Today we commemorate the 80th birthday of the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser. This event marks both a personal and professional celebration for so many of us who have been associated with this remarkable office over the years. The conference has generated a fascinating and diverse set of comparative, historical, and intragovernmental insights into the office's unique contributions to the shaping and interpreting of international law. The last time I addressed an audience from the American Society of International Law (ASIL), during my first year in this job, I spoke about the role of the Legal Adviser and some of the current challenges we face.' At this birthday gathering, let me focus on what has made the Office of the Legal Adviser--or "L," as it is affectionately known in the State Department-such a critical and respected part of the U.S. government. Put another way, who are the distinctive people, and what are the distinctive traditions, norms, and practices, that have made L the distinctive legal institution it has become?
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