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Katie Cornelius '16 Shares Why She Likes Cincinnati

Katie Cornelius

There is always something great to do in Cincinnati. I love the unique culture and atmosphere of the city. There are great museums and historic areas intertwined with new restaurants, shops, and sporting events. 

Katie is pictured in front of Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall.

Get to Know Remington Jackson ‘15

Remington Jackson

Why do you want to become a lawyer? Why the interest in law?

From an early age, my father conditioned my desire to become an attorney, even going as far as contemplating adding the title “Esq.” to my name before I even attended Kindergarten!  He expounded upon the prestige associated with being an attorney, especially as a minority, and that it would be more than a job but a career.  He impressed upon me that the heart of the legal profession is one of public service—promoting the rule of law and pursuing the common good. He also mentioned the potential financial stability it could provide and the ability to make use of a J.D. in many areas, even if I didn’t end up practicing law.

To find out just how much of this was true, I spent my summers throughout high school and college working at various legal entities such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Allegheny County Law Department to get as much experience as possible at my “predetermined” life career. For my senior thesis at the College of Wooster, I focused on the arguments in favor and against the practice of the death penalty with the paper “The Necessary Criteria to Save a Dying Practice: An Attempt to Morally Justify Capital Punishment”.

Throughout these opportunities, I found that the satisfaction I experienced from trying to understand and debate complicated issues through my speech and writings intersect well with the legal profession. Most importantly, I feel that being an attorney—an act of serving and service to others—is, as Muhammad Ali put it, the rent we pay for our room here on earth. These experiences have all played a role in fueling my aspiration to become an attorney. In the end my father was right all along!

What area(s) of law are you interested in?

Currently I am getting experience with corporate law areas like securities fraud litigation, protecting shareholder rights, and corporate governance issues. I  am interested in labor and employment law, tax law, and I am open to learn from new arenas and challenges.

At my time with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office I had the opportunity to work with the Worker’s Compensation department and found that it was never a dull day. Sitting in on the settlement conferences to see the negotiation and cordial but zealous advocacy between the representatives for the employer and employee was intriguing. I found that the area involved complex relationships between people in the workplace and consequently had a very human component to it. You get a sense of who the individual is and their contribution to society.

What types of professional experiences have you had that will help you on your path to becoming an attorney?

During my 1L summer I worked as a summer associate with the Ohio Attorney General's Cincinnati Office and as a teacher with the Ohio Law and Leadership Institute. With LLI I taught youth from traditionally underserved communities about leadership, writing, self-expression, test taking, and study tactics while providing a basic understanding of the study and practice of law. During my 2L year, I worked as a legal extern for the General Counsel's Office for the University of Cincinnati.

I am currently the President of the College of Law’s chapter of Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Vice-Chair of the Midwest Region of the National Black Law Students Association (MWBLSA). I also serve as the Reprint Editor on the Immigration & Nationality Law Review and a Senior Article Editor for the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights’ Human Rights Quarterly. In the Fall I will be serving as a judicial extern to the Hon. Jeffery P. Hopkins, United States Bankruptcy Court – Southern District of Ohio and as a representative for the University in the Potter Stewart American Inn of Court. Finally, I am a student representative for Kaplan Test Prep.

A few final thoughts on career (and personal) preparation…

People hire people. No matter how great your grades or who you know, if you are a jerk or people just do not want to work with you, you are shooting yourself in the foot before you can even get it in the door. Be yourself, speak about your interests without reverting back to cookie cutter responses, and let your personality prove why you got to your current place in life. Never fear rejection but rather savor the opportunity to learn something from each experience you are given because each setback is only a setup for your next success.

Take full advantage of legal and judicial externships. While they do not pay, what they provide in terms of hands on experience and connections is priceless. There are few other opportunities available where you can get so much feedback without worrying about a grade or curve and get the kinks out while learning the right way to do your work.

Chase your passion, whatever it may be, and the money will follow rather than chasing after money and hoping the passion will come along. There are too many different paths to follow to happiness to end up hating the place you spend 8-10 hours of your day. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint, so go the extra mile to have coffee and lunch with those already doing the work that you are interested in to hear the good and the bad. Professionals are more than willing to "pay it forward" in remembrance of those that did it for them. Do not be discouraged if you do get a "No" reponse. There are 100 "Yes" responses out there just waiting for you to ask.

Dig your well before you are thirsty. That is something my closest mentor has always preached to me: network constantly so that I can reach out to a wealth of resources long before I need help with a reference or position. Not being from Cincinnati and not being in the top 20% of my class, any time not spent on studying and working goes towards networking and building relationships to ensure that I am never just a name on a piece of paper for any position I apply. Hard work will always prove your mettle, and while you will almost certainly experience setbacks throughout law school, never let an exam result decide your fate.

An Interview With Attorney and LLM Student Lara Ringdahl

Lara Ringdahl, a lawyer from Switzerland, is a participant in the law school’s LLM program. A criminal attorney, she has a strong interest in classes in the criminal law program. She has found UC Law’s program a great complement to her background and professional goals. Here’s more of her story.

Nora Burke Wagner Named Director of LLM Program

Nora Burke Wagner has been named director of the law school’s LLM Program. A 2000 graduate of the College, she clerked for Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and spent seven years working in-house at a large non-profit social service agency as Director of Government Advocacy and Legal Affairs before returning to the College of Law community.

While at the College Wagner has assisted with many important projects including preparing for the accreditation visit, designing bar passage reporting strategies, and assisting with putting registration advising materials on the law school website.  She was instrumental in the design, approval, and implementation of current LLM program and has been focusing her time recently on recruiting and admitting the new class of LLM students.  In her new position, she will continue her work on admissions, but will also take on some of the advising and teaching responsibilities of the LL.M. program.

Downtown Faculty Teach-in for Scholarships Raises More Than $11K

This year's Downtown Teach-in for Student Scholarships, held Friday, March 7, 2014, was a rousing success! The event raised more than $11,000 for law student scholarships. According to Mike Hogan, Senior Director of Development, this is the equivalent of approximately four-and-a-half endowed scholarships, if done annually.

Attendees were able to take advantage of numerous seminars, ranging from ethics, the courts, and justice and truth, to cell phones, BITs, and amicus pressure. Topics included: The Challenges and Ethics of Changing Clients' Minds about Settlement, The Myth of Truth in American Justice, Topics of Economic Justice, 2013's Top Ten Cases from the Supreme Court of Ohio, The DMCA and Cell Phone Unlocking, Ethical Implications for the Internet Lawyer, and more. College of Law professors led the hour-long seminars, which were hosted at the downtown offices of Frost Brown Todd and Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. This event was sponsored by the Center for Practice.

In Her Own Words…Erin Rosenberg Shares Why She Works in International Criminal Law

From my experiences as a fellow at the Urban Morgan Institute, I knew that I wanted to work in international law, but I didn’t know in which field. In 2010, the summer before my third year, I did a summer externship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, the Netherlands. At the end of those three months, I knew that I wanted to work in international criminal law.

After graduating from UC and passing the Indiana Bar in August 2011, I returned to the ICTY for a one year fellowship in Chambers. During my fellowship, I worked primarily in the pre-trial stage of proceedings in the case of Prosecutor v. Ratko Mladić, who is currently on trial for two counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As a fellow, my job responsibilities were similar to that of a law clerk.

After the end of my ICTY fellowship, I spent six months in the Appeals Division of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a Visiting Professional, which is similar to the ICTY fellowship program. In February 2013, after completing the Visiting Professionalship, I was hired by the ICC- Appeals Division as an assistant legal officer, the position I currently hold. In the Appeals Chamber, I work on interlocutory and final appeals, including on the appeal of the ICC’s first trial conviction in the case of Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga, in which Mr. Lubanga was convicted for committing the war crime of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I conduct legal research, help in the preparation of drafting decisions and judgments, and assist the Appeals Chamber judges on various legal issues.

Besides my regular duties, I have also been lucky to have had the opportunity to represent the ICC at events. For example, I served as a lecturer on the history of the ICC and the doctrine of command responsibility for the International Institute of Humanitarian Law's 148th International Military Course on the Laws of Armed Conflict.

Why the Interest in International Criminal Law

One of the most interesting parts of my job is that I get to work in a field that is still fairly new and for which the law itself is still being developed. To be a small part of that, both at the ICTY and now the ICC, has been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. There are also many practical issues that are somewhat unique to international criminal proceedings. For one, the scope and size of the trials in international law are very different from the types of trials most people would recognize in domestic systems. This is due not only to the types of crimes that we deal with (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes), but also the sheer number of witnesses, victims, and crime bases that are a part of a single case. To give one example, in the Mladic case, the prosecution called over 140 witnesses. Additionally, while the trials at the ICC are conducted in English or French, many of the accused and witnesses speak any number of other languages and may not understand English or French at all. So, unlike what one might see in a US court, at the ICC (and the ICTY), there are teams of interpreters in booths surrounding the courtrooms who translate the proceedings live as they happen for the trial participants. There are also separate teams that translate court documents. While all of these things may seem merely interesting, they pose very real challenges to case management, particularly in terms of ensuring that the fair trial rights of all accused persons are fully respected.

Many people are often surprised at where I work, and the field of law that I work in, because I am American. The United States is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and I think that it is fair to say that American law schools focus less on international law generally than those in many other countries. However, I have never felt at a disadvantage vis-à-vis my colleagues because of the overall legal training I received at UC Law and the exposure to international law that I received through my fellowship with the Urban Morgan Institute, particularly from the summer externships and working on the Human Rights Quarterly.

I would tell any UC law student who is interested in international law or specifically international criminal law to take advantage of the amazing opportunities that they have with the Urban Morgan Institute and to follow their passion. International criminal law is a difficult field to get into, but, with hard work and commitment, it is definitely possible.

Get to know Erin Rosenberg ‘11

Rosenberg received her B.A. from Indiana University- Bloomington, majoring in Linguistics, French, and African-American and African Diasporic Studies. Prior to enrolling at UC, she worked in politics on numerous local, state, and federal campaigns, including for the Indiana State Senate Democratic Caucus, serving as the Indiana State Director for the 2004 John Kerry for President campaign and for Congressman André Carson in the 2008 Special Election. Upon the election of Congressman Carson, Rosenberg joined his DC office, serving as Director of Inter-governmental Affairs and later as Legislative Director before returning to UC to finish her law degree. She received her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati School of Law, where she was also an Arthur Russell Morgan Fellow at the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

A Career in Human Rights Has Taken Lycette Nelson from Cincinnati to Hungary

“It’s good that you’re here to keep us human.” 

Hearing this made a lasting impression on a UC Law student—now alumna—while completing her human rights internship in South Africa.

Lycette Nelson ‘02 grew up in Burlington, Vermont before attending St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  She moved to New York City and worked in publishing for three years, and then returned to the classroom at the State University of New York at Buffalo, receiving her Ph.D. in comparative literature.  She continued her career in publishing for several more years, and, at the same time, she was active in LGBT politics and advocacy.  Nelson became the executive director of Stonewall Cincinnati, a small nonprofit organization here in the Queen City.  At Stonewall Cincinnati, she worked on many legal matters, meeting practitioners in anti-discrimination and civil rights law.  Her work and her contacts fostered an interest in human rights, and the Urban Morgan Institute at the College was the perfect fit.

In law school, Nelson completed a summer human rights internship in Cape Town, South Africa, an externship with a federal district court judge, and worked at a small firm: Manley Burke.  While in Cape Town, she worked at the Human Rights Committee of Cape Town, a non-governmental organization that operates in several major cities in South Africa.  At the time she was there, there was a huge refugee crisis due to immigration and asylum law changes, and people were flooding into South Africa from conflict areas around the continent. 

“My boss and I started making regular trips to the asylum office to try to speed up the process for some of the most vulnerable asylum-seekers – a very pregnant young woman for instance -- and assisting several people who had very good claims,” shared Nelson.  “It was rewarding because our presence made a huge difference for the few people we were able to help,” she said, noting that the sheer numbers who needed help was overwhelming.  She has been able to keep in touch with a young Rwandan man who successfully got asylum in South Africa and is currently living in Vienna.  She was able to reconnect with him as her travels took her to Europe years later.

“Getting such a range of different experiences in different settings helped me a lot in making future job choices,” she said.  Since graduating and passing the New York Bar, Nelson has worked with MFY Legal Services in New York City, the Adult Home Advocacy Project, the New York State Mental Hygiene Legal Service (a New York State agency responsible for representing, advocating and litigating on behalf of individuals receiving services for a mental disability), and now is working with the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC).

In 2010, Nelson moved to France, to her partner’s home town for her sabbatical year.  It was in France that she found MDAC and was hired for the position of litigation director.  MDAC is an international human rights organization, headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, that advances the rights of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  She is able to work from her home in New Jersey on a consultancy basis and travel to Hungary every few months.  “Our work is focused around the right to live in the community, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, to make decisions independently or with support, to inclusive education, and to political participation,” she explained.  Nelson supervises all of the legal staff, but does not get very involved in domestic cases due to the varying languages that are involved.  When a case goes to the European Court of Human Rights, however, she becomes more directly involved.

As Nelson has been involved in reviewing applications for an open MDAC position, she was able to share advice about seeking a career in the field of human rights.  “One thing that distinguishes a good resume from the rest is when the person has hands-on experience working with people whose rights have been violated rather than just academic or research experience,” she said.  “The majority of human rights organizations are small organizations like MDAC which require a broad range of skills in any staff person--not only litigation and/or advocacy, but project management, problem-solving, working in complex systems. So being able to highlight some experience of this kind on your resume will be more valuable that just having experience abroad.” 

Finding ways to gain this type of hands-on experience opens doors for work in the field of human rights, protecting liberties which are important and unique, and, as Lycette  Nelson will always remember,  keep us all human.

The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights Drew Erin Welch to UC Law

Law student Erin Welch travelled 700 miles to UC Law for the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. She shares her thoughts on the impact of the Institute and they experiences she has had. 

Erin Welch ’15 grew up in Niceville, Florida.  She remained in the Sunshine State to attend Florida State University, graduating with degrees in both international affairs and music (with a focus on voice).  What brought her 700 miles north for law school?  The Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Since 1979 the Urban Morgan Institute has educated and trained human rights lawyers.  “I came to UC entirely for the Urban Morgan Institute,” said Welch.  While she was involved with the Florida State’s human rights institute during her undergraduate years, she was encouraged by a mentor to apply to UC Law and to the Urban Morgan Institute. Her acceptance was the deciding factor.

The Urban Morgan Institute offers an excellent opportunity for first year law students to become involved in working on a journal with Human Rights Quarterly (HRQ).  She became involved with the Quarterly during her first year, and is the journal’s newest Managing Editor going into her third year at UC Law.  “It has given me an opportunity to learn about different cultures and about various human rights issues around the world,” she said of her time on the HRQ as a staff person.

Students involved with the HRQ and the Urban Morgan Institute enjoy the opportunity to spend time abroad working at various human rights centers around the world.  Thus this past summer, Welch traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, choosing this location for several reasons.  “I have always admired the human rights struggle in South Africa and wanted to get to know the history firsthand,” she shared.  “I also thought it would be enlightening to experience South African culture since several aspects mirror our own culture.” >

Welch worked for about two months at the Women’s Legal Centre Trust which, she explained, is a nonprofit firm that only accepts female clients and advocates for women’s rights through targeted litigation and policy initiatives.  She worked with the attorney specializing in family law.  “We focused on a huge issue there – the rights of Muslim women in religious marriages,” she explained.  In South Africa, Muslim marriages are the only kind of marriages not legally recognized.  Her assignment included drafting a booklet for circulate to raise public awareness on the issue and to persuade the public and the government of the necessity for legislation on the issue.  She spent many hours researching Shari’a law – specifically husbands’ and wives’ rights under it – and South African Constitutional law, as well as case law on various facets of the issue of Muslim marriages. 

Not working all the time, Welch recalled several fun experiences while abroad. These include: attending a sunrise church service at St. George’s Cathedral presided over by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, aquarium diving with sharks, and riding an elephant named “Totsi,” which translates to “Naughty.”

“Do it,” is her message to anyone considering an experience abroad.  “Becoming familiar with another culture or the laws of another country is very enlightening, both concerning aspects of your own culture or legal system that you appreciate or in terms of things that you think could be better at home,” she said.  Welch hopes to have the opportunity to travel and work in the Middle East, in Lebanon or Jordan. 

Eric Munas ’15

Jen Cuesta’s Work in Human Rights Leads to Career in Social Justice

Working alongside a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was inspiring for Jen Cuesta. That experience helped solidify her decision to become an attorney.

Jen Cuesta ’14, an Arthur Russell Fellow with the Urban Morgan Institute, grew up in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado before attending Bryn Mawr College, an all-women school just outside Philadelphia.  She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in growth and structure of cities and minors in cultural anthropology and gender and sexualities studies.  Before attending law school, Cuesta worked for several terms with AmeriCorps, working in Iowa, Michigan, and Louisiana mentoring children, building homes, and doing environmental work. 

She also began working with PeaceJam, a Colorado based non-profit that supports youth in becoming leaders in their communities.  After finishing her AmeriCorps term with PeaceJam, Cuesta was hired as the program coordinator for an after-school program for 50 kindergarteners through 8th graders.  She worked with the students, many of whom lived below the poverty line, to raise funds for the Denver Youth Shelter and to host a community health fair.

“During my time with PeaceJam I was inspired by my interactions with Shirin Ebadi,” answered Cuesta when asked what brought her to UC Law.  Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her legal advocacy for children’s and women’s rights in Iran, and is one of the 10 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates that make up the Board of Directors.  Despite political turmoil in Iran preventing Ebadi from returning home, she continued her selfless work with the UN, promoting peace, not just in Iran, but all over the world.  “She just had this amazing ability to keep working for the global community, even as she faced personal struggles,” she remarked.  Inspired by Ebadi and motivated by her experiences working with children stuck in the poverty cycle, Cuesta decided to equip herself to make a difference in the world by becoming an attorney.

Like many other students who work with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and on the editorial staff of Human Rights Quarterly, Cuesta was able to gain experience working abroad.  During her first summer, she clerked for Judge Isaac Lesetedi who serves on the Botswana High Court.  Back in Cincinnati during the school year, she externed with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, working with the Second Chance Clinic, which helps individuals get their records expunged so that they can more easily gain employment and other opportunities. In India during her second summer, she worked with Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), the oldest Children’s Rights non-governmental organization (NGO) in Nepal.

“I chose to go to Botswana because I am interested in foreign legal systems,” shared Cuesta.  “Judge Lesetedi is a wonderful mentor and gave me great insight into what judges consider when making their choices.” 

But for her next experience abroad, she wanted to do something different.  “I chose Nepal for two reasons,” Cuesta explained.  “First, I felt the work being done by CWIN was vitally important and very much in line with my interests and the work I hope to do in the future. Second, I really wanted to challenge myself. Botswana was a more comfortable and controlled placement, and I wanted to do something hands-on that was outside my comfort zone.”  In Nepal, she helped to research the challenges to children’s advocacy in Nepal.  Cuesta interviewed numerous practitioners, professors, political activists, and interacted with children there who were involved in the legal system.

Traveling and working abroad has made her more conscious of and grateful for the opportunities she has encountered, as she sees it, simply by happenstance.  “My work abroad has affirmed for me that so many people are not given the opportunities they need to succeed, and that is not fair,” she shared.  “As someone who has been privileged in life, it is my obligation and privilege to pay it forward and to try to make sure everyone is given the foundational opportunities they need to live a happy, healthy, and educated life.”

Eric Munas ‘15

Caleb Benadum Shares How His Travels Impacted His Commitment to Human Rights and Justice

From high school in Cambodia to graduate school in South Africa, 3L Caleb Benadum has traveled the across the globe. Doing so, however, opened his eyes to the many possibilities a career in human rights could bring.  Here’s his story.

Caleb Benadum ’14 has had some unique experiences in his life that have led him to UC Law.  After spending his first 13 years in Columbus, Ohio, he moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia with his missionary parents.  Still working as missionaries today, they live outside of Phnom Penh working at a nonprofit mission clinic called Mercy Medical Center.  Benadum finished high school in Cambodia, and returned to Columbus for college at Capital University. There he majored in philosophy and minored in religion.

“During that time, I began to realize that my experiences overseas left me with a deep commitment to human rights and justice in the world,” said Benadum of his life around the time he graduated from Capital University.  After some deliberation, he chose to attend UC Law so that he could work with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights, of which he is now an Arthur Russell Fellow.  Benadum is also on the editorial staff for the Human Rights Quarterly.

His first summer in law school was spent in The Hague, Holland working at the Registry of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  “I worked on issues as diverse as the disciplinary panel at the ICTY, as well as evaluating registry regulations for the ICTY and even making some notes on regulations for other international criminal tribunals,” he shared, noting that the experience was enjoyable and memorable.  “You learn so much about yourself and others when you travel,” he said.  “If you want to understand how human rights is relevant, and to really see how cultural differences and similarities influence – and sometimes cause tension – within the human rights regulatory scheme, then you must travel.” 

Benadum has enjoyed that UC has given him the ability to play a part in structuring his education.  “Because UC is a small school, and because of the friendliness of the administration and staff, I’ve found it relatively easy to work on a variety of educational priorities,” he shared.  One example of this is that he was able to set up a semester abroad in South Africa this past fall.  There, he studied at the University of Pretoria, where his work involved comparing human rights law in Africa to law in Europe. He also gained an understanding of the South African post-Apartheid government and legal system.  Professor Bert Lockwood, director of the Urban Morgan Institute, worked with him to structure his semester abroad, and to tailor it to fit within UC’s and the ABA’s standards for law students.

“This is a great time to go abroad, and it’s possible to do so,” said Benadum of going abroad while in law school.  “The way you will get a job in the human rights or international humanitarian law field is to go and make the contacts. Many places, such as the UN or the ICRC, want interns for longer than 2 or 3 months.”  Learning to speak a second language also is an asset, not just for world-travelling lawyers according to Benadum, but for local attorneys too.  Thus, he plans to travel next to Guatemala at a Spanish immersion school after finishing the bar this summer.

Eric Munas ‘15