Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

ICSID in the Twenty-First Century: An Interview with Meg Kinnear

Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

ICSID in the Twenty-First Century: An Interview with Meg Kinnear

Article excerpt

This discussion was convened at 2:30 p.m., Friday, March 26, 2010, by its moderator, David Caron of the University of California, Berkeley Law School, who introduced Meg Kinnear of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Below is a transcript of the session.


Okay, today we have a treat. The title of this discussion is "ICSID in the Twenty-First Century: an Interview with Meg Kinnear." Let me point out that it's co-sponsored by the International Economic Law Interest Group and also by the Women in International Law Interest Group, and I think you will see questions from both aspects. Meg Kinnear, since last June, has been the Secretary-General of ICSID. She's had time to settle in, she's had time to shovel out of a terrible winter, and instead of me introducing Meg, we'll let her do that. Meg, I think we all know that you're a national of Canada, but in part from the aspect of a woman who has risen to this position, perhaps you can talk a little about your education in Canada, your mentoring, and the career path you went through to get to this point.


Well, I am a national of Canada, born in Montreal, who went to law school at McGill, and then did a master's degree at the University of Virginia. At that time I thought I'd specialize in administrative law. I did a year there, and I thought Washington was an amazingly wonderful place, but I had promised to head back to Canada for a clerkship, so I said, "I'm going to go back for one year, and that's it." That was twenty-five years ago, so it tells you a little bit about career planning and luck.

I did an articling period in Ottawa and became very enamored with domestic litigation and advocacy. I then went to the Department of Justice of Canada, and it was a very exciting period because we were starting to work on what would become the Charter of Rights in Canada, much like the U.S. Bill of Rights. There was all sorts of interesting new work to be done--I got hooked on that and absolutely loved it.

We ended up working on one very big case in Toronto, which was about an hour away. The case, I was told, was going to settle within two to three months at the most. Nonetheless, I ended up in a trial that ultimately would last about two years. I had two young children who grew up through this, and I can remember how difficult that was.

That led me to a decision to leave litigation to be the executive assistant of the Deputy Minister of Justice. I can tell you I thought I would never leave domestic litigation, but ended up doing that, and all of a sudden I realized that there were so many interesting things I could learn--and I really did learn some amazing things. It's funny what you learn along the way that comes back later. One of the things in that job that was very interesting was learning how to answer press questions and things like that. I thought that would never be relevant again, but it turns out that it is!

So I learned all these things, and at the end of that, when I started wanting to go back to law, the Deputy Minister at the time said, "There's something called the Trade Law Bureau of Canada. I used to be there and you'd love it, it's fantastic!" And I thought, "Well, I don't know anything about trade law, but I'm willing to try it."

That led me to a very wonderful adventure, a place called JLT, the Trade Law Bureau of Canada. For ten years, we did Canada's legal work in both the WTO--when I first got there, it was almost all WTO--and something called NAFTA Chapter 11. Because I had a domestic litigation background, about two weeks after I walked in to JLT someone came running into my office and said, "There's this new thing called Chapter 11, do you want to do it?" I said, "Well, I don't know much about it...." And he replied, "It's okay, none of the WTO litigators want it because there are live witnesses, so take it! …

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