1. What is International Law?

International Law is traditionally divided into two categories Public & Private:

Public International Law addresses the responsibilities of nation states to: (a) each other; (b) international organizations of which they may be members; (c) their citizens and residents; and (d) non-citizens. Public International Law finds expression in treaties, customary law, and case law from the International Court of Justice and other international courts. It addresses everything from how states should delineate their borders, to the use of force, to the property rights of foreign property owners, to due process standards owed to criminal defendants. Humanitarian Law (or “the laws of war”), Maritime Law (or “The Law of the Sea”), International Human Rights, and International Criminal Law are all subsets of Public International Law.

Private International Law has dealt historically with transnational commercial relations. The field previously was synonymous with Conflict of Laws, because it addressed the question of which nation states law applied when entities (either public or private) engaged in commerce. Private International Law often was triggered when a dispute arose between private parties hailing from different states. Absent an enforceable “choice of law or forum” clause in a contract, the judicial or arbitral body confronting the dispute had to decide where to look for applicable norms.

Increasingly, however, Private International Law and Public International Law are merging. Many International Organizations (such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization) and multilateral treaties (such as NAFTA and CAFTA) govern transnational business arrangements.

Both Public and Private International Law can be practiced domestically or abroad and in the governmental, non-governmental, and inter-governmental spheres.

2. Where is International Law practiced?

Domestically, international law is practiced in international organizations (e.g., the United Nations Headquarters), large law firms (e.g., international transactional law), small law firms (e.g., immigration law), private industry (e.g., Cisco Systems), at the government level (e.g., the U.S. State Department), and at non-profit organizations (e.g., the Center for Justice & Accountability).

Abroad, many large U.S. law firms and private corporations have foreign offices that service overseas clientele and deals. Non-governmental organizations (e.g., Amnesty International) may have offices in several foreign countries. The United Nations has many specialized agencies based around the world, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

The primary international law adjudicative body is the International Court of Justice (“the World Court”) in the Hague. It has jurisdiction over states. Increasingly, states and the United Nations are establishing international and quasi-international courts and tribunals to adjudicate war crimes cases or arbitrate commercial disputes. These tribunals often have legal staff, including judicial clerks.

3. What Courses would be helpful?

Public International Law

International Business Law

Comparative Law

4. What Academic Experiences (inside and outside the classroom) at SCU Law would be helpful, and what timeline should I be following? What should I do:

In my first year?

In the summer after my first year?

  • SCU Summer Study Abroad Program
  • If you wish to pursue private international law, research employers participating in our Fall On-Campus Interview Program and apply to those firms with an international law practice which match your interests and qualifications. Be sure to attend one of the Mandatory OCI Orientation Sessions in the Spring, and to participate in the Meet the Employers event. http://law.scu.edu/careers/oci-on-campus-interviews.cfm
  • Attend international law-oriented conferences and seminars! Write an article! Present a paper!
  • Network, network, network!
  • Master a foreign language

In my second year?

In the summer after my second year?

  • If you want to do public international law, consider working as a volunteer for an inter-governmental organization or an international NGO.
  • If you want to do private international law, get a summer job working for a firm or company that does work in this field.
  • Do your very best at your summer job or internship, learn a lot, and make as many connections as possible.
  • Attend international law-oriented conferences and seminars! Write an article! Present a paper!
  • Master a foreign language (especially French for Public International Law)

In my third year?

5. What Professional Organizations and Associations should I consider joining and/or volunteering with to learn more and meet people?

Many professional organizations are available on Linkedin:

6. What job search reference resources should I check out for additional information and to expand my own research?

Listed below are a few helpful resources to help you get started:

  • Careers in International Law, Second Edition (edited by Mark W. Janis & Salli A. Swartz for the ABA Section of International Law and Practice)
  • Guide to Foreign Law Firms, Fourth Edition (edited by James R. Silkenat and William M. Hannan for the ABA Section on International Law and Practice)
  • International Jobs, Fifth Edition (Eric Kocher & Nina Segal)
  • The Global Resume and CV Guide (Mary Anne Thompson)
  • The Schell Center at Yale Law School forwards job announcements as a service to its list subscribers. To subscribe to this list, send email to: schell.law@yale.edu.

Listed below are links to some potential places to begin your job search:

7. Which faculty members at SCU practice(d) International Law?