This Spring 2020 semester, the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. at Miami Law celebrated its fifth year offering the skills-based International Arbitration LL.M. Practicum Program, which allows students to obtain practical experience in the field of international arbitration with law firms and arbitral institutions in Miami and beyond during their LL.M. studies. The IA LL.M. Practicum Program was launched by Sandra Friedrich, Lecturer in Law and Director of Miami Law’s International Arbitration Institute and LL.M. Program, in Spring 2016. The Program initially launched with four Miami-based arbitration practices: Astigarraga Davis (now Reed Smith), DLA Piper, GST LLP – a GAR-100 ranked international arbitration boutique firm co-founded by several Miami Law alumni – and independent arbitrator and Miami Law Adjunct Professor John Rooney.
Since then, the Program has grown steadily with semester-long placements at nearly twenty global and boutique law firms and arbitral institutions in Miami and beyond, including Al Tamimi & Company (Dubai, UAE), DeAlmeida Pereira (Washington, D.C. and São Paulo, Brazil), DLA Piper (Miami, FL), GST LLP (Miami, FL), Hogan Lovells (Miami, FL), Holland & Knight (Miami, FL), Hughes Hubbard & Reed (Miami, FL), the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) (Washington, D.C.), JAMS Mediation, Arbitration, ADR Services (Miami, FL) – the world’s largest private alternative dispute resolution provider, Reed Smith (Miami, FL), Shutts & Bowen (Miami, FL), Squire Patton Boggs (Miami, FL), and White & Case (Miami, FL and Washington, D.C.). Nearly 70 students in the IA LL.M. program have benefitted from this immersive, hands-on experience, some later returning to their Practicum firms as law clerks, summer associates and associates. Harout Samra (UM J.D. ‘09, MBA ‘08), Associate at DLA Piper’s Miami office and Practicum supervisor, comments, “The International Arbitration LL.M. Practicum Program gives students a unique opportunity to develop strong relationships with international practitioners in our community and get their hands 'dirty' with real cases.”
The IA LL.M. Practicum Program now forms an integral part of Miami Law’s expansive and skills-oriented International Arbitration curriculum. Practicum placements offer academic credit and may be compensated at the discretion of participating firms.
During the Practicum’s inaugural semester, the Spring of 2016, Ecuadorian-American Brian Vaca (IA J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree, ’16) worked at DLA Piper, a Global Arbitration Review (GAR) Top 30 international arbitration firm. During his time at DLA Piper, Vaca “had the chance to write federal court motions regarding the applicability of arbitration clauses, work on legal memos in Spanish for foreign clients, and co-author an article on corruption as a defense in investment arbitration to be published in the McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution.” Vaca went on to say he “could not have asked for a better team to work with” at DLA Piper and described the practicum program as “an opportunity to put into practice what I had learned throughout my studies in the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. at Miami Law.” Vaca now works as an associate in Arnold & Porter’s International Arbitration and Litigation practice.
Young ICCA Scholarship holder Ivan Bracho (IA J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree, ’19) from Venezuela landed a prestigious summer associate position at Hogan Lovells in Miami, after having completed a practicum placement with the firm earlier in his studies, an experience that Bracho described as “both challenging and fulfilling.” In the second week, the firm asked Bracho to join the international arbitration team on an ICSID case in Washington, D.C. Before leaving for D.C., Bracho remembers: “I thought I had an idea of everything that went on throughout a hearing, but during that week I quickly realized that I had no idea at all of all the moving pieces that are involved in a hearing.” Yet, Bracho said, “I was able to roll up my sleeves and keep up to speed by using the tools that I’ve acquired from several international arbitration courses at Miami Law.” Bracho recently graduated and has returned to Hogan’s Miami office as an associate to work with Daniel E. González, Partner and Global Head of Hogan’s International Arbitration Practice and Miami Law International Arbitration Adjunct Professor. “The J.D./LL.M. joint degree program in international arbitration at Miami Law certainly has opened many doors for me, and for many of my colleagues,” Bracho went on to say. “All that is required from you, is to take advantage of the [many] opportunities that the program provides for you on a daily basis!”
Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Edgar Bustamante (IA LL.M. ’20), an Ecuadorian student and Young ICCA Scholarship recipient, worked last semester at Hughes Hubbard & Reed with Miami-based partner and International Arbitration Adjunct Professor Luis O’Naghten. During Bustamante’s time in the Practicum, he was able to gain valuable knowledge about the field of investment arbitration in South America and “of complex interactions between government bodies and foreign parties.” In addition, Bustamante was able to immerse himself in “deep conversations about law with fellow colleagues” that helped to expand his “mind and aspirations” for future endeavors.
Venezuelan Ignacio Duque (IA J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree, ’19), headed to Washington D.C. for the summer of 2018 to work at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). While there, Duque gathered case information for a transparency project and reviewed the proposed amendments to ICSID’s Arbitration Rules. Duque also had the opportunity to attend various hearings, review requests for arbitration, and prepare memorandums, analyzing if the requests comply with the ICSID requirements for registration by the ICSID Secretariat. “One can have much theoretical knowledge,” Duque explained, “but arbitration requires practical knowledge just the same.” “Although I had some experience in international arbitration from my previous work experience,” Duque went on to say, “my studies in the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. have allowed me to deepen further that knowledge, both theoretical and practical.”
During the summer of 2019, Young ICCA Scholarship holder Arundathi Venkataraman (IA LL.M. ’19) from India also spent her time interning at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). When asked to describe her experience, Venkataraman said that it was “incredible, and a must-do for anyone trying to foray into investment arbitration! It puts what we learn theoretically in perspective, and highlights the non-classroom experience required to be successful in the field.” For three months, Venkataraman assisted ICSID legal counsel with research on legal points for awards and in preparing working papers for potential awards. “It is also a place where one witnesses the possibly best ever advocacy, during hearings,” Venkataraman went on to say. “There are only a handful of interns, so there’s a lot of work to go around. It’s a great ground to build a network since it presents a good opportunity to interact with counsels and arbitrators.” Venkataraman just completed a training with Debevoise & Plimpton’s international arbitration group and now works with Three Crowns in London, U.K.
JAMS Mediation, Arbitration, ADR Services
Christiane Freire Reis (IA J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree, ’20), a Brazilian lawyer, completed her Practicum placement at JAMS, the world’s largest private alternative dispute resolution provider, where she experienced the “practical reality” of alternative dispute resolution from “an institutional perspective.” Through this, Freire Reis not only received “professional advice” from her colleagues, but also gained insight “from their expertise” and “a better understanding of the qualifications and duties involved in the ADR field.” According to Freire Reis, the IA LL.M. Practicum Program “is a very good networking and learning experience that all IA LL.M. students may take advantage of.”
Arda Barlas, a Turkish J.D./LL.M. Joint degree student, completed the IA LL.M. Practicum during both the Summer and Fall 2019 semesters. In the fall, Barlas’ placement with Reed Smith enabled him to gain insight into arbitration matters from “well-known esteemed arbitration practitioners like José Astigarraga, Cristina Cárdenas and Eduardo de la Peña,” all of whom also teach in the IA LL.M. Program. Challenging assignments helped Barlas “to learn more and develop additional skills” that will help in his future career. Through the IA Practicum, Barlas said, “I developed my research and legal writing skills, along with the opportunity to observe a U.S. law firm. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the experience I had, and I am happy that I reached all of my goals with the International Arbitration Practicum Program.” Barlas has since returned to Reed Smith as a summer associate.
Shutts & Bowen
Tanya Shankar (IA LL.M. ’17) from Australia completed her practicum placement with Shutts & Bowen, a renowned Am200 law firm, in the fall of 2016. Shankar’s “duties were diverse, the work was challenging, the atmosphere was professional,” and she found her colleagues friendly and supportive, which in turn helped to cultivate a positive work environment. While on the job, Shankar’s day-to-day tasks included reviewing contracts, communicating with foreign attorneys, overseeing the compliance of client’s multinational entities with local filings, and even traveling often to assist clients with contracts and corporate management. Shankar continued to work at the firm after the conclusion of the practicum. Looking back on her practicum now, Shankar believes the experience “has widened my skill-set as well as built my confidence.” “The most rewarding part of my job,” Shankar continues “was seeing how my hard-work played a role in bringing about successful business outcomes for the client abroad.”
For Russian White & Case/Carolyn B. Lamm scholarship recipient, Madina Lokova (IA LL.M. ’17), her practicum placement at Shutts & Bowen in the fall of 2016 was her “first practical experience at a U.S. law firm.” Lokova went on to state that her time at Shutts & Bowen “provided invaluable insight into the U.S. working style and standards as well as the expectations that a young attorney should meet for a successful career in a top notch legal practice in the United States.” Through the combination of her Practicum placement as well as the IA LL.M. curriculum, which is “full of classes suited to fit every taste and inclination, interesting discussions and debates, clinics and other learning opportunities,” Lokova believes she was able to gain “hands-on experience” which proved helpful in her future career endeavors. She now works in White & Case’s International Arbitration department in Washington, D.C.
Colombian-American Natalia Jaramillo (IA J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree, ’20) also had the opportunity to complete her practicum at Shutts & Bowen. “My experience at Shutts & Bowen had an invaluable impact in my career path,” Jaramillo stated. “I was able to work with and learn from leading practitioners in the International Arbitration and Litigation field in Miami, and was able to apply all of the invaluable knowledge I had acquired in my LLM classes.” During her time at Shutts & Bowen, Jaramillo worked on multiple ICC and ICDR arbitrations and traveled with the partners for pre-arbitration hearings. “I was not only an intern,” Jaramillo says, “but also a member of the team. I am forever thankful to our program director Sandra Friedrich and the Shutts & Bowen team for giving me this incredible opportunity.” Jaramillo went on to complete a second practicum placement under the experiential learning track of the IA LL.M. with White & Case’s Latin American Arbitration group.
White & Case
During the summer of 2019, Ugandan Angella Nantongo (IA LL.M. ‘19) earned a practicum position at White & Case’s Miami office under the supervision of Jonathan Hamilton, White & Case Partner, Miami Law Adjunct Professor and Distinguished Faculty Chair of Miami Law’s International Arbitration Institute. During her time at White & Case, Nantongo had the opportunity to work in the Latin American Arbitration department, where she was able to understand why Miami in particular is a popular seat for international arbitration. “It’s mostly chosen because of asset location,” Nantongo explained, “but interestingly even parties with no connection to Miami choose it as a neutral seat, given its strategic proximity within Latin America and the Caribbean.” Through the IA LL.M.’s initiatives like the Practicum and the Moot Court Programs, Nantongo believes that the degree “is well-tailored to not only equip you with classroom knowledge, but also ensure that upon completion, you’re ready for the market.”
In the next semester, fall of 2019, Russian student Aleksandr Sysoev (IA LL.M. ’20) also completed his practicum at White & Case’s Miami office under the supervision of Carolyn Lamm (UM J.D. ’73), White & Case Partner, Miami Law Adjunct Professor and Distinguished Faculty Chair of Miami Law’s International Arbitration LL.M. Program.. In this position, Sysoev performed an array of tasks “from researching to drafting,” all of which enabled him to gain a valuable “hands-on experience” and thus “better understand ‘inner workings’ of a law firm in general, and a dispute resolution practice in particular.” Sysoev went on to state that completing the IA LL.M. Practicum at a firm like White & Case is “a great opportunity for students all across the world to personally see and experience what it is like working on high-profile cross-border disputes involving complex factual and legal issues.”
Despite the global pandemic and the implementation of social distancing measures in mid-March of the Spring 2020 semester, the International Arbitration LL.M. Practicum Program remained fully functional for all fourteen students enrolled. In its new virtual setting and with the transition to online practical learning, the IA LL.M. Practicum helped students learn how to successfully adapt during times of crisis and embrace new remote lawyering practices that may come in handy in the months and years to come.