January 01, 2018

Meet Rule of Law Officer Mikhail Reider-Gordon

Mikhail Reider-Gordon is Vice President, International Development at Nathan Inc. and is the ABA Section of International Law Rule of Law Officer for 2017-2018. She is a Senior Advisor and Past Co-Chair of the International Anti-Corruption, Anti-Money Laundering and Corporate Social Responsibility Committees.

Your legal practice focuses on white-collar and complex transnational financial crimes. Could you tell us about how you got into this type of legal work?

In some ways, you could say I happened on it. I had spent some time at RAND researching terrorist groups and other non-state actors involved in conflicts and the impacts their actions had, such as on development and justice. When I went to work for the U.S. Department of Justice much of my work was focused on transnational organized crime. Economic crimes such as threat financing, money-laundering, trafficking, corruption, and the environments where conflict flourishes are all intertwined.

What has been one of your favorite professional achievements?

I would have to say joining the faculty of the International Anti-Corruption Academy. I have been teaching with IACA for over three years now, and it is more rewarding with every class. We enjoy extremely diverse classes of students – both at the Master’s level, and for our tailored trainings for government groups. Our students hail from all corners of the earth – South Sudan to Azerbaijan, Nepal to El Salvador – and from a range of backgrounds – from prosecutors to senior officials with their respective countries’ anti-corruption commissions. They are dedicated professionals all with the same goal of combating corruption. Some of our Master’s students are doing really exciting research and work in the field of anti-corruption, and it is such a privilege to be part of IACA.

Through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Anti-Corruption Academic Initiative (ACAD), you’ve collaborated with experts from around the world to develop a comprehensive set of resources on corruption and corruption-related issues for colleges and universities. Could you tell us about these resources? Are these resources intended for professors or students?

The ACAD offers terrific resources! They are intended for professors and other educators, but students can benefit independently from the reading lists we offer. For instance, under our “Sources of Anti-Corruption Law” are links and documents that can be downloaded to help explain corruption laws and international conventions. Some of the materials include articles and books from our ABA Section of International Law colleagues. Also on the website, you can find the model course and additional resource materials; we’re always adding to it. Visit their website at: http://www.track.unodc.org/Education/Pages/ACAD.aspx

You have been involved in a range of leadership positions within the Section, including as a Committee Chair of several committees, liaison to external organizations, Division Chair, and Council Member. Why did you feel it was important to become active as a leader within the Section?

We are so fortunate to have built and maintained over decades the most dynamic section in the ABA. When I look around the room at Council meetings and I see some of the incredibly talented professionals who have made time in their careers to help lead and grow the Section, I am always astounded at the depth of experience and knowledge gathered there. The nature of the profession is changing, and we need to help lead the change for the positive. Whilst some response to change may include ABA internal infrastructure improvements, the more important work is with and through our people.

In our Section alone, we have over 17,000 members. That may sound like a lot, but it can and should be bigger. If we want to help keep the profession dynamic and relevant, we need to continue to add members. This isn’t about revenue (that comes when constituents are getting what they need from the organization). This is about much more: helping to strengthen the foundations of the rule of law worldwide (from Poland to Chile); standing up for the profession here and in other countries; bolstering our connections with colleagues; not being afraid to tackle tough issues; and being a premier forum for presenting analysis of new legal developments. Think about it—we are a critical global hub. Where else are you going to bring together judges, prosecutors, big law, solo practitioners, top legal academicians, in-house counsel, representatives from government, and students from around the world to share knowledge in such a convivial yet intellectual environment?

Lawyers everywhere are having to address significant changes in the firm model. So too, they need new ways to think about identifying, retaining, and promoting attorneys who better reflect society as it truly is and who can bring a broader cultural perspective to the practice of law. We need to hold genuine dialogue about technology—gaining greater understanding of both its benefits and pitfalls for our profession and society as a whole. We need Section members who appreciate what we’re about to stand up and join in. Leadership is a group effort here. Being part of the Section leadership team is work, I won’t sugarcoat that, but it is definitely worthwhile. We need to build on our past success and lead in the way the practice of law is evolving and shifting. We can’t complain about changes to the profession if we aren’t the ones shaping it. I want to see more of our members put their hand up and help.

As the Rule of Law Officer, what are some of your responsibilities?

My role includes helping to draft statements on behalf of the Section, or to send to the ABA President’s office when there are specific topics involving the Rule of Law. I am here as a resource for our committee ROL vice-chairs, and I offer ROL boot-camps and events. I can help launch programming on subjects related to ROL issues and provide guidance to Section members if they have questions about the ROL. With our policy officer, my office can assist committees that may want to draft proposed policy if it relates to the rule of law. I also try to help ensure our Section meetings include topics related to the rule of law.

What are some ways that Section members can help promote the rule of law?

Each committee is focused on a particular region or area of focus. We count on constituents from our committees to alert us when there are developments—including good ones—that relate to the rule of law. This could be the identification of attacks on lawyers or judges; it might be the quiet transformation of emergency law into ordinary law that allows for the infringement of civil liberties; it may be lack of support from a judiciary when efforts are begun to tackle corruption somewhere. We are looking to our ROL Vice-Chairs to gather information from fellow committee members and bring to us issues they believe warrant consideration. Committees are first-line expert groups, so we expect them to know the latest developments of the committee’s area of law. The ABA is a powerful voice, and we have options to respond that range from working with the ABA President’s office to issuing public statements, to organizing programming around topics, or turning the spotlight on an issue as it is unfolding. We don’t need to wait for seasonal meetings to address a ROL topic.

Another way committees can get involved in is a project I am launching—a podcast series on the ROL. We are looking for volunteers from around the world who are willing to be recorded on the ROL. What do I mean? What does it mean to you? How do you see it in action every day? Or, what are the challenges to it in your country? How do you explain it to a lay-person? Tell us of a time the ROL manifested itself in some way relevant to your life and/or practice—this could be a time you witnessed it being eroded and how you responded; it could be about how you chose to work through an organization to protect fundamental human rights; how you confronted bribery; worked on obtaining women’s inheritance rights in your country; or how you practice in a jurisdiction with weak ROL.

We have Section members from 100+ countries, and we want at least one voice from each of those countries! We want law students, law professors, NGO and civil society workers, government counsel, public defenders, judges, investigating magistrates, public and private lawyers, and practitioners from every walk of life. The goal is to have a sufficient number of people willing to be recorded with their stories that we can launch a podcast series available for listening and download to anyone with a connection to the Internet. We’ll build from there. Not only will this help raise the Section’s profile, but my hope is that through the collective voices, we’ll also help to educate and inspire others to recognize and help protect the rule of law.