Finding a public interest position in the international arena requires research, diligence, and creativity. You will need to demonstrate your commitment to the substantive area or practice environment, and ideally, the country or region in which you’d like to work. You can frame your job search by queries for a particular region or country, court system or organization, or substantive legal area.
There are a variety of of types of employers in international law, notably governmental agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), law school clinical programs, and private firms.
Opportunities in Law School
While in law school, consider participating in summer abroad programs; participation in these programs exhibits a commitment to international work and ability to adapt to new situations. It is particularly valuable to get a practical internship experience while living abroad as well. Some study abroad programs have an internship component (for a complete list of these programs, see NALP’s Finding and Funding International Public Service Opportunities). If your program does not have a formal internship component, consider asking a coordinator for assistance in locating these opportunities or suggested contacts in the country or region.
The ABA International Law Section Internship Program acts as a liaison with foreign firms that have agreed to host potential interns. This is an excellent resource to locate and obtain legal experience in a number of different regions, practice environments and practice areas. Another excellent resource is the Internships in International Law listings pulled together by the American Society for International Law. This listing includes opportunities in international courts and tribunals, human rights law, international environmental law, NGOs and with fellowships.
Class selection is also a good indicator of sustained interest in the international arena. Take as many international law classes as possible, and discuss international implications of other topic areas with professors and students. The more that you can get involved with student and community organizations, the better connected you will be and the better prepared you will be for opportunities that arise.
Post-Graduate Opportunity Search
As stated above, you can frame your job search by searches by a particular region or country, court system or organization, or substantive legal area.
If you are interested in a specific country or region, learn as much as you can about the culture, legal system, and of course, language. The internet is a great place to start your research, but as with any job search, the best information on these topics will be had through informational interviewing and networking. Try and meet people from the region, or that have spent a significant amount of time there. Undergraduate and graduate departments can be a great resource for making these connections. Undergraduate alumni offices also often can be useful for making connections. Make sure that once you have developed a relationship with any connection, you don’t lose it from inattention. Stay in contact with your network!
If you want to do international work but be based in the United States, consider applying to U.S. Departments and Offices with a high concentration of international work. Some agencies with a lot of international work include U.S. Department of Justice, Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Agencies with a less international work, but where you can still actively seek out projects with an international bent are U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Seek out as many work assignments as possible that have an international angle, and volunteer to work on any educational materials that the office might be publishing. The more that you can make a name for yourself as the resident “expert” on international issues, the more you will be brought onto international projects that could segue into your dream position.
There are a variety of positions available in international courts and related organizations. The International Commission of Jurists has information about internships with the international judiciary in 62 countries and jobs with the organization promoting judicial independence. The International Criminal Court has internships and a Visiting Professionals program. Opportunities are also available at United States specialty courts, such as the U.S. Court of International Trade.
International non-profits and non-governmental organizations also rely on attorneys to help develop and implement policy and advocacy strategies. NIRA hosts a worldwide directory of think tanks, Lawyers Without Borders supports the development of the rule of law and the legal profession, and PSLawNet has the latest on international internships and job opportunities.
For a detailed discussion of opportunities in the international arena, as well as summaries of the missions of many international organizations that have employment or volunteer opportunities, please see NALP’s Finding and Funding International Public Service Opportunities.
For information about constructing your resume for a job search in the international law arena, see the Public Interest Resume section.