Saturday, September 4, 2010

WILIG networks

(Thanks to IntLawGrrls for the opportunity to contribute this guest post)

The Women in International Law Interest Group (WILIG) of the American Society of International Law recently hosted its annual networking breakfast at Tillar House, ASIL's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event drew over 60 attendees, comprising a diverse group of women students, practitioners and pioneers in the field of international law.
Laura Bocalandro, counsel at the Inter-American Development Bank (left), opened up the event. The panel was introduced by Marcia Wiss, partner at Hogan Lovells and adjunct professor at Georgetown Law (below right). Sarah A. Altschuller, senior practitioner in Foley Hoag’s corporate social responsibility group (below left), talked about the challenges facing attorneys in that practice area. Wendy Patten, Senior Policy Analyst at the Open Society Institute and former Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, noted that her past experiences as a litigator have continually helped her draft legislation and policy papers that examine and incorporate practical legal remedies for the public facing challenging situations. Carol Pier, Associate Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs at the Department of Labor, talked about the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Martina Vandenberg, partner at Jenner & Block LLP, spoke about the various challenges in fighting sex trafficking for which she has been raising awareness for several years. Vandenberg’s advice to young women was to build an "investment fund" – one consisting of a wealth of resources and network – in the early stages of their careers. The "fund," she said, that can assist them during their professional life in later years.
During the Q&A session, topics that arose included:
► Work-life balance for women in law,
► Transitioning from nongovernmental and international organizations to law firms,
► The importance of choosing law firms with a dedicated focus to pro bono work, and
► Rewards of international exposure that continue to enrich an international law attorney’s career in the long run.
The panel unanimously agreed upon the importance of mentors for young women in law firms who can help budding attorneys get quality work in their professional lives. Moderator Wiss encouraged women to continue to raise awareness and advocate for the U.S. ratification of 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by writing to their representatives in Congress. The panel also reminded women to maintain a healthy emotional life particularly when their work involves fighting against social issues that could have an adverse emotional impact on their personal lives.
At the end of the Q&A, the session broke to allow for networking. Several small crowds formed where women introduced themselves, discussed legal and policy issues in international law, and sought and offered advice. The 4 panelists were among the last few women to leave Tillar House, having answered almost every query by the crowd to the very end.
Note: IntLawGrrls Naomi Cahn (near left) and Kristine A. Huskey (far left) are co-chairs of this interest group. They encourage all who are not yet members to join WILIG!

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