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MLaw Grad Appointed to Traineeship with the International Court of Justice

By Lori Atherton
May 6, 2013

Moments after arriving home at her London apartment following a visit to the United States, Michigan Law graduate Sarah St. Vincent learned that she had been selected for a coveted traineeship on the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

"I walked in the door, put down my suitcases, opened my laptop, and there it was—the message I had been waiting for," St. Vincent said. "You can imagine how excited I was, despite the jet lag."

Sarah St. Vincent, '11The 2011 graduate will start her traineeship—which is similar to a clerkship—in September. She will be assigned to Judges Xue Hanqin of China and Giorgio Gaja of Italy, and will assist them with conducting research, preparing case files, and drafting various types of documents.

"The thought that I'll be able to watch this incredibly important form of international dispute resolution in action is extremely exciting," St. Vincent said. "I'm looking forward to working on cases that are likely to involve diverse areas of international law, and to learning from judges who are some of the most highly regarded experts in the field."

St. Vincent applied for the traineeship, which is open to final-year JDs, LLMs, and recent graduates, in January. After reviewing the submitted applications, a Michigan Law faculty selection committee chose St. Vincent for nomination to the ICJ in February. The Law School is among a select group of top law schools around the world that are eligible to nominate students to the Court. St. Vincent learned that she was selected as a trainee in April.

"The traineeship is an incredible opportunity for a student interested in international law to see important inter-state cases being decided close up," said Steven Ratner, the Bruno Simma Collegiate Professor of Law and a member of the committee that nominated St. Vincent. "Michigan is one of a handful of U.S. law schools to have its students repeatedly selected by the Court over the years. Sarah joins an impressive list of JD and LLM students who have worked side-by-side with some of the world's leading international judges."

The ICJ appointment is the latest addition to St. Vincent's already-impressive resume. Since earning her JD from Michigan Law in 2011, St. Vincent has been working as a Skadden Fellow and legal project manager at the AIRE (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) Centre in London, where she provides direct legal services to women under EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights. Her work includes a special emphasis on survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, pregnant women, homeless women, elderly women, and women with disabilities. The Skadden Fellowship is St. Vincent's second stint at the AIRE Centre; she previously served there as a legal intern in 2009.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, where she majored in English literature and Asian studies, St. Vincent received her master's degree in East Asia studies from Harvard in 2007. During law school, she was vice president of the Asia Law Society, founder and president of the Prisoners' Rights Organization for Students, volunteer research assistant for Michigan Law Professor James Hathaway and visiting scholar Jennifer Bond, contributing editor of the Michigan Journal of International Law, and associate editor of the Michigan Law Review, for which she wrote a student note about the U.S. torture statute.

"Her student note is generally remarkable, tackling an ambitious topic in an exceptionally creative way," said Assistant Professor Julian Mortenson in the recommendation letter he wrote for St. Vincent as part of the traineeship application process. "Sarah is creative, energetic, extremely intelligent, and highly motivated...and someone who will be a credit not only to Michigan Law School but to the ICJ itself as her career develops."

St. Vincent said she is undecided on the direction her career will take once the fellowship ends, but is considering pursuing international humanitarian law (law of war) or international human rights law, particularly as it relates to the treatment of prisoners and detainees. "I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities I've had so far—thanks in large part to Michigan Law—and am waiting to see what comes next."

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