Indiana University Maurer School of Law students are gaining a global legal perspective through a program designed to take them out of their comfort zone to explore different legal cultures across the globe.
A generous philanthropic donation by IU alumnus Milt Stewart and his wife Judi began the Stewart Fellows Overseas Externship Program. Second- and third- year law students have the opportunity to work in law firms, non-governmental organizations and government agencies in the ASEAN countries of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as other locations including Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Poland and South Korea.
Description of the following video:[Words appear in lower-left corner: Indiana University presents]
[Video: Scenery of downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Modern skyscrapers are mixed with traditional Thai buildings.]
Pink Mokkhavesa, an IU alumna and partner at Tilleke and Gibbins, speaks in voiceover: We are the first law firm in the country, and we established since the year 1890.
[Video: Mokkhavesa appears on camera.]
[Words appear: Pink Mokkhavesa; IU alumnus, partner at Tilleke & Gibbins]
Mokkhavesa speaks: We have seven offices in six countries.
[Video: Moving through the entrance to the Museum of Counterfeit Goods at Tilleke and Gibbins.]
Mokkhavesa speaks in voiceover: Our museum is actually located right at the firm.
[Video: Mokkhavesa points to different products that the firm has on display at the Museum of Counterfeit Goods. Several products are shown in the glass cases, including office supplies, Tiffany jewelry, Starbucks cups, beauty products and hair color.
Mokkhavesa speaks in voiceover: The Museum of Counterfeit Goods will help educate people on how to identify -- Once you go into the market, you will be able to identify which are the counterfeit goods, and you can try to help educate the people and help raise awareness about counterfeiting activities.
[Video: Mokkhavesa walks in front of an interior wall, likely the firm's lobby, with an icon and lettering spelling "Tilleke and Gibbins"]
Mokkhavesa speaks in voiceover: We have many …
[Video: Mokkhavesa appears on camera.]
Mokkhavesa speaks: … lawyers and partners from Indiana University.
[Video: A photograph of Mokkhavesa and three Tilleke and Gibbins interns is shown. They are sitting at a table together, eating a meal.]
Mokkhavesa speaks in voiceover: We have also trained a lot of interns.
[Video: Scenery of downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Ornate golden palaces are mixed with modern skyscrapers and traditional Thai buildings.]
Mokkhavesa speaks in voiceover: Most of them would like to come and join, and experience the activities of law in Thailand, and in the countries in this region.
[Screen goes to black]
[IU trident appears]
[Words appear: Indiana University]
[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]
[Words appear: iu.edu]
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Drawing from past experience
Milt Stewart support for the program was partially based on his own experience as an IU student. The first in his family to go to college, he fell in love with Indiana University while visiting on a Little 500 weekend.
As a student in the Government Honors program, he had the opportunity to study in Germany for a year. The $1,200 cost was prohibitive and prevented him from going abroad. He had a mission to make sure other students have the opportunities that he didn't.
"Going abroad is totally life-changing for these students," said Stewart, who earned his J.D. in 1971. "They realize they can be anyone they want to be and go anywhere they want to go. They expand their horizons and gain confidence, especially when it comes to learning about and practicing the legal profession."
While serving on the board of LexMundi, a global organization linking 160 law firms, 21,000 lawyers and 100 companies across the globe, Stewart met Tiziana Sucharitkul, co-managing partner of Thailand's oldest law firm, Tilleke & Gibbins. The firm is a leading ASEAN law firm with 150 lawyers across Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Tilleke & Gibbins specializes in commercial transactions, dispute resolution and litigation and is one of the leading international firms of intellectual property and anti-counterfeiting. The firm's renowned Museum of Counterfeit Goods is a popular attraction for visitors. Several of their partners are IU Maurer School of Law grads, and Sucharitkul was keen to assist Stewart's vision.
"I'll never forget Tiziana saying to me, 'Well Milt, if you think it's a good idea, then let's do it," Stewart said.
A partnership was born.
IU's law connection
One of Tilleke & Gibbins' partners, Wiramrudee "Pink" Mokkhavesa, received her master's degree from the Maurer School of Law and has mentored many of the IU Stewart Fellows who've come through the firm.
"We have trained a lot of interns from Indiana University," Mokkhavesa said. "They get the chance to not only learn certain parts of the law such as intellectual property or resolution, but they also come and experience the culture and legal field from this side of the world."
Mokkhavesa also credits her experiences and time at IU with preparing her for her law career in Thailand.
"Studying at IU helped me see things differently," she said. "It helped guide me in my work and helped me build good relationships with our clients because I know about working with people from other countries."
Since the Stewart Fellows program was founded 12 years ago, over 150 students have participated. The program is administered by the Milt and Judi Stewart Center on the Global Legal Profession.
The center was established in 2009 by professor William Henderson and has a three-part focus: advancing academic research and practical knowledge about the global legal profession; providing students with opportunities for hands-on learning about the law in other countries; and building global partnerships with other law schools to enhance educational opportunities.
Director of the Stewart Center on the Global Legal Profession, Jayanth Krishnan, who also holds the Milt & Judi Stewart Professorship, has seen the benefits firsthand.
"The center is focused on the unprecedented challenges lawyers are facing around the world," Krishnan said. "These fellows are provided with hands-on learning about law in other countries while building their understanding of international legal systems and examining global aspects of law."
He said that common ground helps distinguish these students in their future career path.
"These students are discovering new ways of communicating and collaborating, essentially using legal practices as a new international language," Krishnan said. "That's the beauty of IU. We are one of the most global universities that I've ever seen. The global outreach is incredible."
Most rewarding experience
Pooja Sahni received her law degree at Indiana University and participated as a Stewart Fellow at Tilleke & Gibbins in Thailand. Born and raised in New Delhi, India, Sahni knew from an early age the importance of a strong legal education, which led her to IU's Maurer School of Law.
"One of the strongest reasons why I decided on Indiana University Maurer School of Law was because of the unique opportunities offered by the Milt and Judi Stewart Center on the Global Legal Profession, and, in particular, the Milton Stewart Fellowship," she said.
Sahni said the Stewart Fellowship was the most rewarding experience during her time at IU.
"If it hadn’t been for this program, I would have never been able to go to Thailand and work for one of the most prestigious law firms in Southeast Asia for a period of three months," she said. "The mentorship that I received during my time in Thailand has not only helped me in terms of career growth and professional development but also in deciding how I want to take my career ahead. The exposure and experience that I gained through this program were and remain invaluable."
And for the Stewarts, it is a dream realized.
"Even if these students never go abroad again, the global experience is teaching them about themselves as well as creating connections and friendships for them around the world.