December 1, 2023

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Advice for Law Applicants Interested in International Law | Law Admissions Lowdown

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future post.

I am a rising junior majoring in political science. I am looking to go to law school, but I worry that studying law in America may limit me to a career path only in the United States, and I might want to live and work in another country. Do American law schools help prepare for a career in international law? Or would it make more sense to go to a law school in another country and study their law? And would a career in international law allow me to live in other places or would I still be limited to the U.S.? – CV

International law has risen in prominence and popularity as the world has become more interconnected in commerce, governance and culture. Recent years have seen a proliferation of subfields like international human rights, international business, comparative constitutional law, global governance, international humanitarian law, international media law, cybersecurity, maritime law and space law.

Whatever specialty you plan to practice within, you are best off pursuing your interest in international law at a U.S. law school unless you plan to work in a specific jurisdiction like the European Union.

Not every American law school has robust offerings in international law, although many offer clinics, courses and programs in the field. Some courses examine international or transnational law from unique angles, like a regional, historical or social justice perspective.

Some schools offer concentrations or special programs or scholarships in international law. These may require applicants to complete a separate application, like the Global Law Scholars Program at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Other programs select applicants from the general pool through the regular admissions process, like the Institute for International Law and Justice Joyce Lowinson Scholars Program at New York University School of Law.

Some law schools allow students to spend a semester abroad or complete a joint degree with a foreign university. Typically, students apply to these programs in the spring of their first year.

Preparing for a Career in International Law

While U.S.-trained lawyers may not be able to argue in court overseas without additional qualifications, nothing restricts them from working internationally. U.S.-trained lawyers are often in high demand overseas due to America’s oversized role in global trade and governance.

International law jobs are highly competitive due to the popularity of the field. To position yourself well to land a job in the field, be sure to take a range of international law courses, along with advanced coursework in the specialty you plan to pursue. Depending on where you hope to work, you may also want to brush up on your foreign language skills.

Consider working or volunteering abroad during the summer or other school breaks. Extracurricular activities like international moot court competitions and fact-finding trips for international human rights clinics may present opportunities to build overseas experience as well.

If possible, get involved with an international law journal or assist a professor with international law research. Publications can help you stand out in your job search. Attend events and conferences to build your network and stay on top of developments in the field.

Some law schools have career services staff dedicated to foreign and international legal practice, such as Carey Law School at the University of Pennsylvania. The Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law offers career counseling and professional training and resources.

You don’t have to devote your career solely to international law to gain a foothold in the field. For example, after graduating law school, I worked in global finance in New York, securities law in England, legal reforms in the Philippines and transitional justice efforts in Cambodia and the Solomon Islands. The work was often frustrating, but the experiences were unforgettable.