News & Insights
Programming Reflects Law Practice in Global City
First Published by The Houston Lawyer Magazine
March 19, 2021
As the 2020-2021 Chair of the Houston Bar Association International Law Section (“ILS”), I am proud of our efforts this term to highlight Houston’s growth as a global city. While often overshadowed by other cities like New York and Los Angeles on the international stage, Houston is a global city in its own right. Some accolades on Houston’s resume are well known: fourth-largest (soon to be third-largest) city in America, energy capital of the world, and site of NASA Johnson Space Center. But Houston offers much more to the global economy. It is home to the largest concentration of healthcare and medical research institutions in the world. The Port of Houston is the number one port in the United States in terms of total waterborne tonnage and foreign waterborne tonnage, while the Houston Ship Channel is the busiest waterway in the nation. Houston is also the most ethnically and racially diverse city in America, with nearly one in four Houstonians being foreign born.
With a mission to promote education and advocacy of international law, the ILS is uniquely positioned to examine Houston’s varied contributions to the global economy. As a result, we have intentionally diversified our programming this term to explore topics like international trade, immigration, international human rights, and cross-border enforcement of intellectual property. In doing so, we have featured Houston-based lawyers, scholars, policymakers, and businesspersons who are leading Houston’s transformation. For example, we recently hosted an event titled “Houston as a Global City: Challenges and Opportunities for International Trade” with Christopher Olson, who is the Director of Trade and International Affairs for the City of Houston, in which we discussed a wide range of issues from the U.S.-China trade wars to the USMCA. The Section also held an event titled “The Rise of AI in International Arbitration” with Alan Crain, the former Chief Legal and Governance Officer of Baker Hughes and Chairman of the Board of a “legal tech” startup, to explore current applications of artificial intelligence in international dispute resolution and the future of the practice of law in a world driven by AI.
We are also looking forward to our forthcoming events, which include: a survey of key issues in international law impacted by the incoming Biden Administration with Harold Koh, the former Chief Legal Adviser to the U.S. State Department and former Dean of Yale Law School; a roundtable on doing business in Mexico; a panel on antitrust investigations in international jurisdictions; and much more.
In addition to expanding the thematic content of our programming, the ILS prioritized diversifying its own leadership to reflect the cosmopolitan makeup of Houston itself. Thus, the 2020-2021 Executive Council has grown to 14 members, who bring diverse and essential representation to the Section along racial, ethnic, and gender lines. We will also continue our annual “Diversity and Inclusion in International Practice” event started last year, which featured an all-female panel discussing their experiences and challenges navigating a career in international law. And as a first-generation Armenian-American and son of immigrants from Iraq, I am especially honored to serve as Chair of the ILS.
Finally, as with most everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the ILS to adjust and think creatively to continue providing value to the Houston legal community during the pandemic. As a result, we broke the mold of our monthly luncheons to organize virtual panels, fireside chats, and tutorials to keep our membership engaged and reach a wider audience. Nevertheless, we look forward to seeing our members in person again, hopefully soon!