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Only at Yale Law School…

J.M., 1L
In our minds, we go over the preceding events in a vain attempt to rationalize what had passed.  Perhaps we call on family or friends removed from the law school to ask whether being privy to US Supreme Court Justices banter about the proper role of foreign precedents in Supreme Court decisions or discussing upcoming election prospects with a former US President or being given the opportunity to shape important litigation as a second semester 1L are really normal occurrences.  Yet in the end, we cannot help but be left with one thought: only at Yale Law School…

Flashback to last Friday.  It is 8:20 am in Dean Koh’s international human rights class.  Two of my classmates and myself are scheduled to give a presentation on the options available for the Obama administration as it formulates its policy towards the International Criminal Court (ICC).  We thought our lecture would be fairly straight forward, but after a semester at YLS we should probably have known better than to expect nothing out of the ordinary. On its premise, this is only a regular class assignment requiring a couple of hours of preparation and the creation of a PowerPoint presentation.  Things begin as expected as our instructors, Dean Koh, Christine Chung, the first senior trial attorney appointed to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, and Michael Posner, President of Human Rights First, question us on jurisdictional issues, state parties, and cases before the Court. 

About ten minutes into our presentation, the classroom door opens.  Dean Koh pauses us to introduce John Bellinger III who has just finished serving as the Legal Advisor to the US State Department.  Mr. Bellinger joins Dean Koh in the front of the classroom to ask us questions on ICC actions in regard to Darfur.   The door continues to open at several minute intervals as the Prosecutor of the ICC, the President of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC, and a Senior Advisor to the Foreign Office of the UK, amongst others, enter the room and join the questioning panel.  The law school happens to be having one of the most important conferences of the year on international criminal law and some of the leading participants have decided to come to our class to listen to our presentation and to ask us questions.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, our presentation ends.  I leave the room blissfully shaking my head and smiling from ear to ear.  Had this really just happened?  Had a regular classroom assignment just morphed into a policy meeting with some of the most influential people in the field?  Had I really just argued what the US position on the definition of aggression should be to the head of the conference in charge of defining aggression for the purposes of the ICC? Had the Prosecutor of the ICC really just bailed us out when we didn’t know the answer to a question?  To put it mildly, it was one of the more thrilling hours of my life.

As I enter the hallway, I realize it is only 9:35 am.  The Prosecutor’s keynote address to the conference, property class, a group lunch with the Prosecutor, two panels on the situation on Darfur, and, of course, law school happy hour, still await me.  Only at the Yale Law School…