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Interview with Assistant Professor Mando Rachovista

Date:17 May 2021
Asst. Prof. Mando Rachovista
Asst. Prof. Mando Rachovista

Mando Rachovitsa is an Assistant Professor in International Law at the Faculty of Law, and teaches in the International and European Law LLB programme. We've asked her a few questions below to learn more about her academic profile and perspectives on the Technology Law track offered within the LLB programe.

What is your specific academic background, and what are your research interests Do you currently work on any specific research projects?

My background is in international law and international human rights law, and in recent years, I have started researching about the interplay between international law and digital rights. I’ve been working on papers about the freedom of expression online and I am also working on this project that we have, founded by the Dutch Council NWO in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, regarding cybersecurity standards. The project aims at making visible and understanding the role of standard-setting by formal and informal international bodies and how ICT standards come to be seen as a continuation of international law.

What courses do you teach within the Technology Law track in the LLB and/or the Faculty?

I am heavily involved in the LLB on international and european law. Starting from this year I am mostly involved in the tech law track of the LLB programme. I am teaching European and International Intellectual Property Law, Data Protection & Human Rights in the Digital world, Introduction to Technology Law and the Research Seminar International Law. I am contributing to the course Law & Legal Skills - IT for Lawyers as well. I am involved in the LLM programme Public International Law for the course Settlement of International Disputes. I also supervise LLB and LLM theses. 

What do you enjoy teaching about these specific courses?

I enjoy teaching students a lot. Most of them know from the time I teach in class that I believe that the process of teaching should be fun and I also like challenges. Now for the courses that I teach about technology law, it is fascinating in the sense that we are invited to think together, us as teachers and students alike, to think about how international law, European law, and technology law are interacting. It is interesting to see how these areas of law come together. 

How is this Technology Law track within the LLB programme unique compared to similar programmes elsewhere? 

The LLB programme at the University of Groningen is unique in its own way because you can study already from an undergraduate level international law and European law specifically. Now if you add this to the specialised track of Technology Law, which is quite rare on an undergraduate level, it is a fantastic opportunity to be able to switch between areas of law and bring on board the technology angle. What I like to think is that we have two hats: one for international law and one for European Law, the students are studying both and they can specialise in what they like. But with the Technology Law track we have a third hat that students can wear. 

What career prospects do you think there could be for students who pursue careers in your specific legal field of expertise?

Generally, for students who finish the LLB, it gives a big opportunity to specialise in international law or European Law, so this creates a niche for the students. At the same time, it keeps the career prospects open; you can either work in the public sector, the NGO sector, the private sector, and then also with international organisations and institutions. Doors are open to many options. For technology law, all the above apply as well but it also covers other market needs and social needs, or even raising awareness on digital problems, like data protection. A fascinating aspect is that, especially for technology law, countries have special ambassadors for technology issues. Having the technology law track opens, even more, the doors to the private sector because every single company, if they are processing data of their employees, i.e. having online services, they have to comply with data protection legislation so they need a data protection officer or they need a legal consultant aware of technology issues. The public sector across all countries is already asking lawyers with expertise in tech issues.

Has the Covid-19 situation or any other recent international events (ie. brexit) affected the way in which experts in your field practise/operate their professions?

Covid-19 changed a lot of things, it has put a strain on both professors and students. We realised that a lot of our teaching was based on us having to be in a classroom and having all of these social cues. In terms of lectures, most of us if not all of us, because of the extra effort we had to put in, now are designing the courses in a better way, using tools that we haven’t been using in the past. Students learned how to be more independent learners, although, in a very painful way, they had to learn how to study more efficiently and how to think more critically. Many things that we learned how to do digital, i.e. teaching, collaborating online, etc., many of these new ways will be here to stay. About Brexit, in terms of the university, we see more students from the UK and students that used to go to the UK come to us. 

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing your same field of legal expertise?

I have two general pieces of advice. My first tip is for people  thinking about taking less conventional choices and paths - do not hesitate, take them! Usually, it pays off, so if you are thinking of unconventional paths, go for it. Students are often afraid of making mistakes or they are afraid of what the next best step should be. This is only a thought, you should go for it, nothing bad will happen. The second piece of advice is that we should start thinking about the value of multi-disciplinarity when we study and research law. Building bridges with other disciplines is important. We are called to work on legal challenges that cannot be addressed only by law. People will be required to work in settings with colleagues with other backgrounds and we will asked to be able to converse with them, understand one another and co-produce outcomes. In the technology law track, Jeanne Bonnici, Jonida Milaj-Weishaar and I really try to put this in practice: Understanding technology is essential to drafting, interpreting and applying the law. Conversely, what is the role of law and regulation for technological innovation and society?

- Interview by: Cristiana Zamfir, International and European Law student
- Editor: Dr. Chris Brennan, Marketing Advisor, Faculty of Law