can still recite the names of numerous faculty members that taught her at UC. In an earlier interview, Martha is quoted as saying, “Dean (Frank) Rowley made us work hard and toe the line.”
A Professional Career Kicks Off
Martha was in one class taught by the legendary Murray Seasongood. The, “Father of Cincinnati’s Charter form of Government,” Seasongood took on what many called the nation’s worst governed city in 1923, and ignited a reform movement that later led Cincinnati to be hailed as the country’s best-run municipality. It was Professor Seasongood that asked Martha to come to work at the Paxton & Seasongood Law Firm upon her graduation.
Through her work at Paxton & Seasongood, Martha met Si Lazarus, who started the law department at Federated Department Stores, which is now known as Macy’s Inc. Federated Department Stores operated more than 400 department stores and 157 specialty stores in 37 states. “Mr. Lazarus got permission from Mr. Seasongood for me to come to work for him,” Martha says.
Martha proudly states, “Everything I ever accomplished professionally was because of my law degree.”
As for her dear friend Dale Case, she passed away over 20 years ago due to cancer. Martha still communicates with Dale’s daughter on a regular basis
Martha’s son, David, followed in her mother’s footsteps, graduating from Cincinnati Law in 1977. David is now Senior Counsel at Nixon Peabody LLP, in Rochester, New York, and reports, “I was allowed to make my own choices with law school. No pressure from Mom. But I knew where I was going.”
Still Engaging with the College of Law
On November 4, 2017, the College of Law will be hosting an alumni event: Celebration 2017: ReConnect. ReEngage. ReIgnite.—an opportunity to renew relationships with the law school and with other alumni. As with most gatherings of this type, it is a sure bet that memories will be recounted and improved upon… and perhaps even stretched a bit due to the passage of time.
However, if 100-year-old Martha Stimson attends – and she certainly still may physically – the “youngsters” of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s will probably discover a new definition of the phrase, “back in the day at UC Law.”
- By Thomas W. Giffin, Director of Development
Former OIP Fellow Continues to Fight for the Innocent
When attorney John Kennedy’s indigent client was acquitted of murder last year, his greatly relieved defendant turned to him and asked if it felt good to represent an innocent person. The answer was a little hard for Kennedy to articulate.
Keeping the innocent free is the highest goal for the former OIP fellow. “But I always have a fear of an innocent man going to prison if I fail,” says Kennedy, JD ’10. “It would be my fault.”
That’s a heavy weight to carry on one’s shoulders for an entire career, but Kennedy is exactly where he wants to be — in the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office. He joined the office in 2011 soon after graduating. It was his dream job, one he began longing for as an Ohio Innocence Project fellow.
The New Richmond, Ohio, native decided to become a lawyer after his first year as a political-science major at Miami University in Ohio. As he began checking out law schools, he was leaning toward Oregon’s Lewis and Clark Law School when he attended a prospective-student open house at UC College of Law. He was snagged immediately. “I was attracted to UC at that open house,” he says. “There was so much warmth and happiness in the students that I decided this is where I wanted to go. At Lewis and Clark, there was no enthusiasm. Everyone seemed down.”
Furthermore, the Ohio Innocence Project also tugged at his heart. A promotional video shown that weekend contained a short segment about Clarence Elkins, OIP’s first exoneration. “I remember sitting there and thinking how amazing that was.” The atmosphere, the students and the OIP video were enough for Kennedy to ditch any thoughts about Oregon. His OIP fellowship a couple of years later sold him on the branch of law he wanted for his career — criminal defense, especially for indigent defendants.
The fellowship, he says, was “very good — reading through transcripts and hearing from inmates, seeing the glaring discrepancies in cases.” It was also very frustrating, he admits. “I would read transcripts and say to myself, ‘Don’t you think that should be questioned? As a defense attorney, you don’t think you should fight over that? Aren’t you going to zealously represent your client?’ ”
Time constraints were another frustration, a common one among OIP fellows. “Everything took so long,” he says. “It was so difficult to get certain things done. A couple of my big cases hit dead end after dead end.
“Ed Emerick was one of those cases. We visited him in prison in Toledo. We went to police stations. We searched evidence rooms. There were spots of blood he wanted tested, but we just couldn’t find them.
“I believe he was innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, but there were no options left. That’s the kind the frustration that I sometimes felt in the process.”
Lengthy timeframes demoralize defendants, he adds. “Ed was very frustrated the first time we saw him. He felt like previous fellows weren’t hearing him.” Kennedy and his partner won Emerick over with their empathy, but in the end, they had no more success than their predecessors.
Fortunately, Kennedy had greater success as an OIP fellow while working on the Wally Zimmer case; Zimmer got released early. But that didn’t happen until years after Kennedy had graduated and others continued working on the case. The end result met everyone’s hope, but the interim required great patience. Frustrations have followed him into his public defender work. “I enjoy being here,” he says, “but it has its trying days, too.”
One of the annoying parts of the job is knowing that some people call pubic defenders, “public pretenders.” “It's frustrating that the public believes public defenders are bad attorneys - that they do not effectively represent their clients,” he says. He believes his profession has grown more hard-working and passionate in Hamilton County over the last few years.
“In my first six months, I hadn’t seen anyone do a jury trial. Now, as an office, we had 16 jury trials by September of this year. Many people are winning them. In the past four days, we’ve had three wins.
“We’re expected to fight for our clients. Things are happening now that are unprecedented. In many other areas, indigent public defense is lacking, but we are changing that.” An example of the Hamilton County Public Defenders’ commitment to their clients is the fact that Kennedy got a client acquitted for murder in May. Joshua Maxton, 26, had been indicted for shooting and killing an 18-year-old girl who was riding in the front passenger seat of a car in North Avondale.
Kennedy retells the story:
“Joshua was walking down the street, when a car with three people in it stopped and turned around, and the driver called out to Joshua. After talking with someone in the car, Joshua walked away, and a shot was fired. It hit the back passenger window, killing the passenger in the front seat — killing an innocent teenage girl who was with the wrong people.
“The passenger in the back seat and the driver didn’t see who did it, so they assumed last person they saw — Joshua —was the one who shot.
“Later, the driver rode by the scene in a police car, and he pointed out Joshua. The police then picked him up. They tested his clothes and his hands for gun-shot residue. Everything came back negative. DNA was also taken from items at the scene, and there was no match to Joshua.
“Within two days, three people had called the police to say that someone else had committed the murder. Two of them had witnessed the shooting and gave the police the shooter’s name. A third person at the scene described what the shooter was wearing, where he went afterward and identified the shooter by his size, skin tone and what he was wearing. None of the characteristics matched Joshua’s. A fourth person came forward about four months later and also gave the police the shooter’s name.
“Yet the police didn’t follow up on any of the calls.”
At the grand jury hearing, Maxton was indicted on eight charges — murder, aggravated murder, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault and a weapons-while-under-disability charge. He was placed in the Hamilton County Justice Center with bond set at $1 million.
At the trial, Kennedy presented evidence from recorded interviews and lab results obtained from bottles found at the scene. The jury decided that Maxton was not guilty. Getting an acquittal on a murder charge was a relief for Kennedy. He hopes it helps to boost public confidence in their office and in other public defenders around the country. One aspect of his job that appeals to him is the variety of the work. “It’s different every day,” he says, “new cases, new issues, new people to deal with. It’s ever changing.” But in the end, it’s his attitude that makes all the difference: “It’s something I am very passionate about. You can really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Written by Deb Rieselman
Cincinnati School of Law alumnus honored grad named to Chambers USA list
TULSA, Okla., July 7, 2017 – Cincinnati School of Law graduate Oliver Howard (J.D. 1979) was recently named by Chambers USA to its list of Leaders in Their Field. Howard, who practices law with the law firm of GableGotwals, was honored for his work in Litigation - General Commercial (Band 2).
The qualities on which Chambers USA rankings are assessed include technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, commercial astuteness, diligence, commitment and other qualities most valued by the client. Interviews are conducted with peers outside of the firm and clients in order to determine inclusion and rankings.
Howard was one of 15 GableGotwals attorneys to receive this ranking. The firm was also recognized as a Leading Firm in the areas of Energy and Natural Resources (Band 2), General Commercial Litigation (Band 2) and Corporate/Commercial (Band 3). It also was added this year as “Other Noted Firm” in the area of Native American Law.
GableGotwals is a full-service law firm of more than 90 attorneys representing a diversified client base in Oklahoma, the Southwest and across the nation. The firm has offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Texas.
Connected: The Unique Ties of Cincinnati’s Mayoral Race
Forecasting election outcomes can be tricky business, but here’s one prediction guaranteed to come true: The next mayor of Cincinnati will have strong ties to UC Law.
That’s because among the three leading candidates in 2017’s mayoral race, two are UC Law graduates, and one cofounded a major UC Law initiative.
Incumbent John Cranley, who’s running for a second term as mayor, helped start the Ohio Innocence Project at UC Law in 2003, serving as administrative director until 2006. Candidate Yvette Simpson, currently in her second term as a city councilwoman, received her JD at UC in 2004. Former candidate Rob Richardson Jr., who recently completed a nine-year stint on UC’s Board of Trustees, graduated from UC Law in 2005.
Cranley, Richardson, and Simpson faced off in a primary election on May 2. The top two vote-getters—Cranley and Simpson—will now compete in the Nov. 7 general election.
Besides their UC Law connection, the three mayoral candidates shared many other things in common. They’re all lawyers, Democrats, and natives of Cincinnati. They also hold similar views on core civic issues, such as improving public transit, helping families get out of poverty, and partnering with regional institutions such as the University of Cincinnati. Yet each followed a unique path to UC Law, and eventually to this three-way race for mayor.
Going to UC might have seemed like a no-brainer for Richardson, whose parents, aunt, and sisters all attended the school. But his struggles with learning disabilities as a young student made the path to higher education seem less than certain.
“I wasn't a kid that naturally got school. I struggled pretty early on,” he recalled. “Because of that, and because I was probably bored by school, I didn't do as well taking the tests. That pretty much ruled out college for me.” One conversation with a teacher particularly discouraged Richardson as an eighth-grade student. “I told her I wanted to prepare for college. She told me, ‘Why? You’re not going to do that. You’re going to fail.’ That's a crushing conversation to have.”
Fortunately, Richardson’s mother countered his teacher’s message with these words of encouragement for her son: “People are going to have lower expectations of you. Some because you're an African American man, too. Don't let yourself be defined by anybody's narrow expectations. You define yourself for yourself, by yourself.”
Richardson eventually studied electrical engineering at UC, earning his B.S. degree in 2002. At that point, he knew he didn’t want to pursue a career as an engineer, though he had learned a great deal about solving problems. He decided law school was his next logical step, because “legal training teaches you how to identify problems, how to look at them from multiple sides,” he explained. “If you're going to be in public office, it helps to understand how policy, how the law works, and then you can change it.”
Soon after earning his JD, Richardson was appointed to the UC Board of Trustees, where he recently led the search for the 30th President, Dr. Neville Pinto, and advocated for systemic, top-down reforms to UC police policy following the killing of Samuel Dubose. Currently, he’s a marketing construction representative, and serves as Of Counsel with the law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, specializing in labor and employment and securities litigation
In his first run for political office, Richardson hoped to take a fresh approach to governing the city. “We know that the best ideas often come from the people and places that have been ignored by the power brokers in City Hall,” he said. “It’s our responsibility, as leaders in our city, to be stewards and partners in innovation, inclusion, and creativity.”
Simpson’s journey began at the age of eight, when she pulled a book from the library shelf. Of all the titles in the “when I grow up” series, she chose the one about growing up to be a lawyer. Pictured on the cover, she recalled, was a man arguing his case before a judge. “And I said: ‘That’s gonna be me, except I’ll be wearing a skirt.’”
Simpson’s grandmother and other mentors encouraged her to stick with her dream, even as the young girl’s family struggled to make ends meet and many friends and family members dropped out of school or fell prey to criminal activity. She ended up with a full scholarship to Miami University, where she became the first in her family to graduate from college.
She made her younger self “very proud” by earning her law degree at UC. As a student, Simpson co-chaired the Student Legal Education Committee, was an executive member of the Moot Court board (and was inducted to the Order of the Barristers), served on the honor council, was a senior articles editor for the Human Rights Quarterly, and worked as an associate with both Baker & Hostetler LLP and Frost Brown Todd LLC.
Having gotten “a taste of leadership and involvement” at UC, Simpson said, “I loved it.” Just a few years later, in 2011, she was elected to City Council. Now she hopes to become the first African-American woman mayor in the city's history.
The classic novel that inspired Cranley to become a lawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, centers around an attorney who helps free an innocent man. Years later, while working as a lawyer and serving on Cincinnati City Council, Cranley wanted to bring that kind of legal heroism to Cincinnati.
“I’d seen these Innocence Projects pop up in other states and I saw that there was none in Ohio and it would be great for UC,” Cranley said. He and his friend Professor Mark Godsey founded the Ohio Innocence Project at UC Law. Cranley ran the organization for its first few years. In one case, he successfully argued before the Ohio Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District to overturn Christopher Lee Bennett’s conviction of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Today, OIP is known as one of the most active and successful Innocence Projects in the world, and to date has secured the release of 25 individuals on grounds of innocence who together served more than 450 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
“It’s an amazing success story,” Cranley said. “There’s no question that it gets back to the tradition of wanting to see the world better and to deal with injustices and build a more just society.” He took office as mayor of Cincinnati in December 2013, and hopes to be re-elected for a second term this fall.
By: Susan Wenner Jackson
Published: June 1, 2017
KMK Attorneys Named Leaders in their Fields
The following KMK Law attorneys have been selected for inclusion as “Leaders in Their Fields” in the 2016 edition of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers.
Jim Burke, 1978
Joe Callow, 1993
Bob Coletti, 1982
Mike Scheier, 1991
Read the complete press release here.
Cincinnati Law Celebrates its 184th Hooding
Cincinnati Law celebrated the accomplishments of its graduates on May 13, 2017. Led by Interim Dean Verna Williams, 84 degrees were conferred, including 14 LLM degrees. Take a look at a few pictures from the ceremony and celebration.
UC Law alum Erica Hall '05 is a Woman on a Mission
UC Law alum Erica Hall shares her work on behalf of children victimized by war.
During the week before spring semester, UC Law graduate Erica Hall (2005) returned to her alma mater to teach a short course on a weighty topic: children and war. In the span of five afternoons, Hall and a class of nine students explored some of the ways children are affected by war and the violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law implicated.
The course comes straight out of Hall’s work at London-based World Vision UK, where she leads policy and government advocacy on gender and children and armed conflict issues. She describes World Vision as “a development and humanitarian organization working to improve the lives of children around the world.” Prior to her current job, she worked on International Policy and Programmes at the Children’s Legal Centre and as a consultant for UNICEF.
“My job, basically, is to convince the UK government to do more and to do specific things to improve the lives of children overseas,” she said. Hall enjoys her professional autonomy. “I pretty much get to do what I want, which is great,” she said. “I've been successful enough in my current job that ... If I say, ‘Look, I think this is an issue we really need to be focusing on and we need to be pushing the government on,’ they let me do it.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in French, she started working in corporate marketing communications. After a decade in the field, Hall decided it was time to shift gears. “I kept changing jobs and thinking, ‘I hate this company,’ and then realized, ‘Actually, I think I just hate the job. It's just not for me,’” she said.
Instead, she wanted to delve into the world of international human rights law—which led her to UC. While researching law schools, “I had the most impressive spreadsheet you have ever seen,” she said with a laugh. “I tell you, it was a masterpiece. It took me months to put together. UC was very high on the list,” she recalled, based on the Urban Morgan Institute of Human Rights and its international summer externship opportunities.
“I came on day one—you can imagine, based on my spreadsheet—saying: ‘I want to go to Bosnia next summer. Here is a list of 10 organizations in descending order that I would like to work for.’” She got that internship, with a helpful reference from the Institute’s director, Bert Lockwood. In her second summer of law school, Hall interned at UNICEF. “I was working on some issues that were really important to me, particularly around holding peacekeepers accountable for sexual exploitation and abuse, or ideally preventing that,” she said.
During her time at UC, Hall decided to specialize in gender-based violence. “I had never taken a gender course. I never considered myself even a feminist,” she said. “I know that's a strange thing, but I had this image of ‘feminist,’ and I thought, ‘that's not me.’ Then I took “Feminist Jurisprudence” (taught by UC Law Professor Kristin Kalsem) and it completely changed my world view.”
Persistence pays off
The same dogged determination that drove Hall to become a lawyer and begin a new career in human rights continues to propel her forward at World Vision.
These days, government officials come to her for help with issues of children and conflict. But in the early days, she recalled, “it was literally me cornering someone at a reception, and saying, ‘You need you talk to us about this.’ And that person saying, ‘Oh my gosh… Team, meet with her, just so that she'll leave us alone.’"
In terms of legal influence, Hall explained how human rights law can be a “very analytical process of looking at what (certain countries are) already doing, sometimes looking for new laws.” For instance, she’s working toward new legislation in the UK that’s similar to existing US law, prohibiting military funding to governments who use child soldiers.
“I get to go and do research and meet the children that we're talking about, and do an assessment of where are the barriers—and they might be legal barriers,” she said.
Children in war zones
In December 2015, Hall co-authored the report No Shame in Justice, addressing stigma against survivors to end sexual violence in conflict zones. She based the report on field research she conducted in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting a survivor-centered approach to ending impunity and responding to sexual violence.
For her research, Hall met with children, usually ranging in age from 10 to 19, in their homes, schools, or sometimes even their town squares. “In a lot of the villages, there's a square where people meet. So we’d meet there ... sitting on the ground, under a tree,” she recalled.
So how do you get young survivors of violent conflict to talk about such traumatic experiences? “We do things like drawing your life story. ‘Here's what it was like in the bush, what it was like to escape, what it's like now...’ Then we talk about the drawings, or do some other kind of activities, that can get at some of the challenges they're facing, and what they see as the potential solutions to those challenges.”
The long haul
From research to advocacy, Hall points to real-world results as her measure of success. In the case of the stigma against survivors of sexual violence in Africa, “We got three-quarters of a million pounds over two years, to work on the issue in three countries,” she said. “Now I'm leading a working group to create principles for action that governments and UN agencies all over the world will then be using in terms of, how do we change this.”
And despite the magnitude of the problems she tackles, Hall remains optimistic rather than overwhelmed.
“For me, being able to go to the field makes a huge difference because I can see the difference that things are making. So you might think, this is a hopeless cause... but when you start seeing in some places that you are able to make a difference... when you see smiling children, who are so excited they're finally able to go back to school, it's worth it. It might take a long time, but it's worth it.”