Michigan Law's ECJ stagiaires converge on Luxembourg

With three Michigan Law graduates serving as stagiaires at the European Court of Justice this academic year – and several more having served in the recent past – the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is beginning to take on a distinct Ann Arbor flavor.

The three alumni – Dana Kaersvang '06, Antonia Eliason '07, and Tina Orsolic '08 (LL.M) – are among a limited number of graduates from top American law schools with the opportunity to work in the chambers of an ECJ judge or advocate general.

Eliason is participating in the Dean Acheson Legal Stage Program, which is designed to foster mutual understanding between the legal communities in the U.S. and the E.U. Organized with the help of the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg, the program puts recent American law school graduates to work in the Chambers of a Judge or Advocate General at the European Court of Justice or the European Court of First Instance. Candidates are nominated by their schools, but the individual members of the two courts themselves make the final selections.

Stagiaires learn about the inner workings of the Court in a collegial setting and work closely with their fellow stagiaires and referendaires, or law clerks. Eliason, currently finishing up a stint at the World Trade Organization, is looking forward to January, when she reports for her stage in the chambers of Judge Koen Lenaerts of Belgium.

"Once I found out about the program, it immediately became something I really wanted to pursue," Eliason said. "I spent considerable time focusing on EU law while at the Law School."

Eliason considers herself an international trade law specialist, but also welcomes the opportunity to broaden her understanding of EU law, another field of great interest to her. She looks forward to participating in the ECJ's shaping of "a new legal order in Europe that mirrors some aspects of U.S. federalism, attempting to forge a balance between national laws and the supra-national EU-wide legal structure."

Tina Orsolic, ‘08 hits the books this spring at Michigan Law.

Orsolic, from Croatia, follows in the footsteps of fellow stagiaire Jan Semanek, a Czech who earned his LL.M at Michigan Law in 2004. Orsolic actually served in the offices of two separate Advocate Generals – Miguel Poiares Maduro and Eleanor Sharpston – and she said the experience was invaluable, especially in light of the LL.M work she completed last year at Michigan Law.

"Prof. Daniel Halberstam's European Legal Order course gave me insight into how common law lawyers perceive EU law," Orsolic said. "And learning about U.S. Constitutional Law in Prof. Donald Regan's course was very important as well, because it gave me a needed backup for understanding similarities between the EU legal order and the U.S. federal constitutional order."

Kaersvang will begin work at the ECJ in May, also in the Chambers of Premiere Advocate General Miguel Poiares Maduro. She said working at the ECJ had been a long-term goal.

"I'm very excited about it," Kaersvang said. "Obviously, EU law is going to have an increasing impact on anyone doing international law work. Also, I'm interested in the development of effective international institutions."

Many view the ECJ as just that sort of institution, Kaersvang said, noting parallels to the consolidation of authority of the U.S. Supreme Court during the early 19th Century.

"It's my understanding that Michigan has a high success rate in terms of placing people with the court," Kaersvang said. "And it's thanks to Professor Halberstam's class that I learned about EU case law. … Michigan has, of course, made all this possible."