Chicago Journal of International Law


I have helped scour a foreign capital hours before a closing to assemble the twenty-one owners of a property we wanted to buy. I have litigated a million dollar case on my own. I have learned what "hak pakai" and "hak guna bangunan" are. I have seen China's Great Wall, Cambodia's Angkor War, and Cape Town's towMships (and I am one of the least well-traveled people in the building). I have had an ambassador swing an armadillo at me. For all that, I am still in my first rotation in the Office of the Legal Adviser (or "L," as it is denominated in government-speak) at the State Department. Needless to say, this job has been full of surprises. I made a decision to work for the State Department, rather than for a law firm, by buying into a cliché go to the government if you want significant responsibility as a young lawyer. What has been surprising from my (admittedly amateur) vantage point is not the amount of responsibility we are given-to which the aforementioned experiences attest-but rather the ever-expanding range of entities, agencies, individuals, and governments with which L regularly deals. I should not have been surprised, in a decade in which everything is interconnecting at an exponential rate, that the executive agency with the lead role in international affairs has had to deal with more numerous and complex issues every year. What I did not expect, though, was the diversity of those issues, and the concomitant interaction between the Office of the Legal Adviser and private attorneys, industry, non-governmental organizations, attorneys from other agencies, and private citizens-as clients, as constituents, as consultants, and as challengers. This essay briefly sets out the structure of the Office of the Legal Adviser, then turns to the work of specific offices to illustrate the above-mentioned interactions. The essay concludes with a look at the work I have done in my first rotation, in the section of L that advises on the acquisition and disposition of real property overseas.

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