The participating students visited the U.S. District Courthouse and were able to speak directly with Judges Robert Scola, Jr. and Cecilia Altonaga. (Photo: Jessica A. Giraldo/Miami Law)
The Office of International Graduate Law Programs at Miami Law welcomed Brazilian lawyers and law students from one of the most prestigious universities in Brazil,Pontifícia Universidade Catõlica de São Paulo, for the year's first intensive short course on international arbitration.
The course, titled Basic Concepts in International Arbitration, was held the third week of January and helped some 20 Brazilian lawyers and law students immerse themselves in the fascinating realm of international arbitration. The participants connected with world-renowned arbitrators and faculty members, including Professor Jan Paulsson, the Chair of Miami Law's International Arbitration Program, and Professor Keith Rosenn, the Chair of the Inter-American Law and U.S and Transnational Law for Foreign Lawyers programs.
"The legal community of Brazil has in recent years developed a strong interest in international arbitration," Professor Paulsson said. "This interest has naturally migrated toward law schools, where one sees a strong appetite for courses in this area. The cohort of highly motivated students that came to Miami typifies this evolution. It was a pleasure to have them here."
The course spanned five days and nine sessions, with Professor Paulsson leading five of the sessions. Participants read selections from an authoritative book on the subject,International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration (Oceana Publications, 2000) – which Professor Paulsson co-authored with W. Lawrence Craig and William W. Park – learned about alternative dispute resolution methods in international business, and discussed basic concepts of international arbitration, such as the New York Convention and UNCITRAL, the commission that regulates international trade in cooperation with the World Trade Organization. On the last day of the course, Professor Paulsson conducted an oral examination of the students.
"We were excited to create a course that connected Brazilian lawyers and law students to our prominent faculty," said Jessica Carvalho Morris, the program's director. "Its purpose was to expose the participants to both a practical and theoretical approach to arbitration and enable them to apply that knowledge back home in working with international clients."
Other sessions included a lecture by Professor Rosenn on the importance of international arbitration as it applies to Brazil, John H. Rooney's session on international arbitration from the U.S. perspective, and a session by Miami Law alumnus Daniel Vielleville, J.D. '03, on practical steps to take when preparing for an arbitration case.
"The professors were simply amazing, so much so that studying here afterwards has become a really strong possibility," said Isabela Campos, a Brazilian lawyer with the firm Mattos Muriel Kestener Advogados and an alumna of Pontifícia Universidade Catõlica. "Professor Paulsson is simply brilliant, and the program certainly went far beyond my highest expectations."
Bruna Barletta, a law student at Pontifícia, had a similar view. "Jan Paulsson is the most brilliant professor I've ever seen," she said.
Beyond the classroom, the students visited the U.S. District Courthouse in Downtown Miami on Thursday, where they met Federal Judges Robert Scola Jr. and Cecilia Altonaga. Judge Scola, an adjunct professor in litigation skills at Miami Law, presented an overview of judicial nominations, explained his reasoning behind the recent acquittal of the Muslim cleric Izhar Khan, and gave the law students solid career advice. The students then observed a contested sentencing hearing in Judge Altonaga's courtroom. After the hearing, Judge Altonaga – who once spent six months in Rio de Janeiro – greeted the students in Portuguese and discussed the difficulties of sentencing, describing it as the "hardest thing" judges do. Emerson Paiva Teles, a law student from São Paulo, cited the visit to the U.S. District Courthouse as "the best part of the program."
Guilherme Matos, a law student from Curitiba, the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná, described the courthouse visit as the "highlight of the course" and "very impressive." Matos noted that the reputation and location of the University of Miami make the international arbitration program a great choice for him. "I think I'll come to Miami to study international arbitration because of the way we were treated during this short course – I consider courtesy very seriously," said Matos, one of several Brazilian students considering an application to the LL.M. program at Miami. "Also, the University of Miami has a strong name – both as an institution and its faculty – and Miami is an important seat to arbitration."
The concept for the course was forged last fall between Pontifícia Professor Claudio Finkelstein, a Miami Law LL.M. alumnus, and Morris. Professor Finkelstein had previously worked with Morris on several occasions in promoting the International Graduate Law Programs in Brazil and, because he leads Pontifícia's international law graduate studies department, he said it was an easy decision to craft a course exclusively for Brazilian students.
"My idea was to put together a course with outstanding professionals in a setting that could offer students everything they desired in an international environment," Professor Finkelstein said. "The University of Miami was the perfect place because of the excellent relationship with the director, Jessica Morris, who was professional, took care of every detail and made the process smooth and easy for us."
He said that with the help of Pontifícia's administration, "we were able to offer the course in record time for our students and alumni." The program kicked off with a gathering at Monty's Seafood Bar & Grill in Coconut Grove and closed with a dinner at Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita in Mary Brickell Village, where each student received a certificate for having attended the course.
"It was a truly amazing experience," Thais Valente Lima, a Pontifícia law student, said of the arbitration sessions in Miami. "I learned a lot and wish to be back to the University of Miami one day."
Recognizing that the knowledge he gained and the connections he made in Miami have expanded his options, Rubens Boicenco, a Brazilian lawyer, said that the program "will be extremely helpful for my personal development as a professional and student."
Funds raised from the short course will go toward a scholarship fund for the incoming LL.M. class.