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Studying International Law: Q & A with Luis Eslava

It goes without saying that Law can be a tricky area, and when you bring in International Law things get even more complex. We spoke to Luis Eslava, Lecturer in Law (with a speciality in International Law) at the University of Kent, who helped shed some light on things...

What is your professional background?

I completed my undergraduate in Law in Colombia at Universidad Externado, and after some years practicing and teaching I moved to Australia, where I initially studied Community Development at Swinburne University and worked with community organisations. After this, I did a Masters in Law at Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne.

Earlier this year I started a new position as a Lecturer in International Law at Kent Law School, which is a fantastic place to continue my research and teaching. Kent Law School is committed with critical legal scholarship and research-led teaching, two very important dimensions of how I understand my work as a teacher and scholar. At the moment I am writing a book based on my PhD thesis, which will be published by Cambridge University Press.

Are students with an LLB aware of the concepts involved in the study of international law? Or is this something people choose to specialise in at postgrad level?

In my experience LLB students often have a good understanding of international law, in the sense of identifying the relationship between international and domestic obligations and the kind of issues and dynamics that are pivotal to the international legal order.

Today, many undergraduate programs in law also include subjects on international law. And this is a trend that is intensifying. For example, there are law faculties now that have made international law a compulsory subject in the first year of training. This is a response to the current importance of international institutions and international relations in the daily running of nations and even the everyday life of citizens across the globe. From commerce to trade, and from human rights entitlements to the provision of basic public utilities, these are all areas that directly or indirectly are being closely shaped by international legal norms and policies.

At Kent Law School we offer international law in the undergraduate and LLM programme, and we have a solid framework in place to support doctoral research in this area of law. This demonstrates a clear commitment with a model of legal education that understands the multijurisdictional nature of our time, as well as the international background of our students.

How can an LLM in this area help those who want to pursue a career in law?

An LLM in international law is the entry point to multiple career options. One option is clearly to go into a LPC or BTC, but with a deep understanding of international institutions and international normative frameworks, and also with an acute sense of how to operate across legal traditions and institutional spaces – something that is particularly important within the context of the European Union or if you want to work in international law firms.

The other option is, of course, that an LLM in international law offers the necessary training for a diplomatic career or working in international institutions (for example the U.N. or the World Bank) or international tribunals, and also international NGOs and public agencies with an international dimension or portfolio. 

You teach on [two] postgraduate modules: Public International Law and International Protection of Human Rights – what, in your opinion, has been the most exciting/interesting development in these area in recent years?

There are at least two exciting developments in these areas of law at the moment.

One of them is that these areas are trying to respond to a massive transformation of the current international order. Today multinational corporations, emergent economies, cities, local residents, the natural environment and animals, amongst many others, have all become relevant subjects of the international legal and institutional order, in very significant but really complex ways. Studying public international law and international law of human rights will give you a sense of the reasons and ways in which these “new” subjects of international law (which has been historically state-centric and focused on core countries) are being understood and administered through international norms and institutional discussions.

The other development relates to the current dynamism in international law and human rights scholarship. There is incredible work being done today in these areas of law, trying to explain, theorise, and propose different ways to deal with the colonial and postcolonial history of our world, and the challenges we are facing in a planet which is increasingly more interconnected but that remains extremely fragmented in political and economic terms. In this sense, international law and international law of human rights have become the ideal places to think and discuss, for example, the long-term effects of the Global Financial Crisis, issues of global unemployment and wealth disparities, the resilient effects and current iterations of colonialism, and the difficulties of acting proactively to save the planet for its environmental collapse.

Interview by Jessica Bull

>Find out more about study Law at the University of Kent


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