PUBLISHED:March 22, 2019

Duke Law students connect with the international legal community through the Cutler Fellows Program

Five Duke Law students explored the global future of law and governance in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22-23 as part of the Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program. The program brought together 53 students from 11 of the nation’s leading law schools to engage with legal professionals and public servants.

Simona Xu '19, Sophia Durand JD/LLM '19, T '15, Jami King JD/LLM '19, Lauren Hughes JD/LLM '19, and Ashley Shan JD/LLM '19 were chosen as fellows based on academic excellence and interest in international and public interest law. They were accompanied by William Van Alstyne Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy Studies Curtis Bradley, who led a workshop on armed conflict, space law, and public international law and served as Duke Law’s faculty advisor to the program.

Fellows met with career mentors including Thomas Weatherall, attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of State; Sara Salama, legal advisor at Coptic Orphans; Gomiluk Otokwala, counsel at the International Monetary Fund; Adejoké Babington-Ashaye, senior counsel at the World Bank; and Katrin Kuhlmann, president and co-founder of New Markets Lab.

They also worked with faculty advisors from each of the participating law schools on research papers that tackled issues in international law ranging from human rights and armed conflict resolution to trade, technology, and corporate accountability.

Durand worked on a paper that studied the effects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative investments in Kenya that focus on infrastructure, trade, and connectivity. She proposed guidelines the Kenyan government could implement to mitigate negative impacts, such as human rights violations, that could arise with the shift to Chinese investments.

“The Cutler Program is a great opportunity for students to network and learn from international law experts,” Durand said.

Those experts included Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and former diplomat and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; John Bellinger, former U.S. legal advisor to the Department of State and the National Security Council; Judge William Webster, former FBI and CIA director; and Kathy Ruemmler and C. Boyden Gray, White House counsels to Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush, respectively.

Cutler told the fellows that listening skills, patience, and resiliency were key to her three decades of success in negotiating international trade deals on behalf of the U.S., while Gray, Ruemmler, and Bellinger shared their perspectives on the role of presidential legal counsel and how the White House considers international law when making foreign and domestic decisions. Program chair Mark Wu and Cutler Fellows co-founder Bill Burke-White led a panel discussion on the intersection of international law and development work.

The 2019 cohort of Cutler Fellows collectively represented 22 countries, including China, Germany, India, Nigeria, and Venezuela, as well as the U.S. In addition to Duke Law, participating law schools included Columbia University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, New York University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, and Yale University.

Established in 2012, the Salzburg, Austria-based Cutler Fellows Program honors the legacy of Lloyd N. Cutler, White House General Counsel to U.S. Presidents Carter and Clinton. The program has more than 350 alumni around the world. “With Cutler Fellows now working in every region of the world, this growing network of young lawyers committed to public service will set the pace in international law for decades to come,” said Stephen L. Salyer, Salzburg Global Seminar president and co-founder of the Lloyd N. Cutler Center for the Rule of Law.