Living in Bolivia during the impov­er­ished nation’s “Cochabamba Water Wars” in 2000 inspired second-​​year law stu­dent Angela DeVries to study law in devel­oping coun­tries when she arrived at North­eastern more than eight years later.

A decade ago, cit­i­zens stormed the streets of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, protesting the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the country’s munic­ipal water supply. DeVries was inun­dated with cov­erage of the rebellion—a con­stant reminder that people who have nothing to lose would fight hard to defend basic rights.

Today, she wants to use the law to help the world’s devel­oping coun­tries build sus­tain­able infra­struc­ture, strengthen their judi­cial sys­tems and grow their economies. She chose Northeastern’s School of Law because it offered her the per­fect oppor­tu­nity to pursue her goals.

I could do co-​​op and create my own way of learning about law and devel­op­ment,” said DeVries, who grad­u­ated from the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto in 2006 with a degree in polit­ical science.

Last spring, she trav­eled to Vien­tiane, Laos, to work on co-​​op with a legal firm, Lao Law & Con­sul­tancy Group.

Prior to enrolling at North­eastern, DeVries had back­packed through Laos for five weeks. But working there was a whole dif­ferent story.

Laos’ legal system has existed for only a decade and the country has fewer than 100 lawyers and just 80 laws. There is nei­ther judi­cial prece­dent nor penal­ties for failing to appear in court.

Most laws aren’t enforced because Laos doesn’t have the man­power to enforce them,” she said. “I went to Laos wanting to see where they were in terms of devel­oping a legal system and which fac­tors play a part in devel­oping and enforcing new laws.”

As part of the group’s com­mer­cial law team, DeVries spent half of her time researching the country’s laws and drafting con­tracts between the gov­ern­ment and for­eign investors.

In an effort to create more jobs and boost the economy, she helped draft a new law to create Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zones (SEZ) in Laos, which would pro­vide incen­tives for for­eign investors to develop busi­nesses in the country.

She also worked on a project for the Inter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent Soci­eties that exam­ined the legal impli­ca­tions of any future dis­aster relief efforts in the country. The fed­er­a­tion rec­om­mended that the Laotian gov­ern­ment improve existing laws and create new laws that would facil­i­tate relief efforts in case of a large-​​scale emergency.

DeVries said she learned more about law and devel­op­ment in four months on the job than she could ever imagine learning from a book or a lec­ture. “I was able to see it happen,” said DeVries, who also par­tic­i­pated in legal con­fer­ences held by the Laotian Min­istry of Jus­tice and devel­oped con­tacts with indi­vidual mem­bers of the United Nations who work in Laos.

I was able see the dif­ferent actors and eco­nomic influ­ences and see how NGOs operate,” she said. “I was able to expe­ri­ence every­thing that inter­ests me about under­de­vel­oped coun­tries. It was just what I was hoping to learn.”

After she grad­u­ates, DeVries hopes to con­duct more legal research on devel­oping coun­tries before pur­suing work on leg­isla­tive drafting or rule-​​of-​​law projects, pos­sibly with the U.N. or NGOs. She wants to keep the inter­ests of those less for­tu­nate in the front of her mind, to always think, “How can I make a better life for people in devel­oping coun­tries?” she said.