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Anna Katselas

A photo of Anna Katselas
In international law, you inevitably encounter conventions and treaties devised here.”

JD/MSEL’00

Assistant General Counsel for the United States Trade and Development Agency

 

Eight years into a fulfilling career in the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division, Anna Katselas felt it was time for a new challenge. So she went back to school-and this time she needed her passport. "I'd always been interested in international law," she says, "and I'd never lived outside the U.S. So I applied to the University of Vienna Law School's International Legal Studies LLM Program and was lucky enough to get a Fulbright grant."

Besides its charm (yes, she attended a ball), Vienna offers a heady atmosphere for anyone with an international law interest. "In international law, you inevitably encounter conventions and treaties devised in Vienna," she notes, and that sense of the larger world isn't limited to documents. "There are numerous international organizations there, the UN has a huge presence, and I met people from all over the world," she adds.

Her 17 classmates hailed from countries as diverse as Argentina, Russia, and Pakistan. Coursework was in English and the professors were both impressive and pleasantly accessible. "I'm particularly interested in international investment law, and chose aprogram withterrific experts in that field. It's a relatively new but burgeoning field, and many of the issues are similar to those that arise in domestic environmental law," Anna explains. "There's a similar need to protect the government's ability to regulate in the public interest and at the same time provide a stable and predictable regulatory environment for the business community."

She notes that thousands of bilateral and multilateral international investment agreements concluded since the 1990s grant protections to foreign investors in order to encourage their investments. "While it is necessary and important to promote foreign investment," she says, "It is likewise important to think about the impact of these agreements on the host governments' willingness and ability to pursue other important policies." Anna is interested not only in the substance of these agreements, but also in their dispute resolution procedures, which provide for direct investor-state arbitration. Whether these arbitrations are deciding traditional administrative law questions-with which she has significant experience-and if so, whether the procedures should be modified, is one question she explored for her thesis.

Since completing her LLM, Anna has taken on a new role that allows her to put her international legal training to good use-assistant general counsel for the United States Trade and Development Agency. "The work is terrific", she reports. "I get to analyze interesting, novel legal issues while working to promote both U.S. exports and sustainable international development." She considers VLS "the perfect place" to have trained for her career, noting, "It was great to be part of a smaller community and to have the professors I had. VLS helped to give me the confidence to pursue what I've done so far in my career, and for that I'm very grateful."