Global Programs Blog

International Field Placement:
Marializa Kelly (JD '15), Vishnu Law Group, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Working in a Legal and Technical Hybrid

Part of my work here is to work with technical and legal experts from all over the world. I review and edit their draft proposals for the [Environmental] Code. The most difficult part for me is understanding the daily technical conversations and technical language in the drafts. Whether I understand it or not, I still need to review it and make comments on parts that require more clarity or further research. I am definitely not an expert on fisheries, water resources, or wildlife and protected areas, but I am expected to know something in order to get my work done. I end up doing a lot of research on the side to help gain some general background knowledge. The Internet i​s a wonderful thing!

My legal background has been very useful in many ways. For starters all those (stressful) writing and editing assignments in law school and petition writing as a new attorney have definitely paid off! I use a lot of analytical thinking and problem solving when looking at the big picture impacts the Code will have on Cambodia.

If anyone has an interest in international law, I highly recommend taking international law classes. The international law principles and commonly used international phrases I learned in Professor Eckstein’s classes and through study abroad opportunities continue to be very helpful in the work I am doing here.

I would not let a lack of technical knowledge deter a legal-minded individual from pursuing an opportunity to work on a project like this Code. Yes, I am working with many individuals who have some type of science background, and I look at it as an opportunity to learn something new. I had to take some initiative and do extra research, and that has helped increase my knowledge base and will hopefully help me develop my niche. It is a challenge, but I really enjoy dancing back and forth between scientific areas and the law.

Cambodia wildlife conservation map

Map of Cambodia at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Cambodia river view
greenery, wires & architecture in Cambodia

Three things I see everyday:  greenery, amazing architecture, and electrical wires.

Mari's commute in Cambodia

​My daily view on the way to work.

Boat on the river in Cambodia