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In a rare move, a private law firm announced last week that it is funding a judicial clerkship through a law school to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe will provide up to $40,000 for �living expenses to a University of Virginia School of Law graduate. It is the first time that the law firm will fund a clerkship, a rare practice due to possible conflicts of interest between a private law firm paying a salary for the employee of a court before which the firm could appear. An Orrick spokesman said he did not know of any instance when the firm argued a case before the World Court. “We see the importance in the development and implementation of law across borders,” said Ralph Baxter Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of Orrick. “So supporting someone learning about the way law works in the world is totally fitting with the role of Orrick as a global law firm.” The first Orrick International Law Fellowship is going to Najwa Nabti, a 2002 graduate of University of Virginia School of Law. Baxter is a Virginia Law graduate, as is Cameron Cowan, a senior partner in the firm’s Washington office and a member of the firm’s executive committee. The World Court chooses clerks from only nine law schools internationally, according to Virginia Law. “Annually, law schools from the United States and other countries nominate candidates for the program and undertake to defray the candidates’ expenses during their stay at the court,” said Maxine Schouppe, a spokeswoman for the World Court. She declined to specify which schools the World Court chooses clerks from. Virginia’s law school was added to the list last year because of its international curriculum, said Luis Alvarez, chief development officer of the University of Virginia Law School Foundation. A graduate from the school was picked last year as well. This is the first year that Orrick is funding the clerkship. Hardy Dillard, dean of Virginia Law from 1963 to 1968, is a former judge at the World Court. Whether or not a private law firm funding a clerkship on an international court is a conflict of interest is up for �debate. Both the firm and the law school shrugged off the idea that the fellowship would in any way be a conflict of interest. “It’s not something that really gave us any pause because there are so many procedures by which recusals are erected, not only in American courts, but internationally,” Alvarez said. “So the ability to take that out of the equation if that were ever to arise, that could be done to the satisfaction of all the parties.” Baxter agreed that Orrick’s funding of a judicial clerkship would not be a conflict of interest. “If it ever became an �issue, of course, the clerk would do the appropriate thing,” he said. ETHICS EXPERTS WEIGH IN At least two legal ethics experts agree. “There’s a potential conflict of interest in the domestic court system if the firm regularly appears before the court. If they were actually picking the clerks there would be,” said Gregory Ogden, an ethics and law professor at Pepperdine University School of Law. “The World Court deals with arbitrations and there may be some connection between a case and the firm, but not a �direct interest,” Ogden said. Diane Karpman, a legal ethics expert with Karpman & Associates in Los An�geles, noted that if Orrick “had a lot of cases in front of the court, then yes. In any case, [the clerk] would have to step down.” Lindsay Fortado is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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