Sarah Munsch with her fellow ICTY interns at the Hague
What did you do this summer?
I interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at the Office of the Prosecutor in The Hague this summer. I was assigned to the case The Prosecutor v. Goran Hadzic, one of the three last cases on trial before the ICTY, and assisted the legal team in various tasks such as drafting pleadings (motions and responses to defense motions), researching points of law and drafting memos, attending and summarizing court sessions, as well as a number of document management tasks to organize exhibits for trial and comply with disclosure requirements.
What did you learn that was related to law school?
Working on a trial of this scale made me realize the level of organization required to manage and prepare documents for trial. I learned to use a variety of data management software to see how such documents were organized before and after they are admitted as evidence. I found it very impressive and humbling at the same time to see that a trial-lawyer’s work is often filled with review of countless documents to prepare a certain aspect of a case (be it examinations of witnesses, cross-examinations, motions, responses, etc) and such tasks are only made possible by adequate recording and classification. I suppose I understood through my classes that law was a very detail-oriented field and that one of the main aspects of preparing even just for a law school exam was to come up with a good information management system, but I had no idea just how true and essential this was until I saw how it worked in practice.
What did you learn that was unrelated to law school?
There was something really incredible about working in such an international setting. I worked in an office of interns coming from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and many other countries. We were all law students and many of our conversations had to do with law in our respective jurisdictions – which were all fascinating, but what I enjoyed the most was hearing several languages spoken in the same office and the genuine interest we all showed for each others’ backgrounds…
Amongst other incidents, I saw interns who were Bosnian refugees in Germany as children speaking about their experiences to Swiss and Belgian interns in German, and I saw American interns taking Croatian and Dutch lessons from other interns as well. I went into this internship thinking all I would do this summer would be related to war crimes in the Former Yugoslavia, and I came out knowing more about war crimes specific to the Hadzic case, yes, but also with a much greater appreciation of how important and enriching it is to learn about different perspectives (possibly in different languages too) – something that only makes me want to work in an international setting later on.
What are you taking with you into your academic year?
I finished my 2L year with many doubts about my place in law. This internship gave me a glimpse of one of the many possibilities available with a law degree and reaffirmed my desire to be a lawyer. I even discovered an interest for new areas such as litigation, something I had not anticipated. What I am taking with me is a certain confirmation that there is more to law than law school, and that it is and will be possible to find a career that will be challenging but also fulfilling after law school.
Anything else you want to add?
This internship was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I would strongly recommend it!