Their backgrounds and legal specialties are varied. They work at large law firms, small law firms, and solo practices. They work for governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and some don’t practice law at all. No two careers in international law are the same.
The alumni profiled here represent the gamut of work in the international arena. They use their particular talents—such as language skills, business skills, and artistic sensibilities— to contribute internationally. The common thread that ties these alumni together: they all attribute at least part of their success to Cardozo.
The Road from Washington, DC to Baghdad; Queens, NY to Lusaka
From a desk job in the nation’s capital to wearing a flak vest and Kevlar helmet to work, Linda Lourie ’95 spent three months in Baghdad in 2004 as part of a team revising Iraq’s legal code.
“I worked in Saddam’s palace and lived in a trailer,” Lourie said. She was in Iraq to assist the Coalition Provisional Authority in rebuilding Iraq’s intellectual property laws, which included bringing the laws into compliance with modern standards and developing strong IP protection. “The goal was to establish a legal system so that Iraq can fit in with its neighbors,” Lourie said. “We were not looking to create a mini-United States in Iraq,” she said, but the hope is that strengthened IP laws will encourage foreign investment.
Lourie was a member of a mixed group of civilian and military personnel from the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. They lived and worked in very close quarters, sharing trailers and dealing with the threat of mortar attacks, but according to Lourie there was a semblance of normality. “It was a war zone, but people figured out how to decompress,” Lourie said. “You can’t live every day in fear.”
Always interested in other cultures, Lourie studied Islamic art as an undergraduate at Harvard University and received a Master’s degree in Islamic art from New York University. “I had a wonderful professor in college who got me interested in the field,” Lourie said. While in Iraq she unfortunately did not get a chance to see any art because it was not safe to leave the protected Green Zone. “It was kind of like being a kid in a candy store. There were wonderful things to see, but it was not safe to go see them,” Lourie said.
Lourie, who concentrated on intellectual property and international trade at Cardozo, applied her studies and previous work experience to the task in Iraq. She spent seven years working at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is currently associate deputy general counsel for international affairs at the Pentagon. “I was happy to be able to be part of a historic event,” Lourie said. She expects the Iraqis to maintain the new laws once they are implemented, which is the current challenge. “It’s really important that countries have harmonized systems,” Lourie said. “We all have to play in the same sandbox.”
Andrew Ginsberg ’90, dubbed “Mr. Queens” by a colleague, always thought he would work in his father’s law firm, Ginsberg & Katsorhis in Kew Gardens, but instead he ended up working with refugees in Lusaka, Zambia. “I believed that I would be a litigator in Queens where my father had a law firm,” Ginsberg said via e-mail. “I did not believe that I would leave New York.”
Ginsberg, a resettlement officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), manages resettlement processing in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi— approximately 195,000 refugees in the three areas. The organization receives thousands of letters requesting resettlement, according to Ginsberg, and his job is to select appropriate cases and submit them to countries with resettlement programs, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and Norway. He conducts interviews with refugees, listens to why they fled from their country of origin, and why they can’t live in Zambia. Ginsberg spends several hours with the refugees and their families and said he normally separates family members as part of the process to check credibility. “In the end I choose the cases I feel are the best,” Ginsberg said.
According to Ginsberg, the best cases have strong claims under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a key legal document that defines who is a refugee. “I also have to justify the resettlement referral with the facts and evidence that support my findings that the refugee meets the resettlement criteria,” Ginsberg said. The job involves understanding the laws and policies of different countries, writing up the facts like an affidavit, and making the appropriate arguments. “The skills that I have learned in questioning people, evaluating evidence, and writing persuasively, I learned as a lawyer,” Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg said he got a taste for different cultures and philosophies as a religious studies major at SUNY Stony Brook. He became interested in immigration issues after law school when he accepted a job at Tsoi and Isel, an immigration law firm in Los Angeles. He eventually applied for a job representing the US government and was appointed assistant district counsel for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1999, he went to Israel to study the Bible and the Talmud at Pardes Jewish Institute. “In a way, I was trying to find myself,” Ginsberg said, and while in Israel he interned with the UNHCR in Jerusalem. When he returned to the United States, he obtained a consultancy at the UNHCR and started working in Jakarta, Indonesia, and in 2002 was sent to work with refugees in Dadaab, Kenya.
Ginsberg’s unexpected career path has taken him across the globe, but whether the road will lead back to Queens remains to be seen. According to Ginsberg, “I plan to continue to work with the UNHCR because I enjoy the work and find it rewarding. Unfortunately, this means that I will remain outside the US for some time.”
International Work Does Not Always Involve a Passport
Jacqueline Klosek ’97 is proof that you don’t have to leave the United States to practice international law. During the past two years, she has helped create a legal system in Afghanistan while working as an associate at Goodwin Procter LLP.
|Jacqueline Klosek ’97|
(photo by FAYFOTO/Boston)
Klosek serves as team leader of intellectual property and technology law for the Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project, a joint venture with the American Bar Association’s Asia Law Initiative and the Center for International Management Education. Klosek is assisting in the revision of Afghanistan’s commercial laws and is helping fashion IP laws where few exist. “There was basically nothing,” Klosek said. The group of about 50 people working on the project is developing new copyright and patent legislation and revising the existing trademark legislation, which according to Klosek consists of one trademark law. “Copyright is totally new to them,” she said.
Klosek examined the laws of neighboring nations to use as models and said she wants the laws to be useful for the people of Afghanistan. “We listened to their concerns and tried to act accordingly,” Klosek said. “We didn’t want to over-Americanize the laws.” The Afghanistan government’s involvement in the process was very important, according to Klosek, and a goal is to help the Afghans preserve their cultural heritage and recover objects that have been plundered. “We would like to go there and do training,” Klosek said. “I hope I’ll be able to go on one of the trips.”
Klosek, who was a psychology major at New York University, said she almost pursued that field instead, but it was Cardozo that fostered her interest in international relations. Klosek was senior articles editor of the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law and received the Telford Taylor Fellowship in Public International Law. Aside from the Afghanistan project, she also works on pro bono cases through the organization Human Rights First. Since 2002 she has helped refugees gain asylum in the United States, including a man from Guinea who was beaten for his involvement with human rights in his country. In 2003, she won Goodwin Procter’s pro bono award. “It’s nice to know they appreciate what you do,” Klosek said.
Brokering International Deals Instead of Practicing LawIn an office on Wall Street high above the bustling financial district, Rotem Rosen LL.M. ’02 works at the international law firm Herzfeld & Rubin, P.C. and is a partner in Israel’s largest firm, Balter, Guth, Aloni & Co. But Rosen does not practice law.
“I’m not doing legal work per se at all,” Rosen said. What he does is act as a liaison between the Israeli firm and the New York firm, which entered into an agreement in August 2004 to service clients of both firms. This is the first venture of its kind between American and Israeli firms, and Rosen helps structure deals to connect clients in Israel with business in the United States and vice versa. “People say that I’m an entrepreneur,” Rosen said. “I like to create something from nothing.”
Rosen was an attorney in Israel for more than four years and became friends with the Israeli firm’s senior partner, Moshe Balter. “He’s like my father,” Rosen said, pointing to the laptop on his desk, which is a direct link to Balter’s computer. When Balter came up with the idea to create a branch of his firm in the United States, he turned to Rosen to lead the effort.
Rosen researched about 10 law firms and said he was looking for a mid-sized firm with business in cities having large Jewish communities, such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. “The potential in New York and Los Angeles is unbelievable,” Rosen said. According to Rosen, there is an opportunity for Balter, Guth, Aloni & Co. to play a significant part in the US market, and the match with Herzfeld & Rubin is a good fit.
Rosen, who studied biology in high school and was drafted into a top security unit of Israeli Intelligence, where he spent three years, has been working on this project since July 2003. “I knew I was not going to be a traditional lawyer,” said Rosen, who received bachelor of laws and master of business administration degrees from the University of Manchester. “I’m good at international business,” but he added, “I wanted to get a legal education.”
With the seven-hour time difference between New York and Israel, Rosen works at home from about 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and then goes into the office at 9 a.m., but despite the demanding schedule, he is already thinking about the next venture. “I really love what I’m doing,” Rosen said.
A Firm of One’s Own
After graduating from Cardozo, Diane Gelon ’84 went to London to install an art exhibition, The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, and now, more than 20 years later, she is still in London with her own successful law practice.
Originally from Los Angeles, Gelon studied art history at UCLA, worked for 10 years before going to law school, and thought she wanted to teach. “I didn’t intend to come here,” Gelon said. “I didn’t intend to start my practice.” Gelon, who started the Law Office of Diane Gelon in 1991, incorporated her visual arts background into her legal work and has a general US and international commercial practice with an emphasis on media, entertainment, and art law. “It’s a small and very busy office,” she said. According to Gelon, actors make up a good part of her practice, and 10% of her clients are in New York and Los Angeles. She works with agents, handles a lot of contract work, and helps with film production work. Gelon recently received her third associate producer credit for the movie Yes, released in June 2005.
Her practice tends to focus on tax and immigration matters, and Gelon often helps with tax returns for British actors working in the United States. “The tax is always an issue when you work internationally,” Gelon said. She also works with US businesses that send employees to the United Kingdom and vice versa, and helps businesses that want to form companies abroad. Gelon has approximately 300 active private clients, two full-time employees, one part-time employee, and even had a summer associate from Cardozo a few years ago. “I’m not a big firm,” Gelon said. “What I give my clients is individual attention.”
Gelon, who received an LL.M. in international law from the London School of Economics, said, “I’m still very much an American.” She reads The New York Times every day, gets US news from ABC and NBC on cable, has family in the States, but does not expect to move back anytime soon. While she never thought she would practice law, Gelon said she is happy about how things turned out. “I was very lucky,” Gelon said. “I have a great little practice here.”
After four years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and two years at Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP, Juliette Passer ’90 combined her international experience and her Russian language skills to start her own company, the legal and financial consulting firm International Project Development Group LLC.
“I’m practicing American corporate law with foreign businesses,” Passer said. She specializes in developing, analyzing, and financing projects in emerging market economies, and her clients include American companies doing business overseas and foreign companies doing business in the United States.
Passer is fluent in Russian and has a working knowledge of Ukrainian; her language skills helped her develop clients with Russia-related business, which was a large part of her work until the rouble crashed. “My practice is a reflection of what is going on with the economy,” Passer said. During the Internet boom, she worked with many “dotcom” companies, three of which still exist, drafting Web site development and hosting agreements and sophisticated Internet back-end and front-end technology licensing agreements, which Passer said was cutting-edge work at the time. She said the Internet has made communication much easier, opening up new possibilities for international business. “The efficiency has allowed someone like me to be on their own,” Passer said.
Born in Ukraine, Passer came to the United States with her family in the mid-1970s and didn’t speak a word of English. Like her mother, she was a harpist. She studied at the Manhattan School of Music and has bachelor of music and master of music degrees, but decided not to pursue a full-time music career. “There were three choices: medical school, law school, or computer science,” Passer said. “Law school was only three years.”
Passer decided to study Soviet law and came to Cardozo to study with Prof. John Hazard, the late Soviet legal studies pioneer who taught at Columbia University and was a visitor at Cardozo. “I realized law was a great choice because I love it,” Passer said. Her arts background has also filtered into her legal career. Passer said art transactions would be passed to her at the firms, and now she performs pro bono work helping artists, dancers, and musicians with issues such as contracts and setting up companies. An admirer of the ballet, Passer works with two American Ballet Theatre dancers whom she offered to help simply because she enjoys their work.
“In my wildest dreams I never could have planned the kind of career I have,” Passer said. “I’ve lived the American dream.”
A Korean Background: A Legal Niche
The first year of law school can be daunting, and when you have limited English language skills, it can be downright scary, but Yong Hak Kim ’86 was not deterred and now combines his legal education and Korean background in his practice of law.
Kim, a partner at Feldman Weinstein LLP, has carved a niche for himself and specializes in international trade and commercial and customs law. “I’m doing litigation now for Korean clients,” Kim said. “I’m doing research on many, many issues.”
Kim’s work focuses both on American clients with business dealings in Korea and on Korean firms with business in the United States. As he describes some of his recent successful cases, including one involving a subsidiary of the largest company in Korea, he adds with a laugh, “There are some cases I’ve lost too.”
Kim joined Feldman Weinstein about three years ago and has helped expand the corporate practice to include Korean corporate clients. In a firm with approximately 17 staff members, Kim works with two other Cardozo graduates, partner Saul Finkelstein ’81 and associate Matthew Chait ’03. “This is a partnership,” Kim said. “They appreciate my contribution.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University and working in Korea, Kim decided to go to law school. “I thought I needed to learn US law because it’s considered international law these days,” Kim said. Kim spent the first two years after Cardozo at Lamb & Lerch LLP, specializing in customs law, and then moved on to Thelen Reid & Priest LLP, where he worked for three years with both domestic and international clients. He spent 10 years at a firm specializing in customs and international trade before moving on to Feldman Weinstein.
Kim has lectured extensively on international issues and is the author of an influential article on copyright, specifically on the impact of the VCR, “New Information Technology and Copyright Law Principles in The Information Age,” which was published in 1987 in the ILSA Journal of International Law. “It was a hot issue at the time,” Kim said, and with the current debate on file sharing and downloading music, it’s still important. “I’m proud that I’m good at exploring emerging issues,” Kim said.
Admitting that the first year at Cardozo was tough, Kim said once he got past it, the second year was easy. “I owe a lot of thanks to Cardozo.”