Ian Ralby found a passion for international justice and conflict resolution during the summer of 2001 in Caux, Switzerland where he was involved at the highest levels of the Sierra Leonean post-conflict processes. That experience, among other things, inspired him to apply to law school that autumn. Drawn to its history and to the work of its international law faculty, Ian came to William & Mary knowing that he was primarily interested in comparative law and post-conflict justice. “At the time I started law school, I wanted to head toward a career focused on resolving conflict and restoring stability. As soon as I’d completed my first year requirements, I began to seek out courses, programs and, most importantly, faculty that could help steer me in that direction.” Ian never found a shortage of international law opportunities at W&M, serving as an officer in the International Law Society and taking a wide array of internationally focused classes. “I tried to take as much international and comparative law as possible (I think I took more than ten courses altogether), while at the same time taking courses that would also have an impact on an international practice, such as alternative dispute resolution clinics and constitutional law seminars.”
After his 1L year, Ian interned with the U.S. Army JAG Corps in an attempt to become more familiar with the military—the institution most directly involved in international conflict. “That summer at the Army JAG Corps spoiled me—it was an amazingly enjoyable and rewarding job, and I really felt like I was using my legal education to contribute to something valuable.” The following summer, Ian tried his hand at a more conventional law school internship, working as a summer associate at a mid-sized regional firm. “That was the first and only detour I took from my path toward a career in international law and international affairs.” In his final semester at W&M, Ian became involved in the Iraqi Special Tribunal Clinic. Even after graduating and beginning to practice law, Ian stayed involved in that project, continuing to conduct research for the Iraqi judges as they prepared for the trials of Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants. “The experience of working on the Iraqi Tribunal really helped reignite my hopes and interests in having an internationally-oriented career.”
Taking a broad spectrum of courses with an international flavor ended up bearing some unexpected fruit for Ian as he prepared to enter the workforce after law school. “When I took Admiralty in my second year, I said at the time that it was the only ‘big firm’ type of law I could really see myself practicing.” Ian got the chance to test that theory when his Admiralty professor, a partner at Hunton & Williams LLP, offered him a position as an associate in the firm’s Norfolk, Virginia Office. After he received his J.D., Ian spent two years practicing maritime, international and national security law at Hunton, an old and distinguished southern firm with 1,000 attorneys and nineteen offices. At the same time, he worked pro bono as a commissioned Captain in the JAG Corps of the Virginia Defense Force, an unpaid volunteer portion of the Virginia National Guard. “My time in Norfolk was really important for me—it allowed me to become a lawyer and not just a person with a law degree. After two years, though, I became anxious to move on toward my original goal of pursuing a career centered on international conflict and post-conflict affairs.” To further this ambition, Ian headed back to academia.
In February of 2007, Ian became the first William & Mary alum to receive a prestigious Gates Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge. Moving from the second oldest university in the United States to the second oldest university in the United Kingdom, Ian took up residence in England in September 2007 to pursue an MPhil in International Relations at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Ian’s dissertation for that program allowed him to revisit the work he had done for the Iraqi High Tribunal two and a half years earlier with a new perspective. Titled, “Joint Criminal Enterprise Liability in the Iraqi High Tribunal,” the piece provided a strong critique of the way in which the Iraqi court applied the law to the cases of Saddam Hussein and several other major defendants. “Initially, I wanted to examine whether the Iraqi Tribunal had done anything to further clarify the doctrine of joint criminal enterprise liability under international law. Somewhat dramatically, however, I came to the unequivocal conclusion that they had simply misapplied it so as to render the judgments against Saddam and several other defendants erroneous.” Ian’s dissertation has begun to convince leading scholars of his position on the matter, and at the very least convinced the Centre of International Studies at Cambridge that he should be admitted to continue his studies for a PhD.
Still funded by the Gates Scholarship, Ian recently completed his PhD in International Studies at Cambridge in the fall of 2011. His research focused on legal grey areas surrounding hiring and use of private military companies. Ian was able to take advantage of the interdisciplinary mentality of Cambridge’s Centre of International Studies to examine this issue at the intersection of international security, international law and international relations. Drawing on the resources of the Lauterpacht Centre, Ian was also able to benefit from being involved with one of the best international law research institutes in the world. At the same time, however, he maintained close ties to the faculty at William & Mary. “From the vantage point of studying at what is often considered one of the top three universities in the world, I am more convinced than ever of the first rate education I received at William & Mary, not just in law, but in comparative and international law. I rely constantly on my W&M experiences and feel so fortunate to have studied there for my Juris Doctor.”
After completing his PhD, Ian took a part-time position as Counsel with Picard Kentz & Rowe, LLP and at the same time, established his own company in London, I.R. Consilium, Ltd. With Picard, Kentz & Rowe, Ian worked in Bosnia & Herzegovina, providing international legal advice to one of the constituent governments from 2011-2013. At the same time, Ian worked to build I.R. Consilium, advising governments on maritime strategy and private security oversight. In 2014, not long after transitioning to run his business full time, a perfect storm of international developments, including the Ebola epidemic, wiped out I.R. Consilium’s work. In December that, year, Ian returned to the US, and took up a role as Adjunct Professor of Maritime Law and Security at the Department of Defense’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, while also consulting for the UN and NATO. In 2016, Ian, working with his mother, rebuilt I.R. Consilium as a US company, advising international businesses on a range of transnational issues. At the same time, he continued working with the US Government on maritime law and security matters in Africa, and became more involved in working with NATO at the strategic level. In addition, he took up a position as a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Global Energy Center of the Atlantic Council and has been leading the largest study ever conducted on global refined oil theft and related illicit downstream hydrocarbons activity. In October 2016, Ian also launched a charity, Sonder Global, focused on using a variety of mechanisms, including litigation, to disrupt the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business. He continues to publish and speak extensively on matters of international and maritime law, security, strategy, human rights, and transnational crime.