Faculty of Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Queen’s castle experience catapults students’ international law perspectives  

(July 21, 2017)

Students, faculty and staff in front of Herstmonceux Castle during the final banquet for the 2017 International Law Programs.
Students, faculty and staff in front of Herstmonceux Castle during the final banquet for the 2017 International Law Programs. (Photo by Matt Hunt)

As jetlagged students in the International Law (“Castle”) Programs enjoy the rest of the summer in Canada, attention will inevitably turn to on-campus interview applications and looking forward to the autumn term at Queen’s. 

But having completed one of two programs, students will return to Queen’s with a new understanding of international law and a new perspective on the types of law and opportunities internationally that are available to them. 

The programs lasted eight weeks, most of which were spent at Herstmonceux Castle in Southeast England, in classes with instruction from a wide range of practitioners at the forefront of their field. All students took an introductory public international law course at the beginning of the program, before breaking off into their respective streams. Students in the Public International Law (PIL) program took classes in human rights and refugee law and international criminal and humanitarian law. Students in the International Business Law (IBL) program learned about international trade law, investor-state dispute settlement, international sale of goods law and international commercial arbitration. 

“The castle was a whirlwind,” says Zac Dubeau, Law’19, an IBL student at the castle. “It’s kind of like an intensified version of Queen’s Law life. Plus living in a castle and experiencing a different culture for two months was a great opportunity. It was also a great springboard for travelling afterward.”

Each day, students would descend from their sleeping quarters in Bader Hall to class in the 15th-century red brick castle. Often students would wake up to find a herd of cattle marching through the grounds, on their way to the next pasture. The castle is surrounded on three sides by a moat, with the walled Elizabethan garden at the rear, open for students to wander in their spare time. There are several other gardens for students to walk, including the beautiful Rose Garden. Running along the more than two kilometers of pathways through the grounds was a popular pastime, as was going on country walks to nearby Herstmonceux Village and the Lamb Inn pub. 

“In terms of your classmates at the castle you become like a family,” Dubeau says. “I got a chance to really get to know and become close with people in other first-year small sections that I didn’t get to know throughout the year.”

When asked what was the best part of the castle experience, PIL student Frank Piazza, Law’19 says: “The profs. You will never find profs with this kind of practical experience anywhere else.” 

The public stream took a course on the law of armed conflict and international crimes with Phillip Drew, Law’00, LLM’12, a legal officer with the Judge Advocate General of the Canadian military; Norman Farrell, Law’86, the prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; and Katrina Gustafson, the senior appeals counsel for the Office of the Prosecutor of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. The class on international protection of human rights and refugees was taught by Hugh Adsett, Law’93, deputy legal adviser and director general of the Legal Affairs Bureau of Global Affairs Canada; Michael Schoiswohl, the principal legal officer (international law) at the legal affairs department of UNWRA; and Ardi Imseis, a Cambridge PhD candidate and former lawyer for the UN in the Middle East and senior legal counsel for the Chief Justice of Alberta.

The business stream learned investor-state dispute settlement from Nick Gallus, a senior associate at Three Crowns and former counsel for the Trade Law Bureau at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. They studied international trade law with Nicolas Lamp, a Queen’s professor and the academic director of the International Law Programs; and Valerie Hughes, the former WTO Director of the Legal Affairs Division at the WTO Secretariat. The international commercial law course was taught by Queen’s professor Josh Karton and Matthew Secomb, a partner at White and Case’s International Arbitration Group in Singapore and former counsel at the ICC International Court of Arbitration.

“Considering I'm more interested in criminal and tort law, it says a lot that I loved what I learned in IBL,” Dubeau says. 

IBL had a lot of exercises to help enhance practical skills like oral advocacy, teamwork, and preparing arguments with a limited amount of time. He says the program improved his oral advocacy skills.

“I think mooting and getting feedback from internationally renowned legal professionals like Hughes, [former WTO Appellate Body member] Jennifer Hillman, Secomb and Gallus helped to build people’s confidence in their oral advocacy skills regardless of how well people did,” Dubeau says. “If you can survive mooting in front of Hughes and Hillman, then you’re doing alright.”

One of the most fascinating experiences students in both public and business streams had was the week-long field trip. Students had the opportunity to meet with practitioners and legal experts from a wide array of institutions related to their studies, and showcase the types of career possibilities open to them. 

Students in the public stream visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague – “Great city, great people,” says Piazza – and the UN Refugee Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. 

Students in the business stream visited the EU Parliament in Brussels, the Canadian Mission to the OECD in Paris, and Sidley Austin LLP, the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), and the WTO itself. At the WTO, they had the extraordinary chance to meet with WTO Appellate Body member Ujal Singh Bhatia, and ask him questions on Appellate Body decision-making. 

After the field trip, it was a mad dash to the finish line, with classes ending and exams. The time at the castle culminated in a celebration dinner, with speeches from Professor Lamp and Dean Bill Flanagan, and an evening of dancing. Students said farewell on June 30 to beautiful Herstmonceux Castle and its grounds and set off, some across Europe and some back to Canada to work and see family. What’s for certain is that students will return in the fall with an unforgettable experience and a deeper understanding of international law.

By Jeremy Mutton