Human Rights and International Law Panel

By: Erica Fernandes

The Human Rights and International Law Panel, moderated by Human Rights Director Susan Gzesch, hosted three lawyers involved in the legal fields of International, Human Rights, and Public Interest Law. The three lawyers on the panel gave valuable insights into different types of careers in these fields, as well as advice on getting involved in them.

Jeffrey Sarles, an attorney at Mayer Brown, spoke first about his career in International Law handling appellate and international arbitration work such as investment treaty arbitration, product recall indemnification, and commercial contract disputes. For people interested in pursing a career in public interest law, Mr. Sarles suggested taking a job in the private sector and maximizing pro-bono work. To those pursuing a career in International Law, Mr. Sarles suggested meeting people from other countries and cultures to reach an understanding of different legal systems.

Maria Woltjen, an attorney who created the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights in 2003, spoke next. She explained that the Center provides legal advocates for unaccompanied immigrant children. Ms. Woltjen described her work as being an advocate for the minor's best interest, by either returning the children to their home country or arguing in a court of law for them to remain in the United States. Ms. Woltjen discussed the challenges that the typical immigrant child faces, such as not being given a special judge with subject-matter jurisdiction in undocumented minor probate rights and the absence of the right to a public defender. To best advocate for the children, Woltjen and her fellow attorneys use guidelines on the welfare of the child and state laws specific to the child's case. She also incorporates legal research from other countries on how they dealt with issues regarding undocumented children. Ms. Woltjen stressed how difficult publicize the Center’s work is because of strict layers of confidentiality regarding undocumented children.To get experience in public interest law, Ms. Woltjen suggested looking at specific clinics or courses at law schools regarding public interest law.

The third panelist was Kristen Greer Barron Love, an alumna of the College and the Law School. She recently completed a two-year Skadden fellowship in public interest law, which enabled her to work for the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM) in Mexico. In Mexico, Barron Love advocated for Mexico-based migrant workers who experienced serious rights violations. Barron Love listed typical offenses against these migrant workers by American employers, such as unpaid wages and workplace injuries. Barron Love went on to passionately describe the plight of migrant workers who faced punishment for complaining about work violations; these, she detailed, were often taken advantage of in the process of trying to find jobs  in the United States. Ms. Barron Love said she developed her interest in Human Rights and Labor problems as a Slavic Language & Literatures major at the University of Chicago.

Kristen Greer Barron Love is a dual degree holder from the University of Chicago, JD ‘09 and BA, History and Law, Letters, & Society ‘06.  Jeffrey Sarles attended Northwestern University School of Law, graduating Cum Laude in 1994. He also obtained an MA with honors from the University of Chicago and completed his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University.  Maria Woltjen graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago and received a JD from the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. Each panelist shed light on the various careers in the International and Human Rights legal fields and suggested pursuing many internships in law school, networking, and volunteering to work pro-bono.