November 23, 2011
In July 2011, South Sudan formally declared its independence
from the rest of Sudan after decades of civil war that claimed
millions of lives and displaced civilians throughout the Republic.
The United Nations is credited with facilitating the peace process
through diplomacy and humanitarian aid. Jennifer Ismat ’09* worked
with the UN in Sudan during this historic time. She talks to Law
School Communications Director Lori Herz about her
LH: What work did you do in Sudan?
JI: From 2010-11, I was an independent legal consultant for the
United Nations Mine Action Office, a peacekeeping entity that works
to identify and reduce the risk and impact of landmines and
explosive remnants of war so people in afflicted regions can live
LH: What kind of legal work did you do as part of the UN
JI: I had the opportunity to do a diverse range of legal work ―
from providing legal trainings to offering legal support for the
various sections of the program.
LH: What did you find most rewarding and meaningful about
your work with the UN?
JI: The most meaningful part of my work was being able to see the
direct impact of removing land mines. It was amazing to see
everyone coming together to establish work plans, systems, and
guidelines that would produce the best results.
LH: What aspects of your work did you find most
JI: The most challenging aspect was negotiating an understanding of
domestic law and international law. In addition to understanding
local laws and customs, there is also a need to understand how to
practically get the work done. This can be very challenging because
sometimes the systems in place are very different from the systems
that I was familiar with in the U.S.
LH: How did your experience/education at St. John’s School
of Law lead you to, and prepare you for, your current
JI: The Career Development Office and many of my professors were
very supportive of me gaining international experience. During my
second summer in law school I was able to provide legal aid to
asylum seekers at the Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance
organization in Egypt. Also, through St. John's externship program,
I worked in various organizations, such as the United Nations Mine
Action Service and the Legal Aid Society. These types of
experiences and international law courses enabled me to enter the
field of international law.
LH: Do you have any advice for law students on how to chart
a path to a meaningful and rewarding legal career?
JI I think one of the most important things is to network.
Networking not only brings you contacts for future job
opportunities but it also allows you to speak with people in a
field that you may or may not be interested in.
LH: Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story with
*The views and opinions expressed in this interview are Jennifer
Ismat’s own and are not those of the United Nations.