Alumni Q&A: Tiburcio on Private International Law and Being Chosen to Lecture at The Hague

July 3, 2013

TiburcioCarmen Tiburcio, who earned two graduate degrees from the University of Virginia School of Law, is an international law consultant and a professor of private international law at the School of Law of the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

Tiburcio, who received her LL.M. degree from UVA Law in 1987 and an S.J.D. in 1998, was recently selected to lecture on private international law at The Hague Academy of International Law in 2017, one of the highest honors for international law academics.

Tiburcio recently spoke with UVA Law about her academic work, her career path and the honor of teaching at The Hague Academy.

Could you describe your career path?

After graduation from the State University of Rio de Janeiro in 1982 I started teaching at the same university [courses on] private international law (international business transactions) for the J.D. course. In 1986, I started my LL.M. at UVA and, when returning to Brazil, before the completion of the S.J.D. at UVA, in 1998, I started working as a consultant at Luí­s Roberto Barroso & Associados, where I still am. Luí­s Roberto Barroso, the senior partner of our law firm, has been nominated for the Brazilian Supreme Court and took office on June 26 and for that reason our law firm now is Barroso Fontelles, Barcellos, Mendonça & Associados.

I am still a consultant for the subject matters of my expertise (private international law, international business transactions and international litigation & arbitration). I also teach at the graduate program of the State University of Rio de Janeiro [courses on] international litigation and arbitration as well as at the Universidade Gama Filho, where I teach international contracts and arbitration and international legal cooperation.

In the past 20 years, I have been professionally involved in a wide range of cases within my area of expertise. I have worked in international arbitrations — as arbitrator, lawyer, expert witness or writing legal opinions — related to disputes involving from the property of nuclear material to infrastructural issues. I have also worked in domestic arbitrations — as arbitrator, lawyer, expert, or ad hoc consultant or even writing legal opinions — involving oil companies, public entities and commercial institutions.

In addition I have also participated in cases involving international litigation in civil and criminal matters, such as collection of evidence abroad, collection of evidence in Brazil for actions filed abroad, cases related to sovereign immunity, recognition of foreign decisions, and choice of forum as well as a very controversial case of extradition.

I should also mention that in recent years I have also been involved, academically and professionally, in cases related to the application of the Hague Convention on Children Abduction.

As a professor of private international law, what is the focus of your scholarship?

Private international law in Brazil is dedicated to the study of legal relationships related to more than one jurisdiction (country). That is to say that, whenever a situation has contact with more than one jurisdiction, such as because of the foreign nationality/domicile of one or both parties, the fact that the contract was executed or is going to be performed abroad, among many other situations, this relationship will be regulated by private international law.

Thus, private international law in Brazil comprises the study of four independent subject matters: 1) nationality of persons and corporations under domestic and international law; 2) alien's rights, also under domestic and international law; 3) determination of the applicable legislation to legal relationships connected with foreign countries; and 4) matters related to jurisdiction in international litigation. That is to say: immigration, international business transactions, and international litigation and arbitration.

You've been selected to lecture on private international law at The Hague. What does that entail?

I consider the invitation a great honor which also brings a great responsibility. I have to prepare a course for the year 2017 as well as prepare a written material to be published in the prestigious Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law Series (Recueil des Cours), which is published since 1923. The Peace Palace Library gives access to both electronic and paper versions of all books published in the series.

What do you expect your course at The Hague will focus on?

I still do not know exactly as the course will only take place in 2017. The Secretariat of the Academy will determine the subject matter of my course in 2015. Most likely it will focus on one of my areas of expertise, probably on international litigation and arbitration.

What do you see as the most interesting problems or issues coming up in private international law today?

Traditionally, private international law used to focus more on issues related to the determination of the applicable legislation to legal relationships connected to more than one country (conflicts of laws). I think that more recently the main focus of the discipline shifted to international litigation (comprising arbitration) and its various consequences related to jurisdiction, choice of forum, sovereign immunity, service abroad, collection of evidence abroad and recognition of foreign decisions.

What led you to pursue an advanced degree from UVA Law? And what was it like for you to learn about U.S. law at an American law school?

Because of my academic background I always wanted to have an experience of studying in the U.S. I have always believed, as F.H. Lawson, a known British scholar, that one understands better one's own legal system whenever you get to know another legal system. It was a fantastic experience both at the personal, academic and professional levels. I made friends for life and the experience of studying in one of the best U.S. schools of law is fantastic and I recommend to everyone, no matter whether the person has academic or professional goals.

Have your studies at UVA Law helped you in your career? In what ways?

I believe it has helped me directly and indirectly. First of all, I improved my legal English and understood better the U.S. legal system. It is also deemed to be an important factor for U.S. clients in my professional practice. In addition, I think it contributed for the invitation for the course at The Hague. For the S.J.D. degree I had the fortune to be advised by Professor David Martin, a great scholar, a great professor and a great human being. My S.J.D. dissertation was published by the most prestigious editor of international law books (Kluwer Law International) and my book, although published in 2001, in a human rights series, still sells. I suppose this was taken into account by The Hague Academy to choose my name for the 2017 course on private international law. Furthermore, I believe that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has also taken this book into account, for I was invited to participate in a jury to select an academic paper for the 2013 UNHCR Award for Statelessness Research fostered by the UNHCR and the University of Tilburg, in the Netherlands.

What advice would you give UVA Law students interested in pursuing a similar career in private international law or academia?

Enjoy the opportunity of studying in a law school of excellence and take advantage of getting to know a fantastic law library with very helpful librarians. The law library of UVA is one of the things that impressed me the most when I was in residence. I know many other libraries, both in the U.S. and in Europe, and I have no doubt to affirm that UVA's law library was the best I have ever known, not only because of its collections but mainly because of the fantastic librarians who helped me a lot during the completion of my LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees (particularly Kent Olson, Susan Tulis, Marnita Simpson and Joe Wynne). That is why I intend to visit the UVA law library to prepare for my 2017 Hague course.


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