“It was an eye-opening experience as to how the legal community is very quickly becoming much more international,” says Haber, who also completed an LLM degree in international and comparative law while at Duke. “The thing that I found endlessly amazing was the value the cultural exchange adds to an education. As much as you sit in a classroom — whether it be at Duke University or anywhere in the world — and learn about other systems, other cultures, and other laws, there is nothing like the experience of actually being in that other place and seeing the dynamic between a legal system and its society.”
As an example, Haber recalls his visit to the central court in Paris. Although Duke Law Professor Ralf Michaels had explained, during a first-year class, how French lawyers interact with judges, Haber found that witnessing an actual exchange highlighted the differences from the American legal process.
“No matter how much you read, you can’t fully understand unless you are entrenched in that other culture and see it firsthand,” he says.
Haber also appreciated having a non-American vantage point as the global economic crisis unfolded. “I had an Economics of International Trade class first semester, when things were really starting to unravel, so that played heavily into the way professor wound up structuring the class,” he says. “It ended up putting a lot of question marks on concepts and areas that he said had seemed for the past couple of decades to be solid ground in terms of growth, privatization, and things like that. Which now, of course, everyone has started questioning.”
Through his classes in Paris, Haber developed a newfound fascination with WTO law. “The WTO is a young organization that is going through a lot of growing pains,” he says. “In developed, Western legal systems, things are mostly set in stone. Through good legal arguments you can change precedent, but for the most part, things are pretty status quo.
“Whereas with international law, even in the private sector, things are constantly being reshaped, retooled, and rethought. It’s exciting, because if you can get involved in some way in that aspect of the law, you are not only participating in the practice of it, but also in the creation of it.”
And though he did some traveling throughout the region, Haber’s favorite non-academic experience during his year abroad was watching the results of the 2008 U.S. presidential election with his classmates.
“All of the American students, along with almost all of the French students, went to a Canadian bar on the Seine and we were up until 7:30 in the morning watching the election results come in,” he says. “I was amazed at how many non-Americans stayed up all night in this bar. … You really get a sense of what the stakes are for the rest of the world when America has an election.”
Haber intends to practice international law after completing a clerkship for Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“This program really speaks to the commitment that Duke has to expanding its international base,” he says. “I think this is just another example of how they really do take it seriously and recognize its importance.
“It’s something that I will forever appreciate. As much as I loved being here, it really made my three years in law school that much more unique and special,” he says. “And having a deeper sense of how things work in other parts of the world will — even if my practice is concentrated in America — give me a lot of important perspective.”