Ayat Mujais currently works as a Law Clerk at Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for International Claims and Investment Disputes and as a Senior Research Associate at Public International Law & Policy Group in Washington D.C.. Ayat graduated in 2014 from the University of Iowa with a degree in Ethics and Public Policy. Shortly after, she joined the Woman’s Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the American Society of International Law. She is now working on her Doctor of Law in International Law and her Masters of Arts in International Affairs, both from American University in Washington D.C.
What does a typical work day look like?
A typical work day varies depending on the project that I am assigned, but in general involves a great deal of researching and writing legal memoranda for our ongoing cases. At the moment, I am working on a memorandum for a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. As a law clerk, I do a very large amount of researching and case analysis. I also often have meetings with attorneys to discuss issues about a case and how we are going to move forward preparing for it.
How did you choose this career field?
I knew from freshman year at Iowa that I wanted to go to law school and work in the legal field, so I shaped my time at Iowa around that. Once I started law school I was fascinated with the field of international law, so the State Department was an ideal choice for employment during my time at law school since almost all of their work encompasses international law in some form. I was very lucky to get this position as it is fairly competitive, and I’m hoping to continue down this route in the future.
What advice do you have for current students?
Figure out what you want to do career wise and do as much as possible to enhance your skills in that area. I think that your time at Iowa will really shape where you go after graduation, not only in terms of the classes you take but in the skills you gain and knowledge you learn in and out of the classroom. I would suggest getting involved in the many wonderful organizations at Iowa – they give you skills that will be helpful throughout your career and life, and you meet a lot of wonderful people who can support you.
What advice do you have for current job-seekers?
I would suggest sitting down to figure out what you want and how to translate that to the people you are looking to work for. I think the reality is you often have to apply to numerous places, maybe the same place multiple times, and being able to set yourself apart in your cover letter or interview is crucial. Doing your research on the position and having experience or knowledge to back you up, even if it isn’t directly related, is incredibly helpful to landing a job or internship. Further, having internships in the career field you are applying for is incredibly helpful to support not only that you are able to do the job, but have a true interest in it. Don’t give up! There is something for you out there, it just takes time and that’s ok.
How did location factor in to choosing your job?
My hopes for my career were the deciding factor for where I would end up. DC is commonly called a “city of lawyers” and I think that’s very true. There are endless opportunities, particularly for international law or government work, and you can really do anything here. Ending up at the State Department is my end goal, so being in DC was inevitable. I think depending on what you are doing, you have to go where the jobs are and where the type of people you want to be around are. So if it’s a certain type of law or a certain company you want to work for, getting yourself to its location is the first step!
What networking tips do you have?
Don’t be afraid to ask someone to meet with you. I’ve learned that people are more than happy to help young professionals or students and to give them advice. All of the networking tips I’ve been told are to just put yourself out there, send an email or make a phone call, and just ask for 15 minutes over coffee to ask questions about a person’s career or to get career advice. Once you make that connection, make sure you are prepared with questions or topics you want to cover, and then you’re set! Lastly, once you’ve made a connection, keep it up. Sending an occasional email with an article you think they might enjoy or something you saw related to what you discussed with them is a great way to keep a connection that might one day turn into another connection that could lead to a job.