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Dean's Desk: Stewart Fellows bring global experience to Indiana

May 6, 2015

deans-desk-parrishGlobalization, once the exclusive domain of so-called international lawyers, now touches many lawyers’ practices. Banking, economic development, immigration, conflict of laws, outsourced discovery – these are just a few examples of global topics that might land on a lawyer’s desk on a given day. Whether a lawyer is in New York or London, New Castle or Logansport, experience with different cultures can be invaluable. Many legal problems in today’s world are pervasively transnational, and many employers value global experience. The well-rounded lawyer has to know something about the world around him or her and have some degree of global literacy.

For this reason, the IU Maurer School of Law has been on the forefront of offering global opportunities to our students. We have developed partnerships with foreign law schools. Our faculty and student exchange programs and our LLM program for foreign lawyers bring top scholars to Bloomington. Our “Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies” is the premier publication for academic research in this field. And our Center for Constitutional Democracy helps build the rule of law around the globe. One of the cornerstones of these efforts, however, is our Stewart Fellows program.

Founded in 2010 through a generous grant from our alumnus Milton Stewart, his wife, Judi, and our other friends in the U.S. and around the globe, the program gives our students on-the-job learning and exposure to other cultures. This is no leisurely summer study abroad program, with esoteric classes in the mornings and afternoons by the seashore. Our students work – and they work hard – in corporations, highly ranked international law firms, and rights-based non-governmental organizations, doing real legal work in seven countries throughout the world. Admission to the program is highly competitive, with only about a third of applicants selected each year. This summer 18 students, most of them rising 2Ls, will complete externships in Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Nearly 80 students have participated in the program since its inception. Unlike many programs with steep price tags – costing students thousands or tens of thousands of dollars – each Stewart Fellow is provided funding to cover travel and living expenses while working abroad.

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The Stewart Fellows program is under the aegis of our innovative Center on the Global Legal Profession. Its director, Professor Jayanth Krishnan, is an expert on the Indian legal system and brings his vast network of contacts to the program, linking student interests with appropriate firms and NGOs. His colleague, Professor Christiana Ochoa, knows the South American legal market from her research on law and economic development and has expanded the Stewart Fellows program into Argentina and Brazil. With its combination of practical experience and global exposure, the Stewart Fellows program is the only one of its kind in the United States.

But where I am most pleased with the Fellows program is in the results. Alumni of the program have found it an invaluable introduction to professional life. Jerry Carter was a 2011 Stewart Fellow at the Delhi, India, office of Novus Law, a Chicago-based global legal services firm that does document review, management and analysis for lawyers all over the world. In addition to his law degree, he earned an MBA from our partner institution Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. Jerry described himself in a recent ABA Journal article as a middle-of-the class student who had trouble getting the attention of typical high-end corporate firms. However, because of his pre-law business and financial career – along with his global experience and joint degree – he had something different to offer employers.

“When asked about my law degree, I usually reply that it helped me develop superior analytical skills,” he told the publication. “But more important than that, my Maurer experience enabled me to live and work in four countries in four years and to find and join the most innovative and dynamic firm in the legal profession.”

When we introduced the program five years ago, we fully expected that it would deepen our students’ perspectives on the global legal profession, build their competencies and skills, and introduce them to career opportunities in new markets. What we didn’t anticipate was the extent to which many of the Stewart Fellows have chosen to apply their experiences right here in the Midwest.

For instance, Kyle Doherty-Peters spent the summer of 2012 at Barun Law in Seoul, South Korea. “The internship gave the opportunity to develop myself professionally and work on my language skills,” he said. He is now in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and stationed in Great Lakes, Illinois.

Samantha Wuletich, a 2012 graduate, spent her time as a Stewart Fellow with Amarchand, a large firm based in New Delhi, India. She said that the experience brought her a “tremendous amount of cultural growth” as she “became acclimated with the culture and the legal way of life” in another country. She is now working as an associate at Eichhorn & Eichhorn in Hammond, Indiana.

Mahja Zeon, a native of Liberia and 2014 graduate, divided her externship between Novus Law and Koura & Co., another distinguished Indian firm. She is bringing the cultural perspectives from two continents to bear in Indianapolis, where she works as a Marion County deputy prosecutor.

Ross Friedman and Jillian Rountree have parlayed their global experiences into judicial clerkships in the Midwest. Ross is clerking for Hon. Nancy Vaidik on the Indiana Court of Appeals, and Jill is clerking for Hon. Barbara Crabb, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin. Ross’ Stewart Fellowship was at S&R Associates, a Delhi-based law firm, and Jill worked for Clarus, an IT consulting firm. In fact, about 20 percent of the Stewart Fellows have chosen careers in the Midwest, many of them in Indiana.

We are proud of our Stewart Fellows and the talented faculty who have organized and nurtured the program over the past six years. We are even more proud that so many of the program’s alumni are choosing to apply their experiences locally. As globalization becomes more pervasive, the legal profession will need practitioners who have a deep understanding of other cultures. Our Stewart Fellows are on the forefront of this trend, and we are honored to include them in our community of students and alumni.•

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Austen L. Parrish is dean and James H. Rudy Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Opinions expressed are the author’s.
 

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