Alumna of the month
Newly qualified lawyer Sophie Pilcher (LLM 2011-12) has gone from Warwick to interning for the UN at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a court established to try the most senior and most responsible members of the Khmer Rouge for violations of international law and serious crimes, such as the Cambodian Genocide.
How did you go from Warwick to interning for the UN in Cambodia?
Well, my interest in International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law (the law and rules of war,) started while I was doing my LLM at Warwick. I was so interested in those subjects that I wrote my dissertation on them. I then went to Bar school to qualify as a Barrister, but my passion for international law remained. So I decided, when I finished Bar school, that I would apply for legal jobs with a more international focus. I then applied for my current role at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC for short, and the rest is history!!
What does this internship involve?
My internship mainly involves legal research and the drafting of legal documents that go before the court for consideration.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The most challenging part of my job at first was getting my head around the amount of documents involved in an international criminal case. The investigations go on for years, even decades, and that means that the number of witness statements and evidence can be overwhelming.
Also our team have to analyse and create very complex legal arguments, often in a very short period of time and that can be very challenging.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
There isn’t one thing in particular I am most proud of, to be honest. I am learning so much from lawyers from other national jurisdictions and that gives you a new perspective on the law. I also feel my analytical skills are improving and my ability to cover vast amounts of material in short amounts of time. Every day I work at the ECCC, I feel I am becoming a better lawyer. That’s what I am most proud of.
On a less legal note, I am proud of living in another country!! I have never lived aboard before, and have never been to South-East Asia either, so I was very nervous about coming as I did not know what to expect from Cambodia. When I arrived, everything I managed to do by myself felt like a little victory.
I have also learnt Khmer (the Cambodian language), so I was proud the first time I had a very basic conversation with someone entirely in Khmer!!
What drives you?
My role is in the defence team, and what drove me to apply for that role was my belief that everyone, no matter what they have been accused of, is entitled to a fair trial.
My family have also been so supportive, and helped me so much so that drives me too!!
What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
I don’t know about improving the quality of my life, but you can’t drink the tap water in Cambodia, so I do miss having a cold drink of water from a tap!!!
What was your favorite aspect of the law course at Warwick?
EVERYTHING, (I know that sounds cliché, but it is true. I loved my LLM at Warwick.) I especially loved International Criminal an International Humanitarian Law.
What would you tell someone thinking of studying at Warwick?
I can only speak for studying law, but I would say do it. Having studied at three higher education establishments now, Warwick staff were by far the most helpful and supportive.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a student?
I honestly don’t think so!!
How do you balance work and life?
Really try to enjoy my weekends because I work hard during the week.
If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
I am a classically trained singer, so maybe a professional opera singer.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
In an ideal world, I would love to be working in the legal department of the Red Cross or Amnesty International.
What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?
- My iPod, because I couldn’t live without music,
- My sheet music so I could do some singing practice,
- And my collection of classic novels.
What are your favourite memories of your years at Warwick?
Doing concerts with Warwick University Chamber Choir and getting really good marks in some of my modules.
Do you have any advice for new graduates?
I think my advice would be that there is always something good around the corner. When I applied to the ECCC, I had my initial interview and then I didn’t hear anything for months. I assumed I hadn’t got the job. Then they emailed me and I had got it!! There is always something waiting for you.
Sophie Pilcher: the facts
|Lives: Phnom Penh, Cambodia|
|Education: University of Durham, University of Warwick, Leeds BPP|
|Interests: Singing, music, reading, seeing my friends, going to gigs|