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BY JESSICA TOMER
My Law School Story: Fady Samaan, International Law
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If you want to use the practice of law to help people—and you want to use international law in particular—you can learn a lot from Fady Samaan, New England Law Class of 2019. From his childhood in Egypt to a six-month legal internship with the International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims last year, Fady has been on a unique path toward an international career that gives a voice to the voiceless.

Keep reading to learn more about his experiences, get a sneak peek at the work international lawyers do, and discover why it’s so important to get internships in law school...

Growing up in Egypt, Fady Samaan was fascinated—and troubled—by much of the political discord and corruption in his home country. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that he sustained an interest in politics and international affairs ever since. He was heavily involved in Model UN in high school and even attended a conference at The Hague. That’s where his interest in international law began, he said.

Fady eventually left Egypt to study political science at Northeastern University in Boston, where one of his cooperative education experiences took him to the United Nations Headquarters. While law school had been in the back of his mind, that interest crystalized when he heard members of the UN General Assembly speak on the rule of law and its importance to humanity.

“The rule of law is the most important thing that we have. The rule of law is what we must respect, adhere to, and protect,” Fady said, echoing the heads of state he heard speak.

After graduating from college and spending one year as a paralegal at an immigration law firm, Fady came to New England Law | Boston in the fall of 2016. Then, in the spring of his 1L year, the kind of international law opportunity he’d been looking for since high school found him...

An insider look at an ICC internship

From June 1 to December 1, 2017, Fady served as the Program/Legal Intern for the Trust Fund for Victims for the International Criminal Court (ICC), an international externship for which he received credit through New England Law’s Center for International Law and Policy. (The Center offers four specific, semester-long, credit-bearing externships for qualifying students; you can learn more about them and what their requirements are here.)

The ICC, housed in The Hague in the Netherlands, tries war crimes and other crimes against humanity. The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) was established to ensure people affected by such crimes receive the reparations and assistance they need to live a life of “hope, dignity, and respect.” The reparations and assistance can take many forms, from monetary awards to helping individuals overcome the physical and psychological devastations of war to rebuilding infrastructure and much more.

The work of the Trust Fund for Victims is closely tied to the ICC’s judicial proceedings. So for a law student like Fady, the internship was a perfect fit. It also gave him a chance to explore his interest in international law and the ICC more in depth.

Fady learned about the position from his Constitutional Law professor, Dina Haynes, who approached him about possible summer positions with the ICC. With a longstanding goal of becoming an ICC prosecutor, Fady was decidedly interested and ready to work “anywhere to get [his] foot in the door.” He ultimately learned that they needed interns for the Trust Fund for Victims, and he applied. (Spoiler alert: he got the job.)

As with many legal internships, applying for the role involved sending a résumé, letter of motivation, and references. The application also called for an essay, and Fady’s was informed by TFV reports he read—a fact that was not lost on his internship supervisor. She commented on that application essay his very first day on the job, saying it showed he actually took the time to read and understand their work.

So Fady joined the TFV’s busy team. His responsibilities involved a variety of things, like helping develop a new fundraising strategy for a reparations order for the Al Mahdi case, where mausoleums and other holy sites in Timbuktu were destroyed by Malian insurgents. It was only the third reparations ruling the ICC had ever issued, and the Trust Fund for Victims, responsible for carrying out the court’s orders, needed analysis specific to funding a reparations order. Fady contributed by researching various countries, investigating their ties to Mali and reasons why the country had incentives to give to the reparations order.

“I did a lot of legal work and legal analysis,” he said. “I would edit on a daily basis whatever my supervisor needed to submit,” like program reports, project closeout reports, annual reports. Lots of reports. But as Fady said, legal research may not be the most glamorous, but “it matters to someone.”

For the ICC’s Katanga case, Fady learned about the 297 victims and categorized the harms they experienced. He also drafted a progress report for the Lubanga assistance program and worked on other draft implementation plans as well.

“I gained an understanding for international tribunals that I hadn’t had previously,” Fady said, and “a lot of knowledge on how the ICC works.”

Besides the legal work. Fady fielded different requests to meet the needs of the organization and its small team. As his supervisor joked, “Don’t worry, we’ll work you to the bone.” (His response? “Good. Let’s do it.”)

The internship also honed his professional skills, making him a stronger writer, reader, and researcher. After all, you need to process information quite efficiently when you’re asked to condense 1,000+ pages—in French—down to six. Fady also had an unexpected advantage in having a U.S. education, which contributed to his becoming the de facto proofreader (another valuable experience).

But Fady insists that you don’t need to be a super-speed reader who speaks French and also has impeccable English copyediting skills to be a valuable employee in these international legal settings. “Whatever skills you have will be used, and you will pick up a bunch of other skills,” he said. Even as an intern, “they do give you meaningful work.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the internship opened his eyes to new possibilities and taught him the realities of working in an organization like the ICC. “It’s helped me understand what I want to do,” he said. In fact, it pushed him in a different direction entirely. (But more on that in a second.)

Advice for law students

Looking for your own legal internship at the ICC, Trust Fund for Victims, or a similar international law organization? Heed Fady’s advice: “The number one thing is having an open mind,” he said.

The international law community is about as unique and diverse as you might expect. “When you work in the international sector or in international workplaces in general, you don’t meet the typical employees you would meet in the U.S.” That means encountering colleagues from an array of cultural backgrounds, including different levels of shared language proficiency. Accordingly, knowing other languages gives you a distinct advantage. Fady said his Model UN experience also taught him how to dress and conduct himself at the ICC. So if you have yet to enroll in law school, pursuing similar extracurriculars might be helpful as well.

Fortunately, navigating this world as a legal intern (or lawyer, for that matter) isn’t as difficult as it seems. Just be respectful and recognize that you’re part of a collective culture—a culture that can teach you a lot and support you as you work toward your professional goals. “Be willing to listen to other people giving you advice,” Fady said. At the end of the day, you may find a new and useful insight. “You lose nothing from listening.”

He also has one evergreen piece of advice for law students and lawyers, whether they’re in the international sector or not: “You need to network,” he said. “You need to shake the hands. You need to say hello in the morning. And it takes nothing to say good morning to somebody.”

Though Fady isn’t a huge fan of blanket “networking,” he reminds students that it can—and should—be about creating genuine relationships. Also remember how small the legal community is, particularly when you get into niche areas like international law. Everyone knows each other. And that’s as true in The Hague as it is in a local firm or your law school community.

“Send a professor an email and have coffee with them,” he advises. “Take two minutes out of your day to talk to somebody.” Keep in touch with friends and colleagues over the years. Sure, the idea of networking can feel a little daunting, but “it’s worth it. You never know what could end up happening. You never know where you’ll end up.” That cup of coffee you had three years ago might lead to a lunch meeting, a job, or a whole new career path.

“I’m still incredibly humbled that Professor Haynes approached me,” he said. “I will remain eternally grateful to her and Professor [Lisa] Laplante.” Ever modest, he chalks their support up to being an attentive student in class. (Though being the type of person who invests in relationships probably helped too.)

“The most gratifying part of teaching is seeing my students go out and do good in the world,” Professor Haynes said. “I will always try to help connect a qualified student to his or her dream job. I know that my colleagues feel the same way. And Fady’s advice is exactly right: the fact that he talked to someone at our school about his dream job helped me to help him land it.” (In addition to teaching, Professor Haynes serves as the Director of the Human Rights and Immigration Law Project at New England Law | Boston. Previously, she was an international human rights lawyer, serving as Director General of the Human Rights Department for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia-Herzegovina and as a Protection Officer with the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees.)

What does the future hold?

Fady once saw himself as an ICC prosecutor. “After working hard for 30 years, that’s where I wanted to end up,” he said. Now, after seeing it firsthand, he’s not so sure.

“What I hope to do is help,” he said simply. “Whether that means being an immigration attorney, helping people file correct paperwork to move and find better lives, or it means going back to the ICC...or working in the nonprofit sector.”

Although Fady said he’s leaning toward the nonprofit world these days, like so many law students (and even working lawyers), his professional path is still unclear. “But as Professor [Lawrence] Friedman kindly said to me, ‘There’s a lot of jobs,’” he said.

“I truly believe in the Trust Fund’s mission and the work it does,” Fady said. All he knows is that he wants to do similar work in the future: “I was doing work that mattered.”

Jessica Tomer is the Web Content Manager at New England Law | Boston.

Learn more about the Center for Law and International Policy's legal externships.

Upcoming Events

The Center for International Law and Policy hosts several events each year, including film screenings, speaker panels, and symposia (see examples below). Many are open to the public as well.

For more information about CILP events, including submitting talk proposals, please contact center director Lisa Laplante.

Past Events

Human Rights Film Screenings

Documentaries help to highlight and bring to life pressing international issues which otherwise often seem remote and abstract. Each fall semester, the law school and CILP organize a film screening to foster dialogue and raise awareness of pressing human rights concerns. These events often include a panel or guest lecture.

2017 

The-Uncondemned-posterThe Uncondemned: Making its first public screening in Boston, this documentary tells the story about the litigation strategy devised by a young group of lawyers working for the International Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute the crime of rape as a part of an overall charge of genocide—the Akayesu case was the first of its kind. Filmmaker Michele Mitchell then gave remarks and answered questions after the film. Community partners included Komera, Peace is Loud, and the MaranyundoInitiative.

 

the-man-who-mends-women-posterThe Man Who Mends Women: This International Women’s Day film screening featured a documentary about Dr. Denis Mukwege, renowned doctor and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who dedicated his life to repairing the bodies of women who were raped during the 20 years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This event was organized in collaboration with United Nations Association of Greater Boston's Global Women's Circle and Harvard School of Public Health.

2016

price-we-pay-posterThe Price We Pay: This award-winning Canadian documentary revealed how large corporations use tax havens to escape paying taxes. We also featured guest speaker Gillian Caldwell, CEO of Global Witness, one of the organizations that helped to uncover the Panama Papers, which helped to reveal the vast corruption with secret tax havens. The film was screened during an event titled Shady Business: The Offshore Industry of Tax Havens, Shell Companies, and Crime.

2015

First Light: This film provided an overview of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the first such body for Native Americans in the United States. The TRC uncovered the discrimination experienced by the Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system. The film’s director, Adam Mazo, and activists featured in the work joined us for a panel discussion after the screening.

2014 

Co-Exist. This film was screened during an event entitled Healing After Genocide: Stories from Rwanda, which was in recognition of the 20 years that had passed since the genocide in Rwanda. The documentary is about the difficult healing process after the genocide. The law school and CILP were fortunate to be able to organize the event in coordination with the NGO Coexist Learning Project. One of the activists featured in the film, Solange Nyirasafari, traveled from Rwanda to join us.

2013 

granito-posterGranito: How to Nail a Dictator. This film provides a captivating tale of how a small international legal team managed to bring former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt to justice. During his brief leadership in the early 1980s, General Ríos Montt orchestrated a brutal government policy that led to the massacre of many Mayan villages. The film is produced by Pamela Yates whose 1983 film When the Mountains Tremble helped inform the world of this horrific tragedy. This film is her latest documentary and narrates how she was approached to be a witness against the General and how her incriminating footage from her earlier film became critical to the litigation strategy.

Guest Speakers and Panels

These events bring practitioners and academics working on important legal issues in international law to share their expertise with the New England Law | Boston community.

2018

Lorianne-Updike-Toler-posterLorianne Updike Toler, “Constitution-Writing at Home and Abroad”: Constitutional legal historian and President of Libertas Constitutional Consulting, Toler shared her years of research studying the process of constitution writing.

 

 

Colombia-Expert-Meeting-posterPanel, “What’s Business Got to Do with It? Peacebuilding in Colombia”: Luis Fernando Angulo, executive director of El Centro Regional de Empresas y Emprendimientos Responsables (CILP’s partner organization in Colombia), and German Zamara, senior research director with CREER, provided an insider’s view of Colombia’s recent peace agreement and how the government has been seeking to involve the private sector in the peace process it spearheaded.

2017

Viviana-PosterViviana Krsticevic, “Assessing the Impact of Human Rights Litigation in the Americas”: Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law, Krsticevic has been a human rights litigator in the Inter-American Human Rights System for over two decades, and CEJIL is one of the leading non-governmental groups to bring cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She shared some of her first-hand accounts of litigating in a regional human rights system while also offering her assessment of the direct impact of this work.

Panel, “Combating Corruption in a New Global Reality”: This panel discussed recent developments in the field of international corruption law. It featured Anthony Mirenda, Partner, Foley Hoag; Michael Granne, Associate, Zuber Lawler & Del Duca; and John Sherman, General Counsel, Shift. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

2016

Zhiyuan Guo: CILP collaborated with Center for Law and Social Responsibility to host this prominent Fulbright scholar and professor at China University of Political Science and Law. This daylong visit included activities for faculty and students and aimed to build our institutional relationship with a major Chinese law school.

Panel, “Human Rights Day: A Poignant Discussion on Female Genital Mutilation”: This panel featured alumna Katie Cintolo and New England Law Professor Dina Haynes, who had recently testified on Beacon Hill about a new bill on FGM.

2015

Hon. Ganna Yudkivska, “The Impact of the European Human Rights System on Democratization in Eastern Europe”: Judge Yudkivska, who sits on the European Court of Human Rights, shared some of the recent developments of the rulings of the international human rights court in Europe. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Panel, “Human Rights and Corporate Liability: What You Need to Know”: This panel shared useful knowledge regarding the evolving international legal and policy framework that may impact how legal practitioners work with corporations of all sizes. Panelists included John Sherman, general counsel and senior advisor, Shift; Tyler Giannini, clinical professor of law and co-director, Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program and the International Human Rights Clinic; and Amanda Werner, legal and policy fellow, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Panel, “Justice Defenders: Who Defends Those Who Defend Human Rights?”: This panel highlighted the work of lawyers working to protect and defend human rights advocates. Panelists included Priscila Rodriguez Bribiesca, founder and legal director, Mexican-U.S. NGO Strategic Defense and Communication for Change (SAKBE), and Fergal Gaynor, counsel for victims in an ICC case, Prosecutor v. Uhuru Kenyatta.

Dustin Lewis, “Anti-Corruption and Counterterrorism Measures: An Overview for NGOs and Corporations Operating in Insecure Environments”: Lewis, a senior researcher at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, explored the issues and concerns that arise for NGOs and corporations operating in armed conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies such as what due diligence and risk mitigation would entail for organizations working in relation to Syria or Somalia. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

2014

Panel, “Terrorism and the Material Support Statute: A Panel Discussion on the First Circuit’s Decision in United States v. Mehanna and Related Issues”: The panel explored the various issues and debates stemming from the First Circuit’s decision in November 2013 in which the Court affirmed the conviction of Tarek Mehanna, a 30-year old pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, for material support for terrorism. Panelists included Professor Andrew March, Yale Law School; Professor Peter Margulies, Roger Williams School of Law; and Sabin Willett, Bingham McCutchen LLP. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Panel, “International Disability Law: Opening Doors for Access and Inclusion”: This event featured both out of state and local speakers discussing the effectiveness of international conventions regulating disability law, and identify the next steps in addressing the needs of the international disabled population. Speakers included Daniela Caruso, Professor of Law, Boston University; Eric Mathews, Advocacy Associate, Disability Rights International; and Diana Samarasan, Founding Executive Director, Disability Rights Advocacy Fund & Disability Rights Fund.

2013

Julia Rogers, “One Seed at a Time: The United Nations, Food Security, and Development”: As a legal consultant with the United Nations and other international organizations, Ms. Rogers advises developing countries on legislative reforms to strengthen their agriculture sector and promote food security. Her work has taken her to Afghanistan, Ethiopia, East Timor, Angola, and Tanzania to hold in-depth dialogues with key stakeholders–from government officials to farmers associations. She provided her personal reflections on the challenges of engaging in legal work to support countries on the path to development.