Extraordinary people work at VLS and are attracted to go to school there. You have great professors whose enthusiasm for their fields and for teaching make it difficult for students to resist giving their best.”
Jamar Brown modestly admits he's "adaptable." "Put me anywhere, and I'll survive," he says. "Thrive" is more like it. When he first crossed the bridge into South Royalton, despite time spent in Vermont the Manhattan native was shocked at the town's size (or lack of it). But in no time he was hiking, snowboarding, and jumping off trestle bridges with his VLS classmates.
Pre-VLS, he worked on the streets of Newark, New Jersey, as a project manager for the nation's largest community development group, New Community Corporation. "We opened a K-8 elementary charter school, developed youth programs, built affordable housing, and retooled welfare-to-work programs." It was work he thought he'd resume after law school, he explains by phone from his office in Geneva, Switzerland.
Now an associate at Lenz & Staehelin, Switzerland's largest business law firm, he's part of an international commercial arbitration team handling joint venture, licensing, and general contract law disputes. Although 85 percent of his case work is done in English, reflecting the international nature of the disputes he handles, daily life at the firm, and in town, goes on in French. "I didn't speak a word of French before coming here, but it's coming along quite well," he says. "Learning another language is a challenge, but also a lot of fun."
Jamar and his wife, Kija Kummer Brown MSEL'03, did a lot of traveling before settling in Geneva, which her dual Swiss/U.S. citizenship facilitated. Kija works for the Energy and Climate Focus Area at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a global association of 200 multinational companies trying to balance development and environment. Geneva, which Jamar describes as "a big village," has much to offer, including quick access to the Alps and a highly diverse population. "About 30 percent of Geneva residents are expatriates, largely due to the international organizations based here," he explains. "When we get together with friends, it's as diverse as the U.N."
His international arbitration group also offers a creative mix: "My colleagues are two Italian lawyers and a German lawyer, and we're led by a Swiss partner," he says, and laughs. "It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it has real benefits. We each have a slightly different approach to problems, we're great friends, and our conversations are really stimulating." Their work might entail arbitration between an Italian company and an Iranian one, or a French company and a Romanian one. For Jamar, the blend of traditions brought to international arbitration adds considerable interest. "International arbitration requires a little more flexibility, and you see a convergence of different legal traditions coming together in a single sophisticated legal process," he says. "It involves aspects of what we associate with both common and civil law legal systems. These different approaches have contributed to a unique, popular and well-established dispute resolution mechanism."
Even from another continent, Jamar still thinks back fondly on his VLS days, he says. "Extraordinary people work there and are attracted to go to school there. You have great professors whose enthusiasm for their fields and for teaching make it difficult for students to resist giving their best." He notes as an example Professor Teachout's two visits to his and Kija's home. "We had a blast!" he recalls. "And how often do you hear people say that about hosting their Con Law professor?"