United Nations Diplomacy Clinic

LW.10289 / LW.12641
Professor Katrina Wyman
Professor Bryce Rudyk
Open to 2L, 3L, and LLM students*
Maximum of 10 students
Fall 2020 and Summer 2021 semesters
6 credits**


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 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 hours per week, providing legal assistance, drafting and negotiation support on resolutions at the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council and its main Committees, as well as assisting the Missions in their conduct of international diplomacy. In addition, students will assist the Missions in international negotiations on high seas biodiversity that are occurring at UN headquarters. The students will be placed in the missions of the small island governments and would be working on international environmental law related tasks, such as climate change, sustainable development and fisheries, given the importance of these issues for small island governments.


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 Professors Wyman and Rudyk, with special guests from the United Nations, Permanent Missions and private practice. The seminar will address four main topics: (1) overview of the United Nations and of international diplomacy; (2) the distinct history and role of small island nations at the UN, (3) negotiations skills and theory; and (4) substantive knowledge necessary to engage in the negotiation of certain resolutions and other legal instruments at the UN (International Law Commission Report, SIDS Resolution, Right to Development Resolution, Sustainable Fisheries Resolution, Renewable Energy Resolution, Climate Change Resolution).


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 evaluation by Professor Rudyk. For the seminar, evaluation will be based on a small number of short writing assignments, journals, a significant piece of legal writing and participation in the seminar.

Application Procedure

All J.D. 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. To arrange an interview, please contact David Peer at (212) 992-8165, Vanderbilt 411.

The UN Diplomacy Clinic welcomes LLM enrollments. Please note that the application period for LL.M.s will take place from July 24-30, 2020. There is a separate application form for LLM students. Please use that form and submit it to CAMS along with the supporting materials listed above. The LLM application period for the Summer '21 clinic is January 29-February 1, 2021. The Summer '21 application form may be found on the Forms page. For questions regarding the clinic, please contact Professor Rudyk.

Student Contacts

Harriet Farquhar
Jackie Gallant
Jackson Gandour
Kathryn Gunderson
Emma Iannini
Destiny Kanu
Tanishtha Vaid
Andrew Van Duyn
Charlotte Verdon
Erik Woodward

* 3L applicants will receive a preference over 2Ls. The UN Diplomacy Clinic welcomes LLM enrollments. See information in text about LLM 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 that can satisfy the J.D. written work requirement.

*** Students enrolled in the Clinic are strongly encouraged to take courses 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.