Here is the new staff profile they are working on at the law school for me. I need to get an updated photo.
With experience in teaching and practice on four continents, A/Professor Anton brings a transnational perspective to the law
As a globally recognised expert in international law, Professor Anton has no doubt that “a cosmopolitan legal education is vital for practitioners in today’s interconnected world where legal relations and transactions regularly transcend borders”. The ANU is the “best place for students who want access to Australia’s leading international law teachers and exposure to one of the most innovative international law programs around”. International law in all its forms has been at the ANU since the beginning and continues to expand in depth. “We have developed a progressive, contemporary suite of courses on international law, both public and private. Students are helping to grow opportunities too, with their recent initiative in setting up a very active ANU International Law Society”, a group that Don helped shepherd and continues to serve as a faculty adviser.
Professor Anton’s global legal perspective is rich and deep. He studied law in the US and he has taught law as a Visiting Professor in North America (Michigan/Alabama), Europe (UNITAR), and Asia (Yangon). In Australia, in addition to The ANU, Anton has been a regular member of staff at the University of Melbourne and has taught as a visitor at the Universities of Sydney and Adelaide. “Over the years, I’ve taught over 25 different international, transnational and comparative law courses around the world. I get delight in exposing students to the complexities of law beyond the domestic horizon. One of the most rewarding rewarding features of academic life is spending time with students, pushing them to grapple with timeless questions and the pressing issues of the day.”
Making a difference through law
Don combines his teaching with an active pro bono international legal practice focused on the international environment, human rights, and law of the sea. “I am a meliorist at heart and see law as a tool that, in practice, can be used to make things better. I have been privileged to appear as legal counsel on behalf of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature at the bar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and to make written and oral submissions that have assisted in the progressive development of the law concerning our common heritage in the ocean”. Don has also appeared as amicus curiae in a number of courts around the world, including the US Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, arguing on behalf of the human rights of indigenous peoples in Nigeria, Ecuador, and Dominica.
Don has brought these international litigation experiences to the classroom in a variety of ways, always trying “to show how law can privilege and disadvantage and the need to question received ‘truths’”. He has involved law students as researchers in these cases. He has used the cases as teachable examples in his courses. He also has created an innovative course on international advocacy and procedure that immerses students in experiential learning through development of written submissions and mooting of the merits of various hypothetical cases. “It is important that we enculture students in the profession at law school. Part of this includes strategic and ethical lessons about crafting compelling arguments, written and oral, to persuade decision-makers on behalf of those we represent”.
Contributing through research
Don’s research is also informed by his view of law as an instrument of reform. “It is often difficult to tell how much influence research has, but my aim is almost always to uncover new ideas or ways of thinking that will drive environmental or social improvements”. In looking for a way forward, for instance, on the intractable dispute about Whaling, for instance, Don wrote an influential trilogy of articles that he was invited to present as the Berger International Lecturer at Cornell Law School in 2008. Similarly, his path-breaking research on the connections between human rights and the environment is to be explored at a special symposium held at the University of Santa Clara Law School in 2014.
At present, Don is leading an international research team that will be testing underlying assumptions about mining the seafloor and developing environmentally sensitive regulatory frameworks and the domestic and international levels in anticipation of such mining. The importance of the research is reflected in the fact that AusAID is providing funding in the amount of nearly one million dollars. “I am very excited about my latest project on deep seabed mining. It is designed to test assumptions about the potential benefits for human welfare tied to deep seabed mining in the Asia Pacific and establish regulatory protection against associated environmental dangers”.
Reinventing yourself through law
“I always tell my students that the best part of being a lawyer is the ability to reinvent yourself. Once you learn to engage with problems critically like a lawyer and know how to use the tools of the profession, it is possible to change your area of specialisation several times over the course of your career to suit your needs or desire. This is something that is especially important if you are uncertain about your path at the outset or you change your mind later”. Don, himself, has moved his career in several different directions. “After high school, I started out as a firefighter in St. Louis and did not envision that I would ever be a lawyer or teach law in Australia. Once on the legal path, I thought I would be a tax lawyer, but I have continually explored new areas and developed new expertise”. Indeed, Don lives by his own advice and has learned by doing. He learned international law not in the classroom, but by ‘apprenticing’ at Columbia University Law School as a Research Associate with Lou Henkin and Oscar Schachter, two of the great international lawyers of the 20th Century. Don tells his students to “think big and follow your passion, even it that changes over time. A law degree can unlock as many doors as you care to try”.