Georgetown Law students get an inside look at diplomacy and international relations
April 29, 2020
Georgetown University Law Center has dozens of groups and organizations in which students can round out their classroom time, meet fellow students with similar interests and take part in events ranging from purely social affairs to career development opportunities.
For students interested in working at the crossroads of different legal systems on business, regulatory and diplomatic issues, the Georgetown Law International Society (GILS) is a draw. Georgetown Law has long been known for its strengths in teaching international and comparative law, but now, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, a global perspective seems more relevant than ever.
GILS organizes informational sessions, open to all students, on careers in international law. Typically, in the first semester GILS brings in guest speakers from public sector and nongovernmental organizations, and in the second semester speakers from private sector law firms and corporations. Early this semester, the group broke the mold a bit when board member Lukas Lanzrein, a Swiss citizen and LL.M. student, offered to try to arrange a visit from his country’s ambassador. Grace Stokan (L’20), the current GILS president, remembers responding, “That’s amazing–we’ll take him anytime!”
Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud did accept Lanzrein’s invitation, and addressed a crowded room in the Gewirz Student Center on March 4. The title of Pitteloud’s presentation was “Representing a Medium-sized State in a Time of Increasing Tensions,” and centered on the history and continuing importance of the U.S.-Swiss relationship. “Switzerland is the 20th largest economy in the world and… ranks as the seventh largest foreign investor in the United States. Swiss companies are creating 750,000 jobs in the U.S., focused largely around research and development,” the ambassador told the audience.
Another special aspect of his role in Washington, D.C., explained Pitteloud, is the fact that since 1980, Switzerland has represented the diplomatic interests of the United States in Iran through a protective power mandate, which entails such activities as transmitting messages between the two governments and looking out for U.S. citizens in Iran. Those seeking an inside scoop on recent U.S.-Iran tensions were left wanting, however; with classic diplomatic skill, the ambassador responded to questions about the situation by saying only, “Switzerland’s good offices have always stood for the highest level of discretion and professionalism. This is why various governments entrust us with these mandates.”
Reached recently at his home near Bern, Switzerland, where he returned when Georgetown Law moved to an online learning model in response to COVID-19, Lanzrein recalled the event as a relaxed, entertaining and informative evening. “A typical Georgetown Law experience!” he said.
While disappointed that his year in Washington was cut short, Lanzrein is still pleased with his decision to study at Georgetown Law. He is now completing the program that confers dual masters degrees from France’s Sciences Po and Georgetown Law. He is on track to join the Swiss Foreign Service later this spring, and expects to have his first foreign assignment early next year, in Belgrade, Serbia. Thanks to the Georgetown network, he’s looking forward to having friends and contacts to connect with in whatever world capital he is posted to in the future.
Meanwhile, Stokan, finishing her J.D. from her family’s home in Pennsylvania, said that in the context of the health crisis currently encircling the entire globe, for her the ambassador’s visit was a reminder of how powerful the United States is, and how important it is to maintain an international perspective. “We’re all in this together,” she said. “It’s happening to the world.”