McGeorge School of Law

Guatemala Program Sizzles in the Summer

August 19, 2011


From left, lecturer and consultant Luis Mogollon, Marianna Dietrich, '13, Assistant Director for Graduate and International Programs Eric McElwain, Inter-American Program Director Professor Raquel Aldana, Dennis Garcia, '12, and Jory Cook, '13

In only its third year of existence, the McGeorge Inter-American Program attracted nearly 40 students to its summer home in Antigua, Guatemala. Seattle University School of Law and University of Denver Sturm College of Law co-sponsored a selection of three-week courses from May 23 to June 11 and eight students stayed on to serve exciting externships.

"We had an incredibly successful program," said Professor Raquel Aldana, the director of the innovative summer program, which received permanent ABA accreditation in December of 2010. Twenty-seven American law students and 12 Guatemalan law students and attorneys participated in the program.

Study-abroad programs offered by most U.S. law schools, including those that take place in Latin America, only teach courses in English. By contrast, the Inter-American Program in Guatemala takes a bilingual and inter-cultural approach to legal education, offering substantive law classes about Latin America taught in Spanish as well as bilingual externship placements.

Professor Leslie Jacobs, the director of McGeorge's Capital Center for Law & Policy, taught Comparative Free Speech and Access to Information in the Americas. Two courses, Commercial Law for Foreign Investors in Guatemala and International Environmental Law in Latin American, were taught in Spanish. Students also had the option of taking Legal Spanish for Lawyers, taught by Luis Mogollon, a Guatemalan attorney who has worked closely with McGeorge in developing all aspects of the summer program.

"This year, we were able to expand our externship opportunities to include positions with the United Nations Development Programme, Central America Free Trade Agreement Secretariat, and Lawyers without Borders," Aldana said. "Eight students, six of them from McGeorge, took advantage of our agency placements and worked until early August in Guatemala. Each had a worthwhile experience that will benefit them should they pursue a career in international law."

Five students were stationed in Guatemala City. Jory Cook, '13, and Miguel Magdaleno, a Spanish attorney who will earn his LLM in Transnational Business Practice in December, worked for the Guatemala Exporters' Association. Tyler Dahl, '13, served an externship with the CAFTA Secretariat. Ari Etkes, '13, worked with the Human Rights Ombudsman Office, and Rachael Balchum,'13, served an externship with Lawyers without Borders. Marianna Dietrich,'13, had a UNDP assignment in Xela, the country's second-largest city.

"Tyler worked on high-profile cases involving environmental complaints," Aldana said. "At AgExport, Jory and Miguel handled some interesting trade projects. Rachel and Marianna worked on the implementation of the Stockholm Protocol in Guatemala with the UN. Ari worked with the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman on Access to Information on the implementation of the new Access to Information Law in Guatemala after taking Professor Jacobs' class."