From clerkships to clinical assistantships to working as summer associates at firms, summer legal work helps students gain practical skills and experiences that benefit them during law school and beyond. This is the third profile in our 2013 series featuring the summer job experiences of UW Law students.
Cole Agar '14
Legal Intern, Hafez Avocats in Cairo, Egypt
Describe your summer work experience.
I worked at one of the rising international arbitration firms in the Middle East, where I performed legal research in international law, Egyptian law and arbitration procedure. I also prepared exhibits; helped draft and edit pleadings and legal memos; and reviewed audits, parties’ correspondences and other documents looking for arguments and support for arguments. As one of the few native English speakers at the firm, I helped edit legal documents for our English cases, too.
What led you to an arbitration firm in Egypt for your internship?
A number of my mentors advised me that international arbitration is quickly becoming one of the most important fields in international law. Since arbitration offers non-state-based dispute resolution, the field has increased importance in areas like the Middle East, where the political situation is unstable and the domestic courts are often not trusted by outside companies and investors. Also, I completed my undergraduate studies in Cairo, and since entering law school, I had planned to return for a work experience in Egypt.
What surprised you about the work?
International arbitration sounded dry and technical to me, so I hadn’t expected my cases to involve corruption, expropriation and extortion, all wrapped up in politics and current events. For example, an international company might spend five years developing a factory in Egypt, and then have the Egyptian government or a high-ranking official cancel their operation license, cut power to the factory and demand that the company pay exorbitant fees to remove these barriers.
I was also surprised by people’s ability to push forward with their work, even as chaos resounded around us. Unless protests were blocking the roads to the office or fighting was predicted to get especially bad, we found a way to make it to the office, and our supervisors expected us to complete our assignments on time.
How do you think this work experience will shape the rest of your time at UW Law School?
Working with international lawyers taught me that almost everyone in this field is at least bilingual. I will spend part of my 3L year improving my Arabic, and I would also like to get back into studying Spanish. And, since most of my summer cases involved entrepreneurs or foreign investors starting business ventures in Egypt, I hope to learn more about the law related to these groups and endeavors.
What classes were most useful in preparing you for your summer job?
Contracts, International Commercial Arbitration and International Business Transactions gave me basic legal knowledge that helped me in my work. However, the experience that best prepared me was working at the Wisconsin Innocence Project. The subject matter could not have been more different, but the practical skills I gained in legal writing, looking for evidence and building a case, interacting with supervisors, and managing a caseload gave me an edge over other trainees at the firm.
Submitted by Law School News on May 13, 2015