Gender Sensitivity in the Philippines

We arrived in Siquijor on Monday, a nearby island. We were speaking at a conference at Siquijor State College. The conference, “Gender Sensitivity and Understanding Women and Girl’s Rights” was really the first of its kind for the college, and even for the region. One of the staff members was telling us during the lunch break that they haven’t had a conversation like this at their school before. Talking about domestic violence, trafficking, sexual harassment and women’s rights should not be something that is not talked about – anywhere. 

The students obviously had questions about these topics, and many students wrote their questions down to be read aloud during the open forum. One girl asked about filing a law suit against her boyfriend for contracting an STD from him. Another student asked whether homosexual males are often trafficked. They had many questions about why trafficking happens, what is considered sexual assault, and what the resources are for trafficking victims. There was not a shortage of good questions to answer and expand on. 

During lunch we had the conversation that just because people aren’t already talking about these things doesn’t mean they’re not happening. These students may not be hearing about sexual harassment in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening, As statistics would go, many students in the room probably come from a home where violence is present. For them to hear about the laws that protect them is important, empowering even.   

To stand in an auditorium on the other side of the world and talk about these issues certainly provides a global perspective on gender issues. No country  is alone in combatting these crimes – all too often targeted at women. Women and men both need to take responsibility for these outcomes and realize that until we combat these crimes together, unified as a people, then there will also be gender biases and a skewed victim pool. 

The conference was incredibly successful, and we were so honored to participate.

Similar and Different

Come to the other side of the world, literally, and you just might realize that law students come from a similar mold. Granted, Americans might tip the sarcasm scale slightly more than Filipinos, but you’d also be surprised how much we have in common.

We attended a law school “Acquaintance Party” this past weekend, and we were surprised both by our similarities and our differences. Here, law school is 4 years. Rough, I know. So, each year considers themselves a “batch.” Each batch was responsible for some sort of performance as “intermission” for the evening. The 1Ls did a sort of model walk and introduction of each student, the 2L girls did a Bollywood number while the 2L guys danced to Bruno Mars and stripped down to their boxers, no joke. Oh, and did I mention that law school faculty and staff were also at this party? Don’t worry, they thought this was hilarious.

The 3Ls and 4Ls both shot a video that they played, with the 4Ls singing “Let’s Cram” to the tune of Gaga’s “Let’s Dance.” Written and (performed first by students at NYU). It really was funny.

The evening concluded with a host of interesting games that honestly, law students at our school wouldn’t likely play with our professors in the room. Crude and vulgar, but wildly entertaining. Students and professors were equally dying of laughter.

The law students here have been more than welcoming, quick to make jokes about stress, alcohol, studying and briefs. Felicia and I will be giving a lecture this evening on our law school experience, and honestly, I think the students will hate us when they learn that our studies are only for 3 years, and with about half of the requirements of their schooling. They are required to take between 18 and 20 credits each semester, and every class is required. From taxation to commercial litigation, they take every subject in preparation for their bar exam, which nationally has about a 30% passage rate. Not too promising.

We continue to enjoy our time here. We have met many wonderful people curious about our studies and our anti-trafficking experience. We will be attending a conference in the next few days on gender issues here in the Philippines – issues none too foreign to Arizona and the U.S.

The more people we meet the more we realize we have in common. They always ask us, “Is domestic violence a problem in the U.S.?” “What about trafficking?” Yes and yes. These are global issues, and we are all working to better educate the community, to work toward prevention and to prosecute the offenders. It’s nice to know that oceans apart, we are striving for the same things.

Assessing the Situation

When spending time in a new place with a new culture, it’s best to spend some time being an observer, before jumping in with ideas and suggestions. You have to understand the people, the problems facing them, and the remedies they’ve attempted in order to offer any sort of suggestion of your own – or else, who are we as outsiders to interject or insist we have the answer?

Thus, we’ve spent the last few days trying to take things in, trying to hear from those on the front lines, judges, prosecutors, victim advocates, to understand what they’re dealing with. They might learn a few things from us, but we will learn a great deal from them in the process.

The judicial system here requires a great deal of patience. Months could pass between each stage of pre-trial and trial. Months that can lead to exhaustion of everyone involved, and even witness bribery, fright, and manipulation. The attorneys that we’ve talked to have done their best to work inside this system. They understand the importance of victim advocates in witness fatigue, the importance of a constant encouragement and supporter who will go with them through this lengthy process and prompt them to continue.

Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (G-WAVE) is hard at work here in a society that has yet to realize that women too have rights, and need protection until such equality is realized. We met a Family Court Judge yesterday, one of two in the province, that knows all too well the difficulties facing women in this society. She told us a few stories from her years here as a prosecutor, handling many disturbing and emotional rape cases, cases where young girls were often raped or molested by their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and other family members. She said that men here seem “sex-crazed” and they are dealing with the aftermath of this.

We have already been in the courtroom a few times for different stages of rape cases. Selecting photos for evidence, the pre-trial hearing where evidence was being submitted, what was supposed to be the direct examination of the victim but was postponed, again.

This morning we sifted through affidavits of an ongoing trafficking case which has yet to bring the accused to justice. Time has been an influence, tampered evidence, and witness bribery has kept this case from the fair trial it deserves. The system here has no juries, so a judge is left to weigh the evidence singlehandedly and there are definitely some judges more partial to males than others.

Tomorrow we will assist in getting some new photos to submit for evidence. A rape that took place in a shrouded area, hard to photograph. We will also be giving a lecture at a local college on the issue of domestic sex trafficking. Already, our time has been so enriching and fulfilling.

A Warm Welcome to the Philippines

The last thing we expected when we walked off of the plane was a huge sign with our names on it. We aren’t famous, not even close, but we felt like celebrities.

Felicia Cantrell and I will be spending our summer in Dumaguete working with Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE). We will be doing anti-trafficking work and assisting in GWAVE’s community efforts and connections with the local law school.

When we arrived a few days ago, we were greeted by most of the GWAVE staff. They took us to breakfast where we also met the Dean of the law school at Silliman University. On our way to breakfast we drove past the law school, only to see another huge sign out front: “Welcome Krystelle Fernandez and Felicia Cantrell from ASU College of Law.” The spelling was close enough, because really, the thought was the ONLY thing that counted. We were welcomed to Dumaguete with open arms as they were all eager to share their work with us and collaborate to combat trafficking across the globe.

We’ve spent our first few days acclimating to the local cuisine, traffic, transportation, and even to the daily activities of the GWAVE staff. This morning we were able to participate in GWAVE’s Sunday morning radio show on human trafficking. They were given a one hour spot which they use to educate the community on trafficking issues and to answer questions texted in from listeners about the topic. We did our best to weigh in, which was a little difficult to do given that most of the show was in the local dialect, Visaya.

Tomorrow morning we head off to a local province for a court hearing with one of the GWAVE attorneys. They have many exciting opportunities for us to engage in the judicial system here and work alongside their attorneys, social workers and community educators. We are eager to absorb all that we can while we’re here.

We definitely stand out here – we’ve been the recipients of many non-subtle stares and even photographs. Hopefully, they’ll get used to seeing us around. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our new celebrity status, it will be short lived.

Complex Litigation

While toying with the thought of working in private practice after law school I, like many law students, have tried to weigh the pros and cons of big firm practice versus small firm practice.  Hours could be spent debating the differences between small and large firm practice, but one of the pros I usually associated with large firm practice has recently had some new light shed on it for me.

A pro of large firm practice I have often heard repeated is that they have interesting and complex litigation.  So if you want to be a litigator, large firm practice has a lot to offer in the way of interesting and complex work.  On the other hand it has been my experience that small firm practice is not viewed as providing the same experience with complex litigation.  However, my summer employer, which is a small firm, pointed out to me that most large firms tend to be heavy on the defense side of litigation, whereas small firms tend to handle much more plaintiffs’ cases.  It is also those same small firms who often bring litigation against the clients being represented by the large firms.  It makes sense then that the small firm that has brought the action is handling an equally complex case as the large firm that is defending the law suit.

I have to admit that I felt a little silly for never making the connection that a large firm involved in very complex litigation necessarily means that the plaintiff’s firm, which often might be small, is handling an equally complex matter.

My own experience so far this summer has proven this to be true.  The firm defending the case I am working on is a large very well known firm.  I wish I could regale the facts involved, but suffice it to say that the case is rather complex with interesting and unique issues for the plaintiff and defendants alike.  I would urge any law student who wants to do private practice not to write off small firms as an option simply because they think they have less interesting and less complex cases.  Small firms are equally capable of offering a wealth of experience to law students.

Where did the time go?

It’s already the second week of April, and I really don’t know where the spring semester went, or my first year of law school for that matter. It’s been an interesting 8 months, and I’m sure the next 2 years will be equally interesting and will disappear just as easily.

I was at an event the other night for recently admitted law students, and it was weird to finally feel like I know something. It sounds ridiculous, but I feel like your whole 1L year is spent feeling just a step behind. Like somehow you’re always a little late getting new information. But, interacting with a group of potential fellow law students really made me realize that I’ve learned a few things after all.

They’re concerned about all the same things I was: When do you get your schedule? You have no say in it, really? How do you find time to do anything but study? Where do I live? What about my family and friends, will I see them again? And really, my answer to all of those things seems to be about the same: take it all in moderation. That was my answer. A cop out? No, it’s true. You can’t study all the time. You will adjust to your schedule, no matter what it is. You may have to get up earlier than you expected, or budget your time better, but you’ll adjust. You have to live somewhere that’s right for you, the right roommates or alone. The right area that allows you to drive if you can, walk if you want, or take the lightrail. Will you see family and friends? Yes, but if you consciously make time to do that. Law school is about balance in every respect. Balancing your time, your personal life, your mental health, your decisions – all of it comes back to moderation.

A new class of 1L’s will be here before I know it. Without that fourth year of schooling, it really feels fast, almost like the roller coaster ride has already reached the peak of the huge drop, and the next 2 years will be spent enjoying the big fall and all the twists and turns that follow.

Law students study dispute resolution in Israel over Spring Break

Students from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University traveled to Israel over Spring Break for a dispute resolution course taught by professors Art Hinshaw of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Andrea Schneider of  Marquette Law School. The course covered dispute resolution issues from the most basic settlement conferences in civil courts to negotiations over current political issues in the Middle East. Specific highlights included visiting the Israel Supreme Court, the Museum on the Seam (looking at all people’s claims to Jerusalem), participating in a cross-cultural negotiation class at Tel-Aviv University, visiting several Jewish and Christian holy sites, and learning about traditional Arab mediation practices.

The blog post below was written by College of Law student Mykil Bachoian, who was on the trip (center back row in photo below.) Photos are by College of Law student Matthew Binford.

My trip to Israel with Art Hinshaw and Andrea Schneider, Professor of Law at Marquette Law School, was the most educational and inspirational trip abroad that I have ever experienced.  In just a week’s time, I gained a deeper insight into Israel’s many conflicts.  A Taglit alum biased towards the endurance of a Jewish state, I was able to see with my own eyes some of the effects of Israel’s domestic policy on its Arab population.  I learned about the different legal statuses of Palestinians in Israel and how each has different interests.  As such, I see a potential issue with a future solution for some factions of Palestinians (e.g., a Palestinian state in the West Bank) being a potential problem for others (e.g., Arab citizens in Israel proper and Arab non-citizens in East Jerusalem).  During my favorite lecture of all-time since entering higher education, Professor Moty Cristal of Tel Aviv University made me completely re-evaluate my understanding of negotiation theory, and inspired me to add more strategies to my repertoire and dedicate myself to preparing for every possible angle of a negotiation.  In doing so, Moty also illuminated some of the roadblocks to a resolution of the conflict in Israel but highlighted why peace may be achieved in the future.  Like many of the speakers we visited with, I am optimistic about a zone of potential agreement and areas for the relationship between Israelis and Arabs in Israel proper to improve in the future.

Some of the highlights of the trip, among others, were: three days in Jerusalem, including a tour of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, an intense emotional session with the Parent’s Circle, and a gripping visit to Yad Vashem; one night’s stay at a Kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee near Yardenit to see a buddy get baptized in the River Jordan; short day trips to Nazareth and the holy city of Zefat, and a day in Haifa and Tel Aviv.  In the meantime, I managed to stuff my face with delicious food the entire trip (I’m a total foodie).  Some of the highlights were: a Biblical feast at Eucalyptus, lunch at a Jewish Iraqi kitchen in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, a heavenly falafel at a hole-in-the-wall in Zefat owned by an orthodox Jewish man (I was scared to catch his hairs in my food but pleasantly surprised not to see any), dinner at a Druze village, a home cooked dinner at former “Chief Justice” Barak’s home, lunch in Jaffa with 15 different salads, and an end-of-trip celebration at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa. Needless to say, I will need to hit the gym for pick-up basketball games to shed some weight.

All in all, I have never been so exhausted in my life.  The trip was jam-packed with activities, tours, lectures and excitement.  I am now substantially more informed on the issues involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.  I returned to the States with a new perspective on conflict in the Holy Land and a reinvigorated sense of passion for peace.  I am dedicated to using my newly acquired knowledge and experience in the future to help out in any way that I can to try to improve the situation in Israel.


A Plug For Moot Court

As a student ambassador I often hear applicants and newly admitted students ask current law students what their favorite law school experience has been.  Without a doubt one of my favorite experiences has been participating in moot court, and I think it is something every law student should try before graduation.

Moot court competitions come in all shapes and sizes.  But I think the ones that are the most fun are national competitions that include writing a Supreme Court brief and then later competing in oral argument. So what perks come from competing in a national competition , you ask? Well to start, it’s fun! Moot court experience is a great resume builder – it demonstrates writing experience and oral argument experience. Some competitions provide substantial cash awards, and being able to reduce school debt is always a nice perk. Moot court provides the opportunity to travel and experience fun cities. For example, I just returned from a weekend in Los Angeles where a classmate and I competed in the Williams Institute Moot Court Competition, and the CLLSA team is currently in New Orleans competing in the Hispanic National Bar Association competition. (As a quick aside I just got word that the team is advancing to tommorow’s quarter final rounds – congrats and good luck Jamaar and Claudia!!) Moot court provides the opportunity to network with peers from other schools as well as practicing attorneys and judges. It is a great way to get an in depth understanding of complex legal issues. Etc. etc.

I could rant endlessly about the benefits from competing in moot court. But I think it is also important for students to realize that moot court competitions can take a substantial amount of time and preparation. I realize everyone works at their own pace and some people are more efficient than others, but I have never heard someone who competes in national level moot court competitions say the preparation is easy. Before adding moot court to your plate I think it is wise to ask students who have competed before about their experiences and how they managed the work.

If you are willing to challenge yourself and put in the effort, moot court is incredibly rewarding and fun!

Law Student Panel

Last week I participated in a law student panel hosted by the Justice and Pre-Law Society at Arizona State University. I was in a similar group during my under-graduate days and so I jumped at the chance to tell them about my experience thus far in law school and to encourage them to follow their dreams.

I expected them to ask all about MY experience; what are my favorite classes, what organizations I am involved in, what I planned to do this summer, what type of law I hoped to practice, etc. When I got there, however, I realized that I forgot an important detail: when I was an undergrad, I didn’t care what law students were currently doing. And they didn’t either. They care about what they’re going through; preparing for the LSATs, taking courses geared toward getting them prepared for law school, what types of internships they should apply for, how to ask professors for recommendation letters, etc. Sure, they wanted to know whether I liked it and how it was different from the undergraduate classes I had taken, but their primary concern was what they should be doing right now (and understandably).

In hindsight, there are so many things I would have done differently during undergrad to prepare myself for law school. I would have taken every law-related class I could find. I would have spoken up more in class to get more comfortable doing so now. I would have gone to professor’s office hours just to chat and get to know them. And I told them all of this. We also talked about how to prepare for the LSAT and whether to take a structured prep course or to study on your own. We discussed personal statements and how to apply to law school. We talked about visiting schools to find the right fit. The students seemed to hang on every word, and it was rewarding to be able to provide answers to their concerns.

Overall, participating in the law panel was a worthwhile experience. It was nice to be around students who are excited about the path I’ve chosen for myself and who looked to me for advice in making their own decisions. Next time, I will be sure to prepare for questions that are of unique concern to them and their current experiences. I highly encourage others to get involved with younger students. Who knows, they may be your co-workers one day.

Cassidy Crossen

I was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, moving back and forth between Arizona and Ohio throughout high school. I fell in love with Arizona and decided to stay to attend college at Arizona State University, where I studied Justice Studies and Business. I became involved with the State Capital Post-Conviction Defender’s Office during my senior year, and worked as a legal assistant for the office while studying for the LSAT and writing personal statements. I am currently a first-year law student with no idea what direction I’m headed. I had originally planned on going into contract law, but found death penalty work absolutely fascinating. 

Aside from my studies, I am involved in the Women’s Law Student Association, a research cluster on “smart dust,” and remain a volunteer at the Capital Post-Conviction Defender’s Office. In my spare time, I enjoy playing frisbee with my dogs (an Australian Shepherd mix named Aspen and a St. Bernard named Lexi), cooking, skyping with my three year-old nephew Landon, and spending time with friends and family. I am looking forward to discovering my passion in the next 2 1/2 years and am excited at the opportunities the future holds.