Inaugural O'Connor Fellows join law school
Urska Velikonja graduated magna cum laude in June 2009 from Harvard, where she served as senior editor of the Harvard Environmental Law Review, and article editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology. In addition, Velikonja was a teaching fellow for the Harvard Economics Department. She currently is a post-graduate research fellow at Harvard Law.
Velikonja was born and raised in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia), and was the 2002 class valedictorian at the University of Ljubljana, School of Law.
"It was very different from law school in America," she said. "Here, you see students coming to class prepared and ready to participate, and they are older and have something to contribute. They have interesting perspectives and world views. In Slovenia, showing up for class and participating is generally not mandatory in some classes. There is no clinical experience, and you have to work for two years before you sit for the bar exam."
Velikonja clerked and practiced law at an international firm in Ljubljana, before coming to the United States to earn her J.D. at Harvard. While there, she took a Legal Research and Writing Course from Carissa Byrne Hessick, a College of Law professor who was then a Climenko Fellow at Harvard.
"I always wanted to teach, but the problem in Slovenia is that it's hard to get into a seniority system," Velikonja said. "It might take 20 years to be called 'professor' there, and you have to apprentice with a particular professor until they retire."
Velikonja has authored or co-authored more than a dozen articles about topics such as alternative dispute resolution, corporate governance, and freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
She is working on a bankruptcy law textbook with Mark J. Roe, the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard, and will teach a corporate law seminar at the College of Law this spring. Next year, she will clerk for Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The other O'Connor Fellow is Brian Sawers, a 2004 Harvard Law graduate who also is a post-graduate research fellow there. He also taught for the Harvard Economics Department.
Sawers was raised in Washington, D.C., the son of economics professors at American University and Gettysburg College, and he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from Duke University, where he also was an instructor in the University Writing Program.
During law school, Sawers was a summer associate at law firms in Bangkok, London and New York City, and after graduation, he was employed as a foreign lawyer for an international firm in Ljubljana. Before deciding on the law as a career, however, he worked as a National Park Service park ranger and a wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management.
Sawers is the author of articles about the allotment of Indian land, and the economics of legal headhunting. He recently finished an article about privatization in Russia, and is researching an article on access and control of wild lands.
"I'm hoping to have time to research within a more structured environment where there are opportunities to get feedback, to bounce ideas off people and to go on the academic market," Sawers said. "Very few people are able to put together a research agenda and publish the right sort of papers without doing a fellowship."
He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to teach a property class this spring, partly because it dovetails with his job talk.
"Is the right to exclude others from unimproved land a fundamental right?" Sawers asked. "Or does the public have the right to roam wild areas?"
Janie Magruder, Jane.Magruder@asu.edu
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law