India from Within:  the India Internship Project at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law

By Ramla Farzad

This past summer, the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University Maurer School of Law launched a new internship program in Delhi, India.  Through a highly competitive selection process, six students were placed in law firms, NGOs and the Assistant Solicitor General’s Office for a six-week period and tasked with an array of legal assignments.  The Center’s mission is to create a new paradigm for learning about the legal profession and legal practice in other countries.  As the legal profession becomes more global in nature and attorneys become more integrated in cases and transactions that cross boundaries, the Center seeks to enhance understanding of this evolving system.  The Center’s long term objective is to help attorneys navigate the complexities of international legal issues and become leaders and problem solvers within a rapidly globalizing world.

With this goal in mind, the Center focused on internship opportunities for its students.  The Center chose India as its first country of focus because of the similarities between the foundation of the American and Indian legal systems as well the differences.  India is the world’s largest democracy, with a flourishing economy, free press, and a legal system based on common law.  Under the leadership of Professor William Henderson, the Center’s Director, and Professor Jay Krishnan, a leading scholar on the Indian legal system, the Center was able to develop relationship with several key organizations around Delhi.  Milton Stewart, an Indiana University alumnus and partner at the Portland firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, donated both his time and money to launch the program.  In February 2010, Henderson, Krishnan, and Stewart traveled through Delhi to meet with various law firms, NGO’s, and the Assistant Solicitor General.  They were able to secure internship placements for Maurer students, officially known as the Stewart Global Legal Fellows, with Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Company, J. Sagar Associates, Bhasin & Company, and the Clarus Law Firm.

The delegation had equal success in finding placements for students interested in working in the non-profit sector.  Kathy Sreedhar, the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program, provided significant assistance in matching students with the NGOs.  With Sreedhar’s help, the Center was able to place students at the Dalit Foundation, Jagori, and the Self-Employed Women’s Association, NGO’s devoted to empowering marginalized and disadvantaged people in India.  Sreedhar also provided funding for the students, which greatly helped the students undertake this once in a lifetime experience.

The six students, Erica Oppenheimer, Nick Dau-Schmidt, Erin Mihalik, Jillian Rountree, Zachary Holladay and Renee Turner, arrived in mid-May to begin their internship program.  Five of the six students resided at the O.P. Jindal Guest House, affiliated with the new O.P. Jindal Global University, which is in the process of partnering with Indiana University.  The modern and spacious guest house provided a retreat for the students to live comfortably and interact with one another, further solidifying their bond.  Dau-Schmidt, who interned at J. Sagar Associates was graciously invited to stay at Mr. Jyoti Sagar’s guest house, located minutes from the office.

Each intern had a unique and singular experience.  The interns at the law firm were asked to research legal issues that crossed international boundaries and informed the way they approached a novel legal issue.  Rountree interned at Clarus Law Firm, a boutique law firm specializing in environmental law.  She captured this experience in a weekly journal that all the students were required to submit as part of their internship program, writing:

I think what really impressed me was the subject matter.  I was really working on important and cutting edge material. Again, I didn’t believe that everything the firm would work on would be dry or repetitive, but I did not think I would be trusted with research on what to me is such new and central material. I come away from the internship I hope having made those at Clarus a bit more knowledgeable about my research topics, but mostly with immense new knowledge on not only international, environmental, and trade law topics but also an increased familiarity with the process of developing arguments and providing consultation on these matters. I believe I have a far greater grasp on what questions are asked and how they are answered in international trade law.

The interns working for NGOs had a vastly different experience.  These interns were taken out of their comfort zone and asked to see life through the lens of the struggling and impoverished people of India.  In addition to researching laws which affect the disadvantaged population of India, they also engaged in field work, traveling to remote villages and meeting with people who literally have nothing.  Turner, who interned at the Dalit Foundation, made the following comments in her journal:

While out and about one day, I stumbled upon two women working at a construction site.  These women were carrying at least ten bricks on top of their heads, while their babies lay off to the side, crying.  When I asked the man I was with about these women, he responded, with a smile, by saying “A strong woman can carry sixteen bricks on top of her head.”

When I inquired about their living conditions (shanty homes) and children lying in the dirt, he off-handedly said they are migrant workers paid to work at the construction site, so that’s where they live.  The sound of the babies crying was heartbreaking.  I wanted to rush over and pick all three of them up and rock them until they stopped crying.

Experiences like this can change a student’s life.  Not only did they get the opportunity to learn about Indian law and the Indian legal system, but they also got a taste of what life in India is like.

The Center seeks to create a new model for professional education that better fits the rapidly globalizing legal, political, and economic landscape.  American law students can no longer limit themselves with knowledge about just the American legal system.  The Center seeks to create global alliances and assist Maurer students in gaining an international perspective.

The Center is working towards expanding the program next summer with more internship slots within India.  The Center is also actively looking for internship opportunities in other countries, including China, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia.  The Center hopes to replicate the success of the India internship in these other countries and provide more law students with this unique experience.

Ms. Ramla Farzad serves as the Executive Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.  Ms. Farzad is responsible for organizing all of the Center’s international internship programming.  To learn more about the Center on the Global Legal Profession and the India internship program, please contact Ms. Ramla Farzad, Executive Director at rfarzad@indiana.edu.

AUTHOR BIO

Ms. Ramla Farzad serves as the Executive Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession.  Ms. Farzad graduated with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in political science and an emphasis in South Asian studies. She went on to attend law school at the University of Southern California.  After law school, Ms. Farzad worked in general commercial litigation at a large national law firm.

Ms. Farzad joined Indiana University Maurer School of Law as the Executive Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession in fall of 2009.  As the Executive Director, Ms. Farzad is responsible for the Center’s international internship placements.  She is responsible for organizing, managing and overseeing all aspects of the India Summer Internship Project, including, obtaining University approval of the program, drafting the agreements with the law firms, NGO’s and Solicitor Generals office, interviewing and selecting candidates into the program, organizing all pre-orientation meetings and travel plans, providing support services for students in India and serving as a liaison between the students and their summer employers.

 

 

 

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