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From NYC to The Hague: Caroline Fish ’18 Charts Her Path in the Law

Caroline Fish in front of ICC with supervisor and St. John's Law Adjunct Professor Matt Halling (left) and Hon. Raul Pangalangan (right)
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The canals wrinkle in the wind. The ducks leave small wakes behind them, paddling under the bridges I soar over, as I crisscross the quiet of The Hague and its suburbs. There’s a windmill on my way home. I go through tunnels painted with murals. Yellow trains hum past each other on their way to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Centraal. I cut across tram tracks, a light on my handlebars. The moon comes up. The stars breathe in the cool night.

This vivid and elegant reflection on a journey far from home is taken from Caroline Fish’s online journal. While her classmates continue their studies at St. John’s Law, she’s spending the semester interning for Hon. Raul Pangalangan, a judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

“Judge Pangalangan is the former law dean of the University of the Philippines and a very thoughtful jurist,” Fish says. “He’s currently sitting on three cases, including one which is in the trial phase, addressing war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. I assist the judge and his legal officers with legal research and writing, editing decisions, and preparing various legal documents.”

The work suits Fish, who is a member of the St. John’s Law Review, a Center for International and Comparative Law fellow, and one of the Law School’s International Honors Program scholars. “It's a fascinating and exciting legal experience,” she says of her ICC internship. “International criminal law is a field that requires a creative spirit. 'Creative' isn’t a word that people usually use to describe legal work, but it's the perfect word to describe what I do in my research and writing on very unique international criminal law questions. International criminal law jurisprudence isn’t extensive, and it’s constantly evolving. So we’re frequently confronting issues of first impression.”  

Before attending St. John’s, Fish earned a Master of Social Work degree. In social work school, she chose to specialize in international development and global issues, so she could eventually do human rights work on a global scale. As Fish saw it, a legal education would complement and enhance her skills as social worker. “Social workers focus on social justice and the entire system of inequality, injustice, and discrimination and tackle these issues on every level of society,” she notes. “On the other hand, attorneys know the law intricately and hold a unique position as advocates who can influence people through their body of knowledge and lawyering skills. That’s a powerful combination.”

The ICC’s mission to take a stand against mass atrocities for which there might otherwise be no punishment, Fish says, is exactly in line with her professional interests. “The ICC has made a concerted effort to address crimes of sexual violence and enslavement, which is important to me,” she says. “And this effort provides validation that, on an international level, lawyers are needed to continue to make sure issues of sexual violence, enslavement, and human trafficking are addressed and that survivors are given hope.”

Fish’s next step in her professional and personal journey is a pro bono internship at DLA Piper in Paris, France. During this two-month rotation, she will assist in the implementation of the firm's pro bono program in 15 offices in Continental Europe, particularly with regard to human rights matters. From there, she returns to New York City as a summer associate at DLA Piper’s office there.

“I want to continue to work against the awful, pervasive, and often unpunished crimes of human trafficking and sexual violence, as I was doing as a social worker,” says Fish. “But, for now, I’m leaving my eyes and horizons open to whichever path this interest in international law takes me on.”

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of St. John’s Law, the Law School’s biannual alumni magazine.

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