The subject of today’s Faculty Spotlight feature is John Allen Burgess, Professor of Practice and Executive Director of Fletcher’s LLM Program. In addition to his role as LLM director, he currently teaches Mergers and Acquisitions: An International Perspective, and Securities Regulation: An International Prospective.
Every semester, I have the privilege to enjoy a range of special experiences along with the Fletcher LLM students. From the fall, when we first get a chance to meet each other and other members of the law faculty at Professor Chayes’ beautiful home, to the spring, when we gather as a group off campus to hear about each other’s work and talk with a range of guests over lunch, a drink or dinner, the year is filled with so many chances to learn and to interact with each other.
But the experience I most enjoy is the High Table — an opportunity for the LLM students and law faculty to come together in a book-lined seminar room to learn from experts in various aspects of international law. It is the perfect location and atmosphere for off-the-record conversations on a wide range of issues.
I attended my first High Table in September 2014 — and immediately realized that it was a very special experience. Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei joined the group to discuss his experiences as Chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency in both Iraq and Iran as well as his experiences during the Arab spring. It was an extraordinary opportunity to hear in a small group about the views of a Nobel prize winner, and learn more as he, my fellow faculty members, and the LLM students pursued an open dialogue across a wide range of topics.
As I now look back at the many High Tables I have attended, two things strike me. The first is the opportunity to meet and hear from people who have achieved amazing things in the law, often against extraordinary odds and challenges. Chief Judge Patricia Wald, who spoke to us regarding her work as Chair of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, was also a pioneer in so many respects — as a young mother who went to law school when few women attended and as the first woman Chief Justice of the DC Circuit. She then, instead of taking a well-earned retirement, served as a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, working to build a new international jurisprudence. The High Table’s intimate surroundings gave me a chance to see first-hand her intelligence, her humility, and the richness of her experience. It left me feeling both humble and deeply impressed.
The second special feature of the High Tables is the excitement of being exposed to legal issues that are outside my area of expertise. For example, earlier this year, Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Nigeria, gave a provocative talk on issues of rule of law in emerging economies — he challenged our thinking on the issue and provoked an informative discussion among the group. Cravath partner Rory Millsom walked the group through the thicket of legal considerations surrounding targeted killing by drones, making some challenging points about the application of law to new technologies along the way.
No matter how many High Tables I have attended, I always leave the discussion knowing that I have learned something new and that I am lucky to be surrounded by such informed students and teachers. It’s a great feeling and a significant perk of my work at Fletcher.