Ovidiu Răzvan Nistor is currently the Director for delegations in ELSA international, formerly being the Vice-president of the STEP department in ELSA Cluj-Napoca and, afterwards, the President of ELSA Romania. He studies Law, being in his 4th year at the moment. In 2010 he participated in the European Private Law Summer School in Salzburg and, in 2012, in the Banking & Finance Law Summer School. He is also an intern at a law firm in Cluj-Napoca and plans to become a lawyer after graduation.
Lawyr.it: What is your current role, as a member of ELSA International?
O.R.N.: I am currently the Director for delegations in ELSA international and I have to deal with the delegations that ELSA sends to different European and International organizations or institutions, such as the United Nations (UNECOSOC, UNCITRAL, UNESCO, and the UN Human Rights Bodies), WIPO, INTA, the European Court of Justice and the Council of Europe. ELSA International is a partner of all these and has an observatory or consultative status, our members being allowed to attend their sessions. Each institution has a limited number of sessions per year.
My role is to search for these sessions and promote them, check the applications, select the delegates and register them at the institutions. Afterwards I collect the report written by the participants, check it and publish it on the ELSA International website. In order to get a certificate of participation to the delegation, the delegates have to write a report on the topic of the session they attended.
Lawyr.it: How do you select the participants? What are the characteristics you look at?
O.R.N.: Firstly, they have to fill in an online application form and write a motivational letter. We take into account their ELSA activity and experience, since at the sessions they represent ELSA International, not themselves or their local groups. They need to have a good ELSA knowledge, as the main focus at the session is to actively participate and network in order to find new partners and make contacts. Secondly, we look at their academic background - they need to have relevant experience and studies regarding the topic of the session in order to be able to lead a fruitful and relevant conversation with the other delegates and diplomats involved in the sessions. Last but not least, they need to show interest in the topic of the session, which is why the motivational letter is also an important criterion of selection or rejection.
Lawyr.it: ELSA is the biggest law students association in Europe. How does it function? What is the decision-making process inside the association?
O.R.N.: The legislative body of ELSA is the Council, which functions at three levels: local, national and international. The local councils comprise of all the ELSA members, while in the National Council the representatives are all the local groups. Every important decision has to be taken inside the Council.
In order to get the motion passed you have to present it, debate upon it and receive a majority of votes. At a local level, each member has a vote; at a national level, each local group has a vote, so you need to have a vote at a local level in order to determine the vote of the group in the national Council.
Every project has an organising committee which makes the small decisions unilaterally. Also, in each department the decisions are made by the members.
Lawyr.it: What is the organisational structure of ELSA?
O.R.N.: There are five areas of activity in ELSA - five departments - each lead by a vice-president: Academic Activities, Seminars and Conferences, STEP (Student trainee exchange programme - traineeships abroad for all ELSA members), Marketing and Human Resources.
Lawyr.it: What do you believe is the outsiders’ perception of ELSA?
O.R.N.: I know for a fact that some people have a shadow of doubt when it comes to ELSA, but usually that is before getting in touch with us or before attending an event. I too heard that in ELSA you only go to parties and nothing academic or useful is going on. It was a challenge for me and a pleasant surprise as well to see that a lot of things are getting done and the parties are only a reward.
Lawyr.it: What do you think could be done about this perception?
O.R.N.: The Marketing department has a very big responsibility in dealing with the outside image of ELSA. The image is improved by having partners, appearing in the media, helping all law students, not just the members, and actually having well-organised projects and events that students need.
Lawyr.it: What is your opinion regarding ELSA Romania, compared to other international branches?
O.R.N.: They are quite different and also very much the same, just like the EU - united in diversity. Each group has its own songs and theme. However, when we get together, we all have the same ELSA spirit, vibe, that ‘je ne sais quoi’ about us.
Lawyr.it: What is the standing of ELSA Romania?
O.R.N.: I had the chance to attend two International Council Meetings last year as the President of ELSA Romania and I felt we did a really good job in marketing ELSA Romania, a lot of the other national presidents asked me for advice. During the discussions and workshops I realised that ELSA Romania is in the top ten national groups or even higher. Not only are the individuals very motivated, but it organises many international events, including international summer schools, managing to attract international lawyers and practitioners.
Lawyr.it: Recently, there was an important Moot Court Competition that took place in Cluj-Napoca. Could you tell us more about it?
O.R.N.: Yes, the EMC2 (ELSA Moot Court Competition) is the biggest MCC on WTO law, having participants from all over the world. We had panellists that were world renowned lawyers, such as Mr. Gary Horlick - who is, I quote, the ‘the highest-ranked international trade lawyer in the world’ - people working for the WTO and also lawyers from various firms in Brussels.
Lawyr.it: To what extent do you believe that being a part of ELSA can impact the future of a law student aiming for a legal profession? Can you offer us some examples?
O.R.N.: It can help you gain skills and build confidence. You get to know who you are. I have always seen ELSA as the final practice before getting out there among the sharks. It is your last chance to make mistakes, your last chance to get to know people, how to work with them and what to look for when you want to hire someone or choose your partners.
Lawyr.it: So far, we have talked about ELSA and the way it functions. Let us now talk about you. What determined you to join the association?
O.R.N.: I saw it as a challenge for me. I had heard about it before going to Law school and I was really impressed with their activity. I realised that being a law student meant more than just studying and I wanted to do something that would make me stand out among my classmates - everybody goes to law school, takes the same exams and gains the same knowledge - you have to do something more in order to be better than them.
Lawyr.it: What was your progress in ELSA? What were the things that determined you to seek constant promotion in the association?
O.R.N.: First of all it was the competition - I always felt I was in a very competitive field inside the association. I realised that I can get a social status by having a position in ELSA. What kept me going was this addiction to getting things done, which is a feeling I only got from ELSA so far. I started at the bottom, being just a member, and I managed to be the coordinator for some of the most important projects in my department – STEP Cluj-Napoca. Then I ran for Vice president of STEP in ELSA Cluj-Napoca and I switched from organising and getting things done to leading people and making sure they organise the events properly.
Lawyr.it: What were the changes that you brought to the association?
O.R.N.: What I believe I brought to the association - mainly during my activity in the board - is that I managed to make people trust our projects and believe that we are doing a great thing, which is also appreciated abroad. I had the chance to meet hundreds of ELSA members at international events and realised that we are one of the best national groups in the network. When I brought this message back everyone was really excited and started working even harder in order to organise more international events.
I like to believe I inspired them to think everything is possible - fundraising-wise and project-wise. We finally managed to get some of the local groups going and raise money for the projects.
Lawyr.it: If you could, what else would you like to change?
O.R.N.: I would like to make the members realise that everything is possible, even organising projects with over 400 or 500 participants, as it has been done before. They should realise that in order to get more funds they have to offer their partners something concrete and tangible, an actual benefit and not just ask for money without a thorough plan or project in mind.
Lawyr.it: Finally, please offer us three arguments that you believe could convince someone completely oblivious about ELSA to join the association.
O.R.N.: If I was trying to convince you to join ELSA, I would tell you it can help you improve personally, gain confidence and social skills, and gain academic experience by attending the events.
Also, it can help you on a social level, as it offers you the chance to meet new people, work and have fun with them.
Lastly, you can improve your future prospects, by having the opportunity of meeting future employers and clients.
This interview was originally published in the second issue of the magazine, which can be accessed here.