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How To Become an International Lawyer

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International law is not an easy subject. There are all kinds of rules and policies that regulate how countries deal with each other. When disputes come up, there are legal, cultural, and language differences to consider. International lawyers are responsible for resolving these issues for clients and explaining how international law works. Because international law is so broad, lawyers will often specialize. What are the different types of international lawyers out there? How does a person become one?

Take a free course in international law by leading universities.

Types of international lawyers

International law covers a lot of ground, so it’s common for a lawyer to specialize in one area. Some work on cases for the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and private organizations that represent clients who have had their rights violated in another country. Other international lawyers focus on private international law, which deals with disputes between private entities in different countries. These lawyers advise organizations and corporations on international law, national standards, and other issues. National governments also use international lawyers for a variety of legal work, such as trade agreements and contracts.

All international lawyers engage in usual legal work such as researching, representing clients in a courtroom, interviewing witnesses, negotiating, acting as a mediator, and filling out legal paperwork. They are more likely to travel abroad frequently, depending on their position and tasks.

Steps to becoming an international lawyer

Step 1) To get into law school, you must have a bachelor’s degree. While there isn’t a specific area of study that’s required, many law students have undergraduate degrees in history, economics, political science, government, or international studies. Learning a foreign language can also benefit your future career.

Step 2) When applying for law school, students must submit their LSAT scores. Most will take the LSAT in their junior year of their undergrad. The test focuses on critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and reading skills. There are many resources out there to help you prepare for this important test.

3) The third step is to complete law school. It takes three years to earn a Juris Doctor. The first year consists of basic law courses that all lawyers take. During the second and third years, students can choose courses related to their area of interest. During law school, it’s a good idea to seek out internships and other experiences. For students who want to be international lawyers, courses on comparative law, comparative legal cultures, and foreign policy are very valuable. If your school has an international law concentration, consider focusing on that.

4) Law school is all leading up to the bar exam. Like with the LSAT, you can find many resources and prep courses designed to help prepare you. Lawyers must pass a state’s bar exam to practice in that state. Not all state bar exams have the same format, but questions are usually in multiple-choice and essay form. To become a fully-licensed lawyer, you must pass the bar exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. You must also become admitted to the state’s bar association.

5) Once licensed, you can now practice law. Private firms and government agencies hire lawyers to work on international law. If you want to further your education, consider a Master of Laws (LL.M). These are offered by law schools around the country and let a lawyer focus on a specific area of international law. Depending on your state, you may also be required to take Continuing Legal Education courses.

How much do international lawyers get paid?

International lawyers fall under the general “lawyer” umbrella. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all lawyers made an average of $120,910 in 2018. Salaries vary based on where you’re practicing, the specific field, and your experience level. In general, the more experience you have, the higher your salary.

How to be a successful international lawyer

Anyone who wants to be an international lawyer should commit to immersing themselves in other cultures and languages. Only knowing the legal side of things isn’t enough to see the whole picture.  A deep understanding of a country’s etiquette is essential for lawyers who deal with people regularly. A successful international lawyer will also stay up to date on major events and legislation in the countries they focus on.

International lawyers have a very challenging job. When they’re successful, they have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world. If their focus is on human rights issues, they can ensure that people who’ve had their rights violated receive justice. If their work is more related to business, international lawyers can keep peace between international entities and protect people’s livelihoods. With international lawyers working with the United Nations and governments, they’re part of a system that maintains order and finds solutions to the world’s problems.

Take a free course in international law by leading universities.

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About Author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

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Disclosure: Global Peace Careers may be compensated by course providers.