United Nations Diplomacy Clinic

LW.10289 / LW.12641
Professor Bryce Rudyk
Open to 2L, 3L, and LL.M. students*
Maximum of 12 students

Fall semester
6 credits**
Prerequisites/Co-requisites: International Law, International Organizations or International Environmental Law***


The United Nations headquarters in New York is at the center of international law and international diplomacy. It is the one location in the world in which all states have diplomatic representation and makes decisions that have both global and domestic implications. For many small states, the engagement at the United Nations is central to their foreign affairs, but they do not always have sufficient capacity to engage in all issues that affect them.

This clinic places students in the Permanent Missions of small island developing states at the United Nations to act as legal policy advisors. In this role, students will assist these Permanent Missions in their engagement in international diplomacy, with a specific focus on international and environmental law.

Course Description


Two students will be placed in each mission where they will each work 15-20 hours per week, providing legal assistance, drafting and negotiation support on resolutions at the General Assembly and the Environment and Social, and Legal Committees, as well as assisting the Missions in their conduct of international diplomacy. In addition, students will assist the Missions in the consideration of international law through the International Law Commission, the advisory opinions before international courts, and in international negotiations on oceans and sustainable development that are occurring at UN headquarters.


The UN Diplomacy seminar will focus on the substantive knowledge of the organizations, procedures, and issues necessary to provide legal and policy assistance to Permanent Missions at the UN and participate in UN processes. The seminar will be taught by Professor Rudyk, with guest speakers from the United Nations, Permanent Missions and private practice. The substantive portion of the seminar will address three main topics: (1) overview of the United Nations and of international diplomacy; (2) the distinct history, interests and role of small island nations at the UN; and (3) substantive knowledge necessary to engage in the negotiation of certain resolutions and other legal instruments at the UN (e.g. International Law Commission Report, SIDS Resolution, Right to Development Resolution, Sustainable Fisheries Resolution, Renewable Energy Resolution, Climate Change Resolution). In addition, we will use the seminar to critically reflect on the conduct of diplomacy at the UN, issues of power and our role as advisors in small developing country mission.


As many of the small developing country missions do not have dedicated legal advisors, the legal work of the student legal advisors will be supervised by Professor Rudyk, with weekly meetings. The purpose of these weekly meetings will be to discuss particular issues of law relevant to the Mission that could not be discussed in the larger class, discuss progress on the legal research and feedback from the Mission, review any written material, discuss interactions with the Mission and other clinical skills, and plan recommendations for the Mission on next steps.


Students will be evaluated in multiple ways. For the field work, evaluation will be based on written work, self-evaluation, evaluation by Permanent Mission staff, and Professor Rudyk. For the seminar, evaluation will be based on preparation for the seminar, participation in discussion, journals, and legal writing assignments.

Application Procedure

Students interested in applying for the Clinic should submit via CAMS the standard application, resume and unofficial transcript, as well as a writing sample. 3L applicants will receive a preference over 2Ls. Students will be contacted by Professor Rudyk to arrange interviews.

The Global Justice Clinic and United Nations Diplomacy Clinic occasionally work on similar legal issues but for and with different types of clients. As such, there is a potential for conflicts of interest that may not allow students to participate in both clinics. Students that are interested in participating in both clinics (as a 2L and then as a 3L, respectively) should be in touch with the clinic professors (Ellie Happel and Sienna Merope-Synge for GJC and Bryce Rudyk for UNDC) to ensure that there is no conflict in the relevant year.

The UN Diplomacy Clinic welcomes LLM enrollments. There is a separate application form for LL.M. students. Please use that form and submit it along with a resume, unofficial transcript and writing sample to CAMS. The deadline is different than for JDs, and is posted on the Clinic Application Timelines page. Selected LL.M. students will be contacted for interviews in the summer as part of the selection process. For questions regarding the clinic, please contact Professor Rudyk. NOTE: LL.M Students that are employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (or equivalent ministry) of their home government will not be able to enroll in the UN Diplomacy Clinic because of the conflict of interest that it will raise.

Student Contacts

Ian Allan
Rachel Bernard
Jack Jia
Jay Kim
Ilianna Kotini
Yasmin Liberman
Andrew Liu
Isabel Paolini
Gabe Shoemaker
Mansi Srivastava
Jessie Zhang


* 3L applicants will receive a preference over 2Ls. The UN Diplomacy Clinic welcomes LL.M. enrollments. See information in text about LL.M. applications.

** 6 credits comprised of 3 clinical credits and 3 seminar credits. There is also a possibility of developing some Clinic projects into written work as a directed research project for 2 credits in the spring semester that can satisfy the J.D. written work requirement.

*** Students enrolled in the Clinic will need to have taken or be taking a course in international environmental law, public international law and/or international organizations or have relevant practical experience. Please address any questions about these requirements to Professor Rudyk.