Suffolk’s International Legal Practice program took them to internships in far corners of the world—from Malaysia to Mexico to France—and a trio of Suffolk Law students returned with experiences and skills that will make them better lawyers, whether they’re practicing domestically or internationally.
All three students pursued International & Comparative Law & Legal Practice (ICLLP) Fellowships. Two are now working in the U.S. in coveted public interest legal positions—having successfully translated their international human rights experience to domestic human rights work. The third student is currently at Suffolk and aspires to a career in international human rights.
Cristina Infanzon JD ’16 spent the summer of 2015 in Mexico City interning for Centro De Los Derechos Del Migrante, Inc., an organization that protects the rights of migrant workers who live in Mexico and work in the U.S. She helped distribute the settlement from a class action lawsuit, a process that involved finding class members and keeping them updated on the status of the lawsuit or of their money. She also performed intake for new clients, helped people apply for visas, and conducted know-your-rights workshops.
Infanzon arrived at Suffolk gravitating toward public service and began leaning toward immigration law after taking a course on it during her second year. In Mexico, she realized that she wanted to dedicate her career to addressing immigration issues.
“I was always interested in nonprofit work,” Infanzon said. “But after being in Mexico I realized that this is what I want to do—anything that has to do with migration, immigration, and human rights.”
Now Infanzon works for the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, representing minors who have been detained in Arizona after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. It’s a role that comes with many challenges—translating legalese into Spanish and explaining it to children isn’t easy—but Infanzon’s internship experience prepared her to address the difficulties that arise.
“Getting the children to trust you is usually the biggest hurdle we have to go through,” Infanzon said. Luckily, her internship had already taught her how to win the trust of apprehensive clients.
“In Mexico, they didn’t understand why American attorneys were helping them. Sometimes we had to go and explain that to them, and that’s something I have to do here as well, explaining that I don’t work with the detention center or the shelter or with ICE,” Infanzon said.
Infanzon’s work in Mexico City also significantly improved her prospects in a competitive job market. Her internship highlighted her interest in immigration law and helped convince her employer that she had the right skills for the job.
“I would really urge students to consider international internships as an opportunity because they can prepare you for work in the U.S. and even give you that extra edge you want on your résumé,” said Infanzon. “The experience, I think, is invaluable.”
Unlike Infanzon, Janet Vo JD ’15 found a post-graduate job in a practice area that is not directly related to her internship—but the client community she currently works with emigrated from Southeast Asia, the region where she interned. Just like Infanzon, however, Vo believes her international experience helped her settle into her career.
Vo practiced environmental law during her 2014 internship in Malaysia, focusing largely on conservation issues. She currently provides civil legal aid to Southeast Asian immigrants in Worcester, helping them resolve housing issues, obtain benefits, and escape poverty.
Worcester is not nearly as unfamiliar to Vo as Malaysia was, but she is still an outsider there. As she works to learn the rhythms of a new city and the perspectives of the immigrants and refugees whom she serves, Vo has drawn on her internship experience in Malaysia, which made her more adept at navigating new environments.
“Living in a Malaysia was really helpful for me because it posed a lot of challenges and opportunities,” Vo said. “It’s relevant to the work I do now because working in diverse communities there’s a need to have cultural competency—to be able to interact with communities outside of your own.”
Vo agreed with Infanzon that the fellowship is an excellent opportunity for students to broaden their horizons, even if they plan to practice law domestically.
“You don’t have to work in international law for the program to be valuable,” Vo said. “It’s ideal for someone who wants to work in the U.S. too.”
Anne-Marie Beliveau JD ’18 spent last summer in Strasbourg, France, where she had a prestigious internship with the European Court of Human Rights. Beliveau worked under a senior attorney in the court’s Swiss division, doing legal research and legal writing for cases related to the freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, and privacy. She conducted most of her work in French, a language she learned growing up.
Beliveau’s family settled in Canada after spending the first six years of her life in Sri Lanka, China, and Costa Rica—a global background that has fueled her lifelong passion for international development, international law, and human rights.
The internship in Strasbourg was a rare opportunity for a non-European citizen like Beliveau, and she relished the chance to put her passion to practice at the court.
“It’s just so progressive to have an entire court dedicated to human rights issues,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the work and the pace. There was always something to be done.” Beliveau said that although she will consider working domestically after graduating, the internship gave her an early glimpse of the work she hopes to be doing in the future.
“The end goal—what I would love one day—is to do international law and human rights,” she said. “That’s definitely the dream job.”
The application deadline for the ICLLP Fellowship is January 5. Interested students should contact Practitioner in Residence of Comparative and International Law Christine Bustany at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before heading abroad for their summer internships, participating students take a spring course, “International Legal Practice: Public Interest,” to prepare students for their experience and learn about the actual practice of working on human rights issues.