Amber Jordan ’10, a clerk on the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, Michael Gilles ’10, an attorney in the U.S. State Department’s Office of General Counsel, and Coalter Lathrop ’06, a solo practitioner specializing in international maritime boundary disputes told current students about the broad array of careers available to dual-degree graduates and stressed the importance of finding a position that supports intellectual curiosity and personal passion.
“I came to law school with experience in the legal field and a lot of interest in international work,” said Gilles. “What I didn’t really know was what international law careers entailed.”
After spending a summer interning at the U.S. State Department’s Office of General Counsel, he knew it was his dream job and asked to return for a fulltime position after graduation.
“On a daily basis I am providing my opinion on whether or not I think the U.S. government should be doing what it’s doing,” Gilles explained. “I organize my email folders by country and, lucky me, I have 90 different country folders in my email box.”
Jordan has been clerking for Judge Evan J. Wallach on the U.S. Court of International Trade since graduating from Duke Law; she said enforcement actions against predatory pricing from trade partners like China have comprised the majority of her caseload to date. She echoed the benefits of starting off in a government position, noting that it has offered superb training for a later move into private practice.
“In clerkships or government the learning curve is intense,” she said. “You are expected the walk in the door and be a lawyer. I am a thousand times better lawyer and a thousand times better writer than I was when I graduated — the job just forced me to be.”
An expert in ocean policy and international boundary issues, Lathrop arrived at Duke Law with the goal of adding legal representation to the technical advice he provided governments through his consultancy, Sovereign Geographic, now based in Asheville, N.C. He has built his practice and attracted international clients by maintaining a strenuous publishing schedule and attending international meetings and conferences, he said. Lathrop, who has taught International Environmental Law at Duke since his graduation, described his 2010 appearance before the International Court of Justice — assisted by Gilles, a former student — on behalf of Costa Rica’s motion to intervene in a maritime boundary dispute.
Lathrop’s advice to students interested in international careers? “Keep your foreign language skills up, develop an expertise in something, and stay curious,” he said.
The Lives in Interntaional Law speaker series is presented by Duke's JD/LLM Program in International and Comparative Law.
-Nicole Landguth '13