Three LLM Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellows advance careers dedicated to public interest in an international arena.
Every year, graduates from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s renowned LLM program launch impactful public interest careers working in NGOs and government agencies around the world. This year, three LLM graduates secured funding from Penn Carey Law’s LLM Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellowship Program to fight for climate justice, protect human rights, and challenge discrimination.
- Orubah Sattar Ahmed LLM’23 will join the Clooney Foundation for Justice as a Legal Fellow in the Foundation’s Trial Watch Initiative. Her work will focus on South Asia, including monitoring trials in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
- Eyal Lurie-Pardes LLM’23 will join the Middle East Institute, the oldest nonpartisan Middle East-centered think tank in Washington, D.C.
- Johan B. Stagstrup LLM’23 will work at ClientEarth, one of Europe’s most prominent environmental nongovernmental organizations.
A Transformative LLM Experience
Ahmed came to Penn Carey Law as a Human Rights Scholar with a fierce passion for advancing human rights, particularly in her home country of Pakistan.
“I came to Penn Carey Law prepared to unpack the ideological narratives perpetuated by the Pakistani state which make tackling gender-based violence and discrimination difficult,” she said.
A former adjunct professor at Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law, Ahmed was initially committed to pursuing an SJD after earning a second LLM degree. However, her Penn Carey Law experience transformed her trajectory as an international human rights lawyer.
“I was utterly surprised by how much my goals evolved,” she said. “My work became more comparative in nature and, after seeing the similarities across South Asia, my career path shifted.”
A mix of comparative courses and rich intellectual opportunities outside of the classroom helped Ahmed clarify and refine her academic interests and career goals. While taking “Strategic Lawyering for Social Justice,” Ahmed engaged in rigorous comparative study of courts and their power to protect democracy and dissenters. As a co-founder of the Comparative Law Association (CLA), Ahmed engaged like-minded peers in academic discussions covering a wide range of human rights issues.
“At the very core of it, I think a successful LLM experience helps you not just achieve your goals but forces you to continuously question, re-orient, and be open to changing them,” she said.
As a Fellow with the Clooney Foundation, Ahmed is advancing her career as a lawyer and human rights advocate. Here work in the Trial Watch Initiative includes monitoring global criminal trials to protect the rights of people who are unfairly imprisoned by authoritarian regimes, including journalists, democracy defenders, women, and minorities.
Making Social Change Concrete
For Lurie-Pardes, achieving real social change was anything but abstract. An activist from a young age, Lurie-Pardes has been involved in protests, parliamentary work, and legal advocacy to protect Palestinians, LGBTQ+ rights, and democratic institutions in Israel and Palestine.
“Receiving the Penn Carey Law LLM Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowship is an incredible opportunity to continue my advocacy for social justice, promote reforms in the criminal legal system in Israel, and gain a foothold in the U.S. think tank arena,” he said.
In fact, the latter was a major factor in Lurie-Pardes’ choice to pursue an LLM at Penn Carey Law.
“The LLM program provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to deepen my familiarity with contemporary scholarship about policing, reforming the criminal legal system, and regulation,” he noted. “My coursework at Penn Carey Law helped me develop foundational knowledge related to criminal justice reform, climate change, and LGBTQ+ rights—the basis for my future research and policy work.”
As a Fellow with the Middle East Institute, Lurie-Pardes will leverage his considerable parliamentary and legal expertise to provide official expert analysis and policy proposals regarding a range of legal issues in Israel and Palestine. He will also conduct new research focused on the Israeli Border Police and its role in enforcing discriminatory law enforcement practices against Palestinians.
“The Fellowship will allow me the space and time to synthesize my Israeli public interest experience, apply the legal skills I have learned at Penn, and publish the culmination of my work on Israeli police reform.”
A Pathway to International Policy
Stagstrup’s background in environmental and European Union law includes clerking for a judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court. The LLM Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowship is a natural extension of this work and a continuation of his commitment to working in policy.
“As a Fellow at ClientEarth, I hope to leave an imprint on the EU’s environmental and climate regulation,” he said. “The fellowship provides me with an excellent opportunity to practice everything that I have learned at Penn and at Sciences Po, where I did a master’s degree in International Management and Sustainability.”
Based in ClientEarth’s Brussels office, Stagstrup will support both policy advocacy and litigation work, including litigating on behalf of the climate and environment before EU courts and courts of EU member states.
As the regulatory body for one-sixth of the world’s economy, the EU plays a pivotal role in global climate regulation, including serving as an international forum for advocates working at the intersection of EU law, the environment, and regulation.
“Penn Carey Law has some fantastic faculty working in these spaces,” Stagstrup noted.
While enrolled in a global research seminar taught by Professor of Law William Burke-White, Stagstrup and his fellow students attended COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.
“Seeing the COP negotiations unfold in real time was an eye-opener for me,” he said. “It sparked an interest in international politics and climate cooperation and, importantly, cemented my commitment to a career in international policy work.”