Haub Alumni of the Month: Hiroko Muraki Gottlieb '99

From student to alumni to attorney to professor

Hiroko Muraki Gottlieb is a 1999 Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University alumna who graduated with a certificate in environmental law. Hiroko teaches the Law of Oceans & Coasts seminar and advises on guided research at Haub Law as an adjunct professor.

A Q&A with Hiroko Muraki Gottlieb

You are an adjunct professor at Haub Law teaching Law of Oceans & Coasts seminar – how did that come about?

I was invited to teach the seminar, which was supposed to be taught by two faculty from Norway. They had to cancel at the last minute due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic. The seminar was originally scheduled to accommodate the visiting professors’ availability, so 26 hours of complex course materials were condensed into one week! It was quite intense, but I really enjoyed designing and teaching the seminar.

What was the best part about teaching the seminar?

I loved engaging with my students, learning from their questions and their thoughts. I invited colleagues whom I really respect and admire - including leading scientists, scholars and distinguished diplomats - to participate in the seminar as guest lecturers. I felt that it was important for lawyers, especially those just starting their legal careers, to hear from professionals whose job is to facilitate better ocean governance. The knowledge gained by my students from engaging with those who are involved in cutting edge science or who are part of the policy and law-making process was invaluable.

What do you look forward to most in terms of teaching the course again in Spring 2021?

I look forward to introducing the students to the fascinating and vitally important role of the ocean in our lives. Whether physiologically or economically, our lives and livelihoods are intricately dependent on the ocean. It is an excellent subject matter to study as to how and to what extent diplomacy at various levels--global, regional, national and local--work, including its potentials and limitations. Effective diplomacy is difficult to achieve because of the balancing act between States’ interests and common interests at the global level. It takes knowledge of the law and negotiation skills to resolve dauntingly complex challenges. That is why it is important that the next generation of lawyers understand the vital role they can play, indeed must play, in our collective efforts to conserve and sustainably use the largest ecosystem of this planet. To that end, I designed my seminar to give a practitioner’s perspective based on my work in the international fora.

Can you speak about your experience as a law student at Haub Law?

I certainly took advantage of everything "environmental" that Haub Law offered. I was an Associate of the Environmental Law Review and received the Environmental Law certificate. Because of my interest in international law (my bachelor's degree was in International Relations), I loved the comparative environmental law course taught by Professor Nicholas Robinson. My favorite experience was the Environmental Litigation Clinic because not only did I enjoy learning from Professor Coplan and Professor Kennedy, but I enjoyed working with colleagues who felt passionate about environmental law and the clients we served.

I was also fortunate to have challenging summer internships, which enriched my education. After 1L, I worked at General Electric’s Corporate Environmental Program, focusing on matters that had potential implications on their businesses located in Asia. After 2L, I was a summer associate at Robinson & Cole, where I had the opportunity to work on really interesting environmental law matters. All of these experiences allowed me to easily translate what I learned as a student into my legal practice.

Do you keep in touch with any of your former professors from your time at Pace?

Professor Robinson has been my mentor from the time I was a student at Haub Law. We continue to collaborate on various projects. It is hard to believe that we have known each other for over two decades! Professor Powers kindly joined in one of my seminar classes as a guest lecturer. I was her student, so it was nice to be at the podium together, albeit virtually.

What advice do you have for current and/or future law students?

We are in unprecedented and tumultuous times. When I speak to students one on one, the topics we cover are not just about the seminar but also, how they are coping with the pandemic and racial injustice. It has been helpful to be in the same space with them, to listen to their concerns, fears, and hopes for the future, which often mirror mine. It is important to know that the pandemic will pass and we have the power, especially as those who are the keepers of the US legal system, to change how the law is drafted, implemented and enforced.

As for graduating students whose plans were disrupted due to the pandemic, my advice is to fill any gaps with pro bono work. There are a lot of organizations that need volunteers and the work will not only boost one's CV, but also, the act of helping and meeting like-minded people will give a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I have and continue to engage in significant amount of pro bono work so I can attest to the great benefits of giving.

Can you briefly describe your career path post Pace?

I am the Representative for the Ocean, International Council of Environmental Law, and an Associate of Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. I am also the Senior Ocean Governance Advisor, Global Marine Polar Programme, IUCN, a Fellow at the Global Center of Environmental Legal Studies at Haub Law and a member of IUCN's World Commission on Environmental Law. In my capacity as the Representative for the Ocean, I lead the ICEL delegation at the United Nations intergovernmental conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

My previous positions include, Charge d’affaires/Senior Counsellor of the Permanent Observer Mission of International Chamber of Commerce to the United Nations; counsel, IBM’s Corporate Environmental Affairs; and associate at Robinson and Cole.

What do you hope to share and convey in your frequent lectures and panel presentations and through your published works?

My work is interdisciplinary, geared towards a wide range of stakeholders. I try to be what my colleague calls "an honest broker", to bridge the language/knowledge gaps among those who practice different disciplines. For example, there can be a vast difference in how scientists and diplomats communicate, but it is crucial that they can understand each other to achieve a collective goal. I try to convey knowledge in a way that can be used to foster dialogue, which could be the first step in finding solutions to complex problems. Perhaps being bilingual and bicultural help because I have to navigate two vastly different languages and cultures in my personal life. It is certainly a skill one has to acquire.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My husband and I have a 14 year old daughter and we love to travel as a family. One of the things I enjoy about working at the UN is learning about different cultures through what the diplomats tell me about their country, which inevitably makes us want to go gain first-hand experience.

Also, music plays an important role in my life (I play the piano and the flute), perhaps because it is a universal "language" with each musician giving our unique interpretation of a particular piece. I love to play with other musicians--I think it is a more beautiful way to communicate than in words.