With Arizona Law as the Hub, TradeLab International Clinic Network Celebrates Ten Years

Oct. 12, 2023
TradeLab 10th Anniversary

This fall, the international trade law clinic network known as TradeLab is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Under the leadership of Sergio Puig, Evo DeConcini professor of law and director of the International Trade and Business Law Program at University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, TradeLab has grown from a single clinic to sixteen interconnected clinics that help non-governmental organizations, governments and businesses solve trade-related challenges and promote sustainable trade worldwide. Since its founding in 2013, TradeLab has trained more than 900 students and produced over 300 unique projects.

“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished,” said Puig. “The main goal of TradeLab was to make legal education of international law more accessible, diverse, experiential and interdisciplinary. The number of active clinics, all over the world, working in incredibly exciting and complex projects, speaks volumes.”

What sets TradeLab apart from many clinical programs is its focus on assisting organizations and international law to promote equitable trade practices. For example, University of Arizona Law students work with Arizona-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, which represents US produce importers. One recent project explored how U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s policies can more effectively target illegal activity while at the same time facilitating trade.

TradeLab clinic students and supervisors around the world frequently team up. University of Arizona Law regularly works with Georgetown University Law Center and the Geneva Graduate Institute. Clinic students also benefit from mentors and advisors with significant international trade experience, like ambassadors, former governmental officials, NGO executives and attorneys from large international firms.

“The students can work with lawyers and professionals in different countries and get a broad perspective of international law from places where we’re not usually looking--the global south as well as the global north,” said University of Arizona Law Teaching Fellow Lauren Robbins (LLM ’19), who played a major role in organizing the tenth anniversary celebration sponsored by the College of Law. From 2019 to 2022, she was also the TradeLab coordinator, overseeing the work of all TradeLab clinics globally.

According to Robbins, University of Arizona Law is a natural fit to be in the center of the TradeLab network because of its strength in international trade and business law.

“The University of Arizona has been incredibly supportive of allowing me to develop and grow this idea for the last 10 years,” said Puig. “The College of Law understands the value of leadership necessary to create public goods and the role of world class institutions in innovating to make law, including international law, a more powerful tool to resolve today’s challenges.”

In September, Robbins participated in Empowering Youth for Sustainable Trade Solutions, the organization’s tenth anniversary event held in September in Geneva, Switzerland, in conjunction with the World Trade Organization’s annual Public Forum. The event, which Arizona Law helped to organize, brought together TradeLab clinic students, professors, beneficiaries and supporters from around the world.

Interviewed for this article not long after returning from the anniversary event, Robbins expressed her optimism about the future. She noted the importance of clinical education and developing law school clinics outside the United States. She stated, “I really think the focus is going to be on improving these clinical programs, fostering more communication between clinic students, and making more connections and building a really strong global network that will enrich everyone involved.”