Our Man at the United Nations

When Robert O’Brien speaks, the world listens

Published in 2006 Southern California Rising Stars — July 2006

Robert O’Brien will tell you that there’s public speaking and then there’s public speaking. When he speaks in public the world is listening, as it did in November 2005 when O’Brien spoke to the United Nations General Assembly during a session on Israel-Palestinian relations.
 
O’Brien, managing partner of O’Brien Abeles, was appointed by President George W. Bush as one of three United States Public Delegates to the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
 
“It’s a humbling experience to represent your country,” he says of his service in Washington, D.C., which will last until September of this year. “Every time I go into a courtroom, I feel that my clients have given their faith to me. It hit me at the U.N., when I was interacting with leaders from all over the world, that these ambassadors weren’t coming to speak or listen to Robert O’Brien; they were coming to hear what the United States’ position was on various matters.”
 
An active Republican, O’Brien is no stranger to international diplomacy. From 1996 to 1998, he served as a legal officer for the Geneva-based Compensation Commission created by the U.N. Security Council, where he handled government claims against Iraq arising out of the first Gulf War.
 
He spent much of August through December shuttling between New York and his Los Angeles practice, an experience that he says was tiring but well worth it.
 
“When you’re asked to do something like this it’s hard to say no. It really hit me when I spoke, what an honor it was to represent my fellow citizens,” O’Brien says.
 
Although his attention has returned to his practice, O’Brien will help host three groups of U.N. ambassadors from other countries this year when they return to the United States. The hosts have planned something a little less weighty than peace in the Middle East. They will take their guests to a University of Nebraska football game.

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