The Value of International Experience

By Jeffery Leon

August 24, 2017

Kristen Young, Photo Credit-White and Case

When Kristen M. Young graduated from Georgetown University Law Center, she came out with a dual degree – a law degree from the prestigious Washington, D.C., school as well as a DESS in global economic law from the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po)/Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne).

Long before globalization was the newest buzzword, Young knew she had a strong interest in international law. Today, she crosses the globe as a partner in the international arbitration and litigation group at White & Case LLP.

When you were a younger lawyer, why did you find international law appealing? 

As a younger lawyer, I found international law, particularly international arbitration, to be an exciting and intellectually challenging field, which combined my interest in the law with my background in international relations and my love for international travel. Having studied and lived abroad in Paris and in London, I knew I wanted my legal career to have an international focus, and international arbitration was a perfect fit.

Can you talk about some of the work you have done abroad?

As a junior associate at White & Case, I spent nearly two years in the firm’s Paris office, representing governments such as Georgia and Ukraine in international commercial and international treaty arbitration matters. One of those matters was an ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) arbitration arising under the U.S. – Ukraine Bilateral Investment Treaty relating to the cross-border sale of chicken products. We immediately raised a jurisdictional objection under a relatively new provision of the ICSID Arbitration Rules, arguing that the tribunal manifestly had no jurisdiction over the dispute, because the cross-border sale of chicken products is not an investment. We prevailed, and the claims ultimately were dismissed in their entirety under ICSID Arbitration Rule 41(5), the first case ever dismissed under this rule.

Early in your career, was it hard to navigate different countries’ laws? Do you have tips for a young lawyer to not get overwhelmed?

In international arbitration matters, national law often is treated as a fact, requiring us to understand and to brief that law in our pleadings. Gaining some exposure to civil law concepts in law school has been helpful in navigating different countries’ laws, but also we have worked with many excellent legal experts, who have assisted us in understanding and in explaining relevant legal concepts.

What tips do you have for attorneys looking to go down this path to incorporate international experience in their careers?

  • Learn a foreign language. Speaking one or more foreign languages is a great asset.
  • Seek out law firms with an international presence and offices abroad. I feel incredibly lucky with the international experiences I have had throughout my career at White & Case.
  • Attend international conferences, as well as local events offering a global perspective or a chance to engage with attorneys who have international experience. D.C. offers many such opportunities throughout the year, especially for those interested in international arbitration.

How does having international experience add value to an attorney’s career?

International experience can add value to an attorney’s career by expanding the reach of his or her network – both inside and outside of the attorney’s law firm. It also can add value by providing exposure to other legal systems and cultures.