A 10 Week Journey to Understanding the Rule of Law

Before beginning my 10-week internship at the National Center for State Court’s International Programs Division, I had rarely heard the term “rule of law” used in any definitive way, it always seemed like an ambiguous term that was thrown around in my International Affairs classes and in my law classes. On my first day at NCSC’s Arlington office, I learned that the International Program’s work and mission is completely dedicated to implementing and upholding the rule of law in countries around the world and to improving the administration of state courts in post-conflict and developing countries. Tim Hughes, the program director for the International Program’s rule of law projects, told the interns that it would take a full 10 weeks for us to get a solid grasp on what the rule of law is and the many ways it is promoted across the globe. 

As I walked around the International Programs (IP) office and met the staff members, I began to scratch the surface of understanding the many forms that rule of law projects can take. Many staff members spoke about their current assortment of projects, ranging from juvenile justice initiatives in Costa Rica and Morocco, to anti-corruption and crime prevention programs being launched in the Caribbean. As an International Affairs major in undergrad who entered law school with an interest in international and human rights law, I found myself surrounded by the perfect blend of people with rich experiences in international project development, many of whom are also legal scholars who study international and comparative law. 

There is a profound cultural sensitivity and respect that pervades the environment at the IP office. Individual offices are lined with photographs, flags, and trinkets from all around the world, purchased or gifted over years of international travel. Many staff members have lived for years in other countries, either because they have roots and family there, or because of their work with NCSC, which brings an intimate understanding to international work . It is very clear that the International Program’s work with other nations is of a deeply collaborative nature, with the field offices and partners playing a large role in interpreting and conceptualizing NCSC’s projects to make them compatible with the culture of a particular country.  

Over the next 10 weeks, I will work with NCSC staff and field offices to assist with ongoing projects, and I will also have readings and learning sessions each week with Tim Hughes and the other interns that will help us to understand and define the rule of law. I look forward to experiencing  unique opportunities within the field of international law, including working with civil law countries and understanding the framework of their system in contrast to the US-based common law system. Additionally, I am eager to gain project development skills that will be transferable to any legal career in the future. My time at NCSC this summer will no doubt be fulfilling and unlike any other opportunity I will have in law school, and I look forward to sharing the details of my assignments and lessons in my weekly blogs!