María Emilia Mamberti ’17 LL.M.
2016–2017 Human Rights Fellow
Many people struggle to find what they’re interested in. For María Emilia Mamberti ’17 LL.M., that was the easy part. Her “aha” moment came when she enrolled in an environmental law clinic while attending law school at the National University of La Plata in Argentina. By learning about class action environmental lawsuits and their broad impact, she “realized the huge potential of public interest law, and felt the responsibility to use my law degree for social change.”
Then came the difficult part: figuring out how to get there. “In Argentina, we were relatively unfamiliar with the concept of public interest law,” Mamberti says. “When you leave law school, it’s not clear that you can make that your career path.”
Instead, she started work as an in-house lawyer at a designer sports clothing brand. “It was not what I wanted to do with my degree,” Mamberti recalls. “It was just a job.” Long interested in constitutional law—“many of Argentina’s problems arise from the wrong interpretation of separation of powers”— she decided to pursue a master’s degree in the global rule of law and constitutional democracy at the University of Genoa in Italy. There Mamberti met lawyers involved with Argentinian NGOs. “I asked them many questions on how that world worked, and realized that was something I really could do,” she says.
Armed with their advice—and contacts—Mamberti landed a job at the Civil Association for Equality and Justice in Buenos Aires (known as ACIJ). Simultaneously, she studied administrative law at the University of Buenos Aires. “Argentina has a robust constitutional representation of rights, but the problem is knowing how to implement those rights,” she says. “Administrative law gives you a more practical, real-world perspective.”
Mamberti now attends Columbia Law School on a Fulbright Scholarship and a Philanthropic Educational Organization Scholarship, established to support the professional advancement of women. As a member of the Human Rights Institute’s student advisory committee, she is also helping to expand the human rights community at the Law School.
After receiving her LL.M., Mamberti hopes to enhance existing public interest clinics in her hometown of La Plata with the theoretical foundations she is learning at Columbia. "Clinics are the most appropriate space to engage young lawyers in lawyering for change. This is only a developing field in my hometown," she says. "I have a strong commitment to advance that goal in part because social change is needed in Argentina."