Katherine Broderick

Katherine Broderick struggles to find an answer when asked about the most memorable experience from her recent travels.

Sunrise at the Taj Mahal was pretty spectacular, she recalls, but so was hiking the Great Wall. Throw in an inspiring 2016 meeting with the activists who organized China’s first permitted gay pride event, and it gets too close to call.

“It was fascinating to hear from the people at the forefront of China’s nascent gay rights movement,” she said.

Broderick has been dean of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law for 18 years, but her latest side gig is shepherding groups of lawyers around the globe to see the sights and learn about foreign legal systems directly from the attorneys who practice abroad.

She began in 2015 with a trip to China for UDC alumni and friends of the law school, and last year traveled with 10 lawyers to India. This fall, she’s taking a lawyer delegation to Myanmar—the former hermit nation in the midst of a democratic transformation.

“Myanmar is in a pivotal moment in its history, as it’s grappling with democratic issues and working through human rights concerns with disadvantaged populations within the country,” Broderick said of its appeal as a destination for lawyer travelers. “And yet they’ve made some progress from being a military-run country. It’s a unique moment in time.”

Broderick expects to bring a larger group to Myanmar, given its bucket-list status and the fact that some people may feel intimidated to travel there solo.

The eight-day itinerary begins and ends with law-focused events in the Yangon, including a visit with faculty at Yangon University’s law school, a trip to the high Court of Yangon, and a meeting with bar association representatives. In between, the delegation will visit Buddhist monasteries, ancient temples, floating gardens, take a sunset river cruise, and hit other must-see tourist sites.

The appeal of her trips, Broderick said, is the unique mix of legal and cultural education.

Jose Campos, a 2012 alumni of UDC Law who runs his own immigration firm in Maryland, said he returned from Broderick’s 2016 India trip with a greater appreciation for that country’s similarities and differences with the United States. Both countries struggle with integration, but those differences are framed through race in the United States and caste in India, he noted.

And having a trip planned for him offered a great incentive to make his first major overseas foray.

“I’m intellectually curious,” Campos said. “I could have gone to India and seen the normal things, but since I’m a lawyer, it was interesting to make connections with lawyers there. I connected with two law firms. Who knows if I’ll ever need them, but maybe down the road—I’m an immigration attorney—I’ll need some help from India.”

Meeting with students at a publicly funded law school in Jaipur was the highlight of the India trip for Wayne Turner, a 2008 UDC law graduate who previously worked as an HIV/AIDS activist and is now an attorney with the National Health Law Program. The school held a panel discussion focused on the backgrounds of the American guests.

“I got to talk about LGBT rights and the HIV advocacy and protest movement in the U.S., and how it was influenced by Gandhi,” Turner said. “I wasn’t really sure what kind of a response I would get. But the students were fabulous. They were so energized, excited and eager to talk about global movements for things like reproductive health, reproductive justice and HIV.”

Broderick got her first taste of legal travel a dozen years ago, as a member of a lawyer delegation visiting South Africa.

“It was the trip of a lifetime,” she said. “We met with judges, and lawyers, and lawyers against Apartheid. We spent a day at the law school that Nelson Mandela attended by correspondence. I loved it. I learned a lot.”

The group also visited wineries and Robben Island in Cape Town, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. “You got both the legal and cultural point,” she said.

So she was thrilled when the tour company that organized the South Africa trip approached her three years ago to host her own legal expedition.

Worldwide Adventures plans the details and logistics of the trips, but Broderick lays out the overall priorities, with an emphasis on rule of law, legal education and social justice—an area UDC Law is known for.

“We’re not interested in going to big law firms to hear about big business,” she said. “We’re interested in social justice and legal education. How are laws made? What is the legislature like? What are courts like? Is there an equivalent of the ABA?”

Still, when a UDC Law alumni working for a pharmaceutical company in Shanghai invited Broderick’s delegation for a visit, she took him up on the offer. A fascinating discussion of China’s changing business climate ensued, as the alum explained that bribery was the longstanding method of getting drugs onto the Chinese market. But a recent government crackdown on corruption had upended the status quo. The former head of the agency tasked with approving new drugs has been tried, convicted and executed for approving thousands of drugs in exchange for bribes.

“They were grappling with, ‘How do you get business done when you have a completely different system?’” Broderick said. “It was really interesting.”