Kristin Drecktrah is an associate attorney at Gomm & Smith, P.A., a law firm located in Miami specializing in international investment, cross-border transactions, and international dispute resolution. Kristin received her J.D. degree from FIU College of Law in 2011.
Kristin Drecktrah ’11 published in ABA Journal’s Section of International Law and participates in arbitration at the World Bank
What sparked your interest in International Law?
Long before deciding to pursue a law degree, I was certain that my career would be linked to international relations. In high school and college, I focused on courses and activities with an international component. I completed a graduate program in translation and interpreting, lived in Portugal and Mexico, and became fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. By the time I applied to law school, I knew I wanted a career in international law, even if I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
You were recently published in the ABA Journal’s Section of International Law. What led to that opportunity?
Like many other students, I joined the ABA when I began law school. Because of my life experiences and interests, I gravitated toward the Section of International Law. I have joined a few committees within that section over the years, including the International Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I discovered that the Section of International Law’s Year-In-Review provided a publishing opportunity that fit my research on energy developments in Brazil. I co-authored the publication with Mauricio Gomm and Quinn Smith, partners at Gomm & Smith. Virtually all of our firm’s work has some international aspect, and a large part of our work deals with Brazil. Energy regulation and dispute resolution are hot issues in Brazil, and we are constantly looking for ways to be part of the dialogue, including finding opportunities to publish.
You also recently participated in an arbitration at the World Bank. How did you become involved?
It was an opportunity to participate in an investor-state arbitration hearing at the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in the matter of Flughafen Zürich AG v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Diego Gosis, of counsel at Gomm & Smith, is counsel for the Republic along with our firm in Miami and a firm in Argentina. The weeklong hearing was entirely in Spanish before a panel of three arbitrators, each from different countries. I found strength in my U.S. legal training to assist in preparing our fact and expert witnesses for cross-examination. In law school, I had competed in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Competition, which simulates an ICSID arbitration. That experience provided the base of substantive knowledge that helped me dive into this real-life ICSID hearing. The interests at stake, the unrestricted scope of applicable law, and the complex damages calculations are a few reasons why I find this type of work to be the most fascinating and challenging intellectual exercise.
How did your experience at FIU Law prepare you for your career?
FIU was the best decision I could have made. Even the least internationally oriented course was outward-looking in some way. Professor Gomez’s International Commercial Arbitration course sparked my interest in international arbitration. His guidance led me to compete in the Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Competition and the FDI Competition. Professor Mirow’s Legal History course provided a broad understanding of the development of the common law system in England and then in the United States, and it showed how the common law mirrors in some respects and differs in others from the legal systems of other countries in Europe and Latin America. In International Trade Law and Policy, Professor Esquirol illustrated many of the critical issues in international trade and investment and the methods to resolve them, from imposing trade barriers to submitting claims before a dispute settlement body.
What advice do you have for students interested in a similar career path?
I found that FIU has an incredibly talented faculty with diverse expertise in international law. Students should get to know these professors, since they are the ones that can help socialize them with the field. Also, memberships in local, national, and international groups can help put students in touch with like-minded peers and practitioners. On the most basic level, groups show students what kind of opportunities in international law exist. In law school, I attended meetings hosted by the Miami International Arbitration Society and the Florida Bar’s International Law Section. Those events gave me a chance to get to know local practitioners, including the people who would later hire me to be their associate. International law is a relatively niche field and at a local level, its players comprise a small community. Interested students have the ability to get involved and meet the people who can help them jump start their career. And while learning in the classroom is necessary to have a successful career, paving a unique path by following one’s interests and gaining exposure is satisfying and invaluable.