As the end of fall semester gets closer and closer, Miami Law students are busy preparing for finals, updating resumes, and writing cover letters to potential summer internship and full-time employers. For anyone entering the job market – legal or not – this can be a daunting process. It can be even more daunting when the dream job you have always wanted is located across oceans and continents.
Miami Law alumna Tamara Kosic, JD '10, knows all about that process and the havoc it can wreak on law students determined to practice international law. Kosic, who was a part of the Miami Scholars program during her time at Miami Law, currently works in the Victims Participation and Reparations Unit (VPU, for short) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. She recently participated in a lunchtime gathering, coordinated by the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, to discuss working in the international arena.
The VPU is responsible for representing, through court participation, the interests of individual victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide whose nation-states have cases before the court.
As Kosic described her job, "Victim participation is a remarkably unique area of international law as it makes justice more human in the wake of great atrocities. The VPU of the ICC works on having the stories and voices of victims to be heard while simultaneously working to protect victims from further harm."
All of the students who attended the intimate lunch-time gathering were interested in practicing international public interest law. Many expressed concern about finding a great job overseas in the wake of the bad recession. Others had already completed substantial work overseas, and were now specifically interested in working for the ICC.
Kosic outlined how she broke into the competitive and tight-knit network within the ICC. Her journey has been nowhere near linear – from humble beginnings in her hometown of Chicago, to riding camels through the Sahara desert for public transportation, all the way to completing her Advanced LL.M. in Public International Law in Holland.
"It's absolutely true that you need to live where you want to work," Kosic explained. "That's why I got my Advanced LL.M. in the Netherlands, knowing that I wanted to work there with the ICC. It was an amazing experience, and I had classmates from all over the world."
Kosic repeatedly stressed the importance of forging connections through networking. "My criminal law professor worked with the ICC," Kosic revealed, "and we would go watch him in court. When I graduated, he emailed me about a job opening within the VPU. It was an unadvertised posting, as the ICC sometimes only does internal hiring. It's all about who you know."
Kosic walked the students through the complex application process for the ICC, which includes foreign language comprehension tests and a 6-month waiting period. She urged students to rehearse with Miami Law's Career Development Office to prepare for job interviews.
For international positions, Kosic noted that employers may want to be sure that the applicant is willing and able to go on missions in other countries. In addition, they want to be sure that applicants are properly trained to complete research and writing at a very high standard. After that, it is all about the applicant's personality and whether they fit in with the office atmosphere.
Kosic also explained how her time with the Peace Corps and Amnesty International in Morocco prepared her for the position she has now.
"I remember the car pulling away and thinking, 'Oh my God, where am I?!'" Kosic joked. "And then someone walking by told me that I would probably need a camel."
Kosic did purchase a camel and named him Fred. She rode him to work for a year. This ability to quickly adapt to cultural and geographical differences prepared her for the rigors of conducting international field missions.
She maintained that after everything she has experienced in her journey to the ICC, her current position is well worth the struggle.
"As a representative of the victims, we speak the truth about the atrocities that occurred and unlike everyone else in the courtroom, we are there to stay focused on them and not the perpetrators," explained Kosic, who is assigned to specific cases in Kenya. "We constantly remind the courts to bring the focus back on the victims."