Interview with Assistant Professor Tommaso Soave

April 30, 2020

The Department of Legal Studies would like to introduce our newest Faculty member Assistant Professor Tommaso Soave. In the interview conducted by our CCL LLM student Ahmed Elbasuoney as part of an upcoming interview series, Professor Soave discusses his experience joining the Department in the beginning of March, his professional background, experience with online teaching and his hobbies. 

Professor, let’s start by a short introduction about your academic and professional background.

Before joining the Department as an Assistant Professor in March 2020, I spent almost ten years researching and practicing international law in Geneva. I was a lecturer and researcher at the Graduate Institute, where I got my PhD in 2018. On the practice side, I served as a legal officer at the WTO, where I helped the dispute settlement bodies resolve disputes between trading nations. Previously, I worked as an associate attorney with a US law firm based in Geneva.

At CEU, what courses are you teaching and how do you find both experience of being in the field as a practitioner and being a professor? 

Right now, I am teaching one course about ‘The Law and Practice of the WTO’ and another about ‘Law and Technology’. Next year, I will also teach topics like ‘International Economic Law’ and ‘Business and Human Rights’ – and am quite excited about it. The shift from practice to academia is liberating! Being a legal practitioner can be very interesting, but sometimes feels a little un-reflexive, a bit blind to creative thinking. Of course, scholarly life also has its pitfalls: becoming self-referential, losing touch with the realities it describes… Anyways, I knew that the day would come when I would devote myself 100% to research and teaching. The CEU offered me a great opportunity to do just that. 

Does it live to your expectations now with the online teaching methods? 

So far, my experience with online teaching has been surprisingly good! Students have been super responsive and most of them are doing really well. The online setting provides a good opportunity to learn new tools and to rethink the traditional modes of knowledge transmission. Some of the changes we are witnessing could extend beyond the Covid-19 crisis. For example, I have been discussing with colleagues at other universities the possibility to organize online conferences. This would reduce the environmental impact, the visa requirements, and the costly travel arrangements that are typically associated with international academic events.  

What are your general scholarly interests and what are you working on now?

My research focuses on the social and professional interactions that make up the legal profession. When we talk about law, we tend to limit our focus to substantive norms, principles, and jurisprudence. However, legal discourse always reflects the predispositions, the categories of thought, and the professional strategies of those involved in the field. Take the ICJ as an example. There, of course, you have illustrious judges interpreting and applying international law. But you also have a whole bunch of other people that do not attract the same publicity: the Court’s bureaucracy, the judges’ assistants, the parties’ counsel, etc. One cannot fully understand the ICJ’s decisions without considering the role of all these actors. I am currently writing a book on the topic based on my PhD dissertation, while working on a related research project with the Graduate Institute. 

Aside from being a lawyer and a professor, you also have a musical talent, correct? How do you manage being that multidimensional?

“Talent” is an overstatement! But yes, I have been playing keyboards and piano with several bands. From 2013 to 2019, I was part of The Green Flamingos, and together we published a couple of albums. Now that I am in Vienna, I will have to find a new music project. For the time being, I am spending some time writing my own songs. Pursuing multiple passions and interests has always been part of who I am. Some people are very driven and single-minded in their careers. I am more chaotic, I guess – but very happy nonetheless!