Inaugural Orrick Fellow Najwa Nabti '02 to Clerk at World Court; Annual Fellowship Provides Up to $40,000
Najwa Nabti ’02 is the second consecutive University of Virginia Law School nominee to be selected to clerk for the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, and she is the first recipient of the Orrick International Law Fellowship, which reimburses clerks up to $40,000 for housing, living expenses, and relocation costs.
International law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP has committed $200,000 toward the fellowship program, which is administered by the Law School at the invitation of the World Court. Virginia law students and recent graduates may apply for nomination by the Law School. If the nominee is offered a clerkship by the Court, the Orrick International Law Fellowship underwrites their success.
“It is an honor for the World Court to recognize Virginia as a leading international law center, and it pleases us even more that Orrick, one of the truly global law firms, has so generously partnered with the Law School to sponsor this opportunity,” said Law School Dean John C. Jeffries, Jr. ’73.
Nabti was one of nine candidates from select universities in Europe, Australia, and the United States to be chosen to clerk for the Court. Jamey Harris ’05 was selected to clerk last year and is planning to clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this year.
After graduating from the Law School, Nabti clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Stephen M. McNamee in Arizona and then worked at law firm Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault in Boston, where she was able to dip into pro bono cases in immigration and criminal law.
“I became interested in international law and immigration issues as a result of my background—my father immigrated from Lebanon and my family lived abroad and traveled globally for a four-year period during my childhood,” said Nabti. “In several countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, I was exposed to civil conflict and human rights abuses that motivated me to study foreign affairs and history at U.Va. as an undergraduate [Class of 1996], and then international, human rights, immigration, and refugee law during law school.”
In her current position at the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals, Nabti drafts decisions in administrative appellate immigration cases, a role she’s had since July 2005. “When I moved over to the government I was able to focus more on immigration and asylum cases, which also have constitutional implications, so it’s very interesting work,” Nabti said. But the World Court, with its jurisdiction to investigate and decide cases like those involving genocide in the former Yugoslavia, beckoned.
“It’s a very unique experience to actually practice public international law. This clerkship provides a terrific opportunity to get that exposure,” Nabti said. “I realize, especially coming from U.Va., what the competition must have been. I feel very fortunate to have been selected.”
Nabti says she appreciated the financial aid that comes with the fellowship.
“It particularly makes a difference for new graduates who have student loans,” she said. “I think it opens the door for many who otherwise might not be able to go. It’s a very helpful contribution.”
Nabti plans to return to the Board of Immigration Appeals after her clerkship, but her long-term hopes for a career related to international law range from teaching as an adjunct to pursuing long-term work in The Hague. “There are so many things I’m interested in, but this opportunity definitely sets me out on the right path. Working over there is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It settles disputes submitted by states and gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized international organs and agencies. The Law School’s connection to the International Court of Justice dates back to when Law School Professor and Dean Hardy Cross Dillard ’27 served as a justice on the court during 1969-79.
"International law is an essential element of global commerce. The ICJ, in turn, is critical to the effective application of international law," said Ralph Baxter ’74, chairman and CEO of Orrick. "We are delighted to sponsor University of Virginia students as they experience the ICJ first hand."
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is an international law firm with more than 850 lawyers in North America, Europe, and Asia. The firm focuses on litigation, complex and novel finance, and innovative corporate transactions.
• Reported by Mary Wood