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Practicing international law

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A gold-plated door

I hear from time to time from prospective law students who tell me they would like to practice something called “international law.” It’s difficult to advise them, because I’ve always been unclear about just what “international law” might be. Fortunately a commenter at Top Law Schools has provided this handy Day In the Life of An International Law Attorney:

0830: Wake up in stately 16th Century hotel in Zurich. Kiss beautiful Russian model you met last night goodbye.

0930: Breakfast at cafe overlooking the clear waters of Lake Zurich. Read the Financial Times and chuckle about their shoddy reporting on a deal you headlined last week.

1000: Take high-speed train to Paris, fielding conference calls from several CEOs and bankers.

1100: Negotiate $13 million merger between US company and European conglomerate. Everyone speaks English with a broken accent, of course, so you can understand all the documents and the negotiations.

1230: Lunch with other International Corporate Lawyers at International Corporate Lawyer Club, everyone, of course, speaking English with a broken accent.

1400: Fly to the Hague for some pro-bono work. By 1500, you’ve convicted a genocidal African dictator of every war crime imaginable. He curses you in broken English. A hundred survivors from the village he attacked gift your their ceremonial hunting horn. The chief’s beautiful, Oxford educated daughter, who you’ve been working closely with, flashes you a flirtatious smile.

1730: Return to London office of International Corporate Law Firm. Exchange witty banter with secretary. Get dressed down by your curmudgeonly boss.

1900: High-stakes Baccarat game at Monte Carlo with head of European finance ministry. After beating him, he agrees to relax certain disclosure requirements for IPOs. Also he pays for champagne (in broken English) and you party with Russian model and African chief’s daughter.

2300: Returning to hotel, concierge informs you of a call. Picking up, you hear “Mr. Corporate Lawyer, this is our fifth call. You’ve missed the last three payments on your student loans. If you’d like to discuss repayment options, you can contact me at 1-800-FANTASY.”

You wake up in a cold sweat, and realize you have less than 20 minutes to get dressed, shower, and get to your document review job in a warehouse in New Jersey. Think about going back to law school for the “International Law LLM.”

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  • RobNYNY1957

    I did international transactions for years, and they were almost all under New York, Illinois or English law. English lawyers handled the parts under English law. Anything else was handled by local lawyers. There is virtually no “international” law in transactional practice. The hardest part is making sure that the documents governed by the laws of different countries are consistent, but that’s copy editing.

    The closest thing to international law that I ever handled was probably the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (which governs letters of credit) and is not really international law, just just a pamphlet published by the International Chamber of Commerce.

    • No Comment

      Sorry RobNYNY1957, definitely like the Top Law Schools version better.

      • RobNYNY1957

        So do I.

    • Just Dropping By

      There is virtually no “international” law in transactional practice.

      That’s true, but American transactional attorneys typically have far more ability to find work overseas than American litigators, in my experience.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Yeah, but international sports patent law, that’s a great job.

  • c u n d gulag

    That was ROFLMAO funny!!!!!

    He should have included going back to France through the English Channel in his Ferrari car/sub, to get to Monte Carlo.

    And ducking the assassin’s derby, at the tables.

    • RepubAnon

      Don’t you need the LLM before you qualify for Derby-bearing assassins?

      (When Derbys are outlawed, only Odd Job will carry a Derby.)

      • Roger Ailes

        When Derb is outlawed, all the racist commenters at The Corner will complain for the next five years.

  • NewishLawyer

    That was funny.

    I have one friend from law school that got a job with an International Refugee NGO. I can’t remember the name but he spent a year or so in Africa and is now based out of their Australian office.

    FWIW we graduated in 2011 from a Tier II school. This is what I imagine most people think International law means and I think he was extremely lucky to get it.

    • RobNYNY1957

      I’m not sure that Tier II means what you think it means. To the recruiting offices of top law firms, tier two includes Columbia, NYU, Chicago, Stanford, and a few others. Tier three would include Virginia, Cornell, Penn, Michigan, maybe UT Austin, and a few others. And then there are the rest.

      For the people who actually do the recruiting for top firms, there are only two tier one law schools: Yale and Harvard.

      • Tybalt

        I don’t think “top firms” means what you think it means. (Hint: there are more than five of them)

        • The once and future biglaw litigator

          Yeah, this.

          Maybe you mean Wachtel. Because Cravath and S&C hire their fair share of Columbia and NYU people. Kirkland and Sidley hire a bunch of Chicago people (Northwestern too). Stanford grads go everywhere, but there aren’t a lot of them, and those that there are generally prefer to stay in CA.

          Methinks too many people generalize the experience of non-T14 law schools to T14 law schools.

          • RobNYNY1957

            Kirkland and Sidley have to hire whatever is left over when the top tier law firms finish hiring. Sometimes they even have to resort to hiring the dregs of Northwestern

        • RobNYNY1957

          Yeah, not really. I have worked for two top tier firms, and three not top tier firms that think they are, and there is a huge gulf in the quality of the work. And it’s not just typos. It’s substantive failure to understand basic principles of law.

      • NewishLawyer

        My friend is not in private practice. He works for an NGO. I’m not sure what to make of your response.

        We graduated what was listed as a Tier II law school according to US News and World Report. Meaning we were in the 51-100 rankings.

        I said he was lucky and rare. We only had one person receive an offer from a traditional Big Law firm before Bar results came out. Some people went to works as Public Defenders and ADAs in rural counties. A bunch of people I know are working at small or medium plaintiffs and defense firms in the area. Others are working for their parents. Some hung up their own shingle. And some are like me and freelancing. Others dropped out of the legal rat race and are doing grant stuff for local Medical School/Research Institution (I know about 7 or so people doing this).

  • Gregor Sansa

    I have a close relative who is part of the prosecution for a case of genocide. This was successfully prosecuted but then overturned in a country which is not where he got his law degree (and neither of those are the USA). They are thinking about appealing to an international court.

    This is probably as close to the story above as reality gets. And going to a U.S. law school is not going to get you an inch closer to that. If you want to be my relative, you should get a non-US law degree as quickly and cheaply as possible, then move to somewhere where a genocide recently finished (Sri Lanka??) and spend 20 years or so learning the local legal system by working with victim populations for very little pay and under serious hazard of paramilitary violence.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Please do not mention the name of the person who was convicted. Obviously the fact that they’re thinking of taking it to an international court is not going to be a shock to the defense, but I’m not supposed to be the one telling the internet.

      • Just Dropping By

        Uh, you’re person who posted about it in the first place, so how would any of us know the name of the defendant to be able to repeat it?

        • InnerPartisan

          Considering that trials for genocide are quite rare, globally; I’m pretty sure that I know who’s the defendant in this case.

    • James E. Powell

      spend 20 years or so learning the local legal system by working with victim populations for very little pay and under serious hazard of paramilitary violence.

      Like Hank the Yank in Brokedown Palace?

  • Fighting Words

    Well, if you’re lucky, you might get to work on an Alien Tort Statute case. But I don’t know if that really counts as “international law.”

    • Rarely Posts

      Chances of successfully bringing claims under this statute are a lot smaller after the last two years at the Court.

    • Ken

      Sounds more like something for which you’d need a degree in interstellar law.

      0830: Wake up in stately 34th century hotel on Ceti Omicron 5. Kiss beautiful green-skinned Orion slave girl you met last night goodbye…

      • Stag Party Palin

        Well that beats waking up in a stately 30th century hotel on Omicron Persei 8 without your nose.

        • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

          Human horn *is* a well-known aphrodisiac, after all, so it would really be your own fault for not taking extra precautions.

  • Orin Kerr

    Well done.

    • The once and future biglaw litigator

      Really? I know a ton of people who have done international law-type stuff. Now, a lot of it is the same tedium that non-international law work is. But there are a lot of people staffed on cross-border reinsurance disputes, or funding agreement transactions, or whatever. They’ll be in their office in Chicago the entire time for these matters, but it’s fair to call them “international law.”

  • MacK

    Most interesting aspect of international practice is the differing style of conference rooms and conference tables, and why a new building needs CO2 monitors on the conference room walls (14 hours in you find out), and who has better/worse catering – and why oh why when there are japanese on the deal everyone finds it necessary to have marginal sushi brought in.

    I did have a contract draft sent to me last year where the drafting counsel had specified as choice of law:

    International general principles of law which are applicable to international trade (“Lex Mercatoria”) shall be applicable to the substance of the dispute

    The drafting counsel was most insistent – turned out to be a law professor. He did not take it very well when I described the clause to his client as meaning “two professors duelling with rolled up law reviews” and completely meaningless in practice (yes I know there are European law professors are trying to develop a code.)

    One regular thing in international practice is the use of US drafted forms in other legal systems. A regular and expensive fiasco is where a lawyer does not understand that in English law a
    warranty ≠ condition and an exclusion of all implied warranties does not exclude conditions – and all the big NY implied warranties – are English implied conditions.

    Boring, but important.

    • RobNYNY1957

      Christ, and trying to get British lawyers to draft something that actually had meaning. About once a page I had to cross out: “For the avoidance of doubt, unless otherwise expressly agreed in writing, it is hereby agreed that … .” And then the real sentence began.

    • Hogan

      why oh why when there are japanese on the deal everyone finds it necessary to have marginal sushi brought in.

      Nothing settles a legal dispute faster than Darwinian selection via food poisoning.

  • IANAL, obviously, since I thought international law meant the lawyer chases 747’s instead of ambulances.

    My mistake.

    • RobNYNY1957

      You’ve actually touched on one area of actual international law — the law governing restitution after airline crashes. Oddly enough, it mostly serves to protect airlines from liability.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Convention

      • Oddly enough

        I thought the sole purposes of the law were –

        #1: to protect all corporations from any liability,
        #2: screw people (consumers, workers) who do business with corporations, and
        #3: provide voters who don’t understand that #1 and #2 are the goals with legislation that is supposed to endear the legislator to the voters.

        Oh, plus every once in a while there’s a revolution intended to reset the dial back to some more tolerable less intolerable level of corporate/entrenched oligarchy domination over the populace so that the cycle can renew itself.

        • RobNYNY1957

          At the time the Warsaw Convention was enacted, $75,000 was quite a good settlement. Decades later, it has not kept up. There is also an exception (here I am not an expert) if the tribunal find that the airline was negligent or grossly negligent (not an expert, remember?) that lets the tribunal cross the limit.

        • Nocomment

          Hmmm, a concise and accurate summation I suspect.

      • Just Dropping By

        I took a class in aviation law that was taught by an adjunct professor who does plaintiff’s work in aircrash litigation. His position on the Warsaw Convention was that it’s terrible for people who might have otherwise been able to sue under the laws of the USA, Canada, and handful of other countries, but that it was absolute superior to being forced to sue under laws of most other nations.

  • All my law school classmates wanted to either get into “international law”, which they imagined as exotic travel, or “entertainment law”, which they imagined meant meeting celebrities.

    I’ve done some of both, and enjoyed it. But when I was in London in 2006 taking a string of depositions I wasn’t doing any exotic travel (I could barely take a walk to get a cup of tea), and when I work on entertainment law I certainly don’t hang out with celebrities.

    Law students are clueless, of course. I was too– just in different ways.

  • Francis

    $13 million? That’s the legal fees for the merger, not the value of the merged entity, right?

  • Wee Pete

    Lads, I am a long time fan of this site and while I am always informed on your views to American constitutional law, I am a person who works in “international law.” I am always perplexed when this subject comes up on this site and is always dealt with in such a sarcastic and dismissive way. International organisations are full of US trained lawyers (although from a common law perspective Canadian and Australian lawyers seem over subscribed) and it is absolutely a potential career path. I am a UK qualified lawyer (solicitor from Northern Ireland) and have worked for the UN and been a consultant for same. I can’t speak to international corporate work but it is wrong to say that this career path does not exist. For a site which rightly pays attention to employability of law graduates this seems utterly wrong.

    • Murc

      Well, heck, don’t just leave us hanging. I know I, for one, am pretty interested.

      Given that you’re someone who is actually active in the field, can you tell us what you mean when you talk about international law, what work in it entails, and what aspiring law students who want to work internationally should be doing to build their CVs?

      • Wee Pete

        Mate, no problem. My own experience began when though an ERASMUS year at Leiden in the Netherlands I was a legal researcher while still an student with the Bosnia-Herzegovina team at the ICJ (Genocide case). I then qualified and did an LLM in international human rights law and worked in domestic immigration law in Northern Ireland. I worked with UNHCR as a national lawyer and have worked since then as a consultant (Refugee Status Determination specialist). My own specialisation is in international refugee law but there are there are lots of opportunities in the international criminal tribunal – obviously closing down now but this idea that “international law” does not exist is nonsense and my experience is in the human rights/rule of law side rather than any corporate law side – jesus check out relief web for jobs in this area for progressive minded lawyers – hope that is enough info. I teach a course on refugee law to LLMs and I would advise students in this area to have solid international law academic record (to be honest you need an LLM now), good UN languages (2 of the 6, English and Frenish or Spanish for most US) and evidence of NGO experience to apply for any of the positions – but they are out there – and well paid if you get them. Happy to answer any other questions.

        • marco789

          I think the LLM tends to be a big barrier to US candidates–WB demands an LLM, I think as you mention it tends to be the rule more than the exception at the UN as well. Never mind that American JDs have had seven years of post-secondary schooling already…

          • Wee Pete

            Hey Marco,

            I don’t disagree but I think that it is taken into account the JD is a postgraduate rather than undergraduate degree, however US lawyers tend to forget that in European countries (UK for example) that post LLB one needs to qualify as a solicitor or barrister (including apprenticeship/pupillage/devilling) before one is a “lawyer” which is generally the same kind of time frame more or less. So long story short – these days you need an LLM (preferably a specialised) one in the area.

            • marco789

              I mention it just to note that it’s a reason why most Americans would find it even more difficult than it is in the first place to access legal positions at IOs, but, as you say, they are definitely there.

              As an aside, it’s true that English solicitors have to do professional training, but an American is looking at seven years of tuition including three at ridiculous law school rates before thinking about doing that LLM… an LLM that will be entirely useless if (s)he can’t get a job with an IO, since nobody else cares.

            • marco789

              and, btw, thanks for your (quite interesting) description of your work. it’s important to convey that there **are** positions in the field. my observation has been that law students go from (1) wanting to practice “international law” but not really knowing what it is to (2) being told it doesn’t exist and pushed into the traditional fields, without ever really being connected to what options there are.

              • Wee Pete

                No doubt, it is a long road from whatever jurisdiction one qualifies but there is a defined career route. I was always struck by the fact that those who got into the international criminal tribunals from the US, that many came from traditional big law firms. It is a lucrative practice for those who got in. I still find it curious that this site, which I respect and enjoy has such a blind spot when it comes to this topic – this post being a prime example. And my route was completely from the human rights/progressive/left applicant based perspective.

        • Wee Pete

          Edit – sorry that should have been – there were many opportunities in the international criminal tribunals and it is French – sorry bit late over in GMT land

  • Joseph Slater

    Excellent. Waiting for the post on “Sports Law.”

  • cpinva

    international tax law. a specialty area, revolving around tax treaties, transfer pricing, withholding at the source and Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) issues, mostly. very lucrative. most of them I know practice in “Big Law” firms, primarily in NY & LA, with a few in Miami.

  • marco789

    as far as careers in international law that involve practicing, the options I’m aware of are:
    (1) practicing for a law firm–this includes (a) representation of either states or investors at international arbitration panels (ICSID, UNCITRAL rules panels, claims tribunals, etc), (b) representation of the same before trade panels e.g. WTO. a handful of firms do most of this work and represent both investors and states.
    (2) USG (mainly State, a little Commerce w/r/t trade issues, maybe DOJ? not sure–I know they do some policy work internationally such as legal reform but not sure about actual “international law” work)
    (3) international organizations or courts as mentioned above (UN, UN agencies, international tribunals, international human rights bodies such as the Inter-American Court)

    maybe I’m missing some but those are what come to mind. all of them, of course, are ridiculously difficult to get into and also IMO aren’t really what people who want to do “international law” have in mind or would like doing (with the possible exception of #3). most of those people either want to do cross-border commerce that isn’t international law or want to do human rights policy or advocacy or just foreign policy generally.

    I tend to think there are a lot more opportunities for people from smaller countries since their countries tend to be involved in far more international organizations on a deeper level (EU in particular, which is still considered “international law”)

  • Funkhauser

    Baccarat is actually less than betting on the outcome of a coin flip; the more recent Bond movie showing Texas hold’em at least involved a game of some skill.

    And bravo on the post.

  • mch

    Question: what do (some of the) issues subsumed in Day in the Life of riff here (which is very funny and revealing), the Summers-Yelin controversy, and the Colin McGinn have in common? (Asks she at a site called Lawyers Guns and Money.)

    • Pseudonym

      The authors find them interesting? That’s pretty much the guiding principle here.

      • mch

        I didn’t think I was being overly subtle, or at all critical (rather, if anything, the opposite) of LGM. Really, do I need to spell this out?

        • BarrY

          Yes.

        • We need a Zimmerman post

          • Malaclypse

            Nonsense. We need to fight over who will be the next Doctor Who.

  • mch

    I wil; spell out this much. The commenters (and the OP’ers) at this site are mostly male. We women let you have your juvenile games. Yes, that’s what they are. But it does get tiresome. And you might note that applications by women even at the higher tier schools seem to be down. (Well before we get to the glass ceiling issues.)
    What are men really afraid of? That we won’t find Wiener’s dick the most fascinating thing in our lives? Sorry to be crass, but so much does come down to this.
    Btw, there’s a lot of scholarly literature that undergirds my perhaps-to-you cryptic comments here. Maybe you should bother to read some of it.

    • cpinva

      “The commenters (and the OP’ers) at this site are mostly male.”

      with respect to the headliners, possibly this is because the site was started by guys. but as long as I’ve been here, they’ve had at least one female on board. unless a poster uses a gender specific nic, or specifically identifies themselves as being a specific gender, how would you know? myself, I tend to not pay all that much attention, unless gender itself is an issue.

      “We women let you have your juvenile games.”

      these tend to be played by trolls, not regular posters. those trolls tend to be shot down in short order. fed pancakes & syrup, and sent on their 12 year-old ways.

      as to the rest, I think your issue isn’t with this site, as much as it is with society in general. I don’t think this site actually has a ceiling, glass or otherwise. I could be wrong.

    • ChrisTS

      This is very odd. I’m a female, and I certainly do not think the majority of commenters here are playing boy games. Quite the opposite.

    • Hogan

      We women let you have your juvenile games.

      Well aren’t you the nice ones.

      • ChrisTS

        Some strange kind of drive-by stuff going on there.

        • mch

          Coming back way late to this conversation, but for the record, I wouldn’t regularly read the posts and comments at LGM, and sometimes make comments, if I didn’t value this site greatly and respect the posters and learn from them and the commenters. None of that changes this: There is a distinctly male feel to this site — not that that’s unusual or even necessarily objectionable.

          When I first read this OP, I’d just been catching up on Weiner jokes and hippie jokes on other posts/comment sections at LGM and was struck by the very (straight) male persona of the international-law fantasy in this post. Nothing wrong with any of the posts and comments, and in fact I enjoyed it all. At the same time I was aware of myself as a woman listening in on/participating in a conversation being conducted chiefly among men.

          In my (admittedly inept) comment here, I was trying to get at something more subtle about the way women, including women who are very comfortable in male environments, can nevertheless feel a certain alienation in those environments, an alienation that men, on the whole, are oblivious to.

          I suspect that Janet Yellen would understand what I am trying to get at here, as would, say, blacks who work comfortably among whites and have many white friends.

  • genedebien

    As an American trained lawyer working in Brussels for an American multinational, I may come close to practicing “International Law.” I tend to think of what I do as practicing law internationally, though.

    My travel schedule in July included stops in Paris, London, Zurich, Stuttgart, and Dubai, and almost every transaction I touched involved documents in English (or a passable equivalent thereof) and other lawyers and business people speaking English with an accent. But I also spent some of my time giving FCPA training in French (or, in what I hope was a passable equivalent thereof), explaining UK TUPE Regulations to American colleagues, explaining the EU Data Privacy Directive to American colleagues, working the requirements of the EU Commercial Agents Directive into an Agency Agreement, and coordinating the review, negotiation, and drafting of a supply agreement written in German with German counsel.

    Living in Brussels, I know quite a few lawyers who could be said, I suppose, to practice something that could be called “International Law.” But they tend to focus in areas where there is both an EU-wide body of law (usually based on an EU Regulation) and an EU agency specifically charged with enforcing and interpreting that law. So most of these lawyers work in competition and antitrust and either work for the Commission at DG Trade or DG Comp or represent multinationals before those bodies. Almost universally these lawyers are European qualified and speak multiple languages, both of which mean these jobs are rarely held by Americans. And by “rarely” I mean “never in my experience,” at least for the Commission jobs.

    English is basically the universal language of multinational business in Europe and the Middle East and I can’t think of any significant meeting I’ve attended where English wasn’t the primary, common language of all the participants. I have yet to meet a lawyer – or a business person – working routinely in a multinational environment in Europe or the Middle East who didn’t speak English proficiently. Multinational agreements also tend to be in English. So, the reality is, I don’t need to speak anything but English for my job; the fact that I do speak French and can handle common transactions and pleasantries in German is a source of wonder and amusement to my colleagues and peers, but it’s never been necessary.

    If a law student asked me how to “train” for my job, I’d say the best bet is Big Multinational Law, taking any expat assignment you can, and building a network of contacts at other multinational firms and multinational companies. If you can use that experience and exposure to land a job in-house for a multinational that has expat opportunities, so much the better. I found my current job through a Belgian lawyer I had worked with for several years while I was in-house at another multinational where my responsibilities included M&A activity in Europe. I’ve met a small handful of American lawyers practicing in Europe who took other routes – usually involving significant study abroad and local qualifications, which means fluency in a European language – but they are rare and tend to have significant, close family ties to Europe.

    But I don’t think there are law school courses or activities – including working on an “International” law journal – that will help a great deal. If I were looking for a lawyer to assist or replace me, I’d be looking for an American who had already spent significant time working in Europe, spoke and read basic French and Dutch (it’s a Belgian thing), was familiar with the three basic legal systems prevalent in Europe (Common Law, Latin-French Civil Law, and Latin-German Civil Law), especially as related to contract obligations and liabilities, had a basic understanding of Articles 101 and 102 of the TFEU and the laws flowing from them, knew the REACH Regulation, was familiar with the EU Data Privacy Directive, understood IncoTerms, had a basic feel for HR regulation in the larger Member States, had worked with or for a company that had a works council in one of the larger Member States, was familiar with significant US statutes and regulations related to international trade (FCPA, the various sanction programs administered by OFAC, anti-boycott statues and regs, and the various import/ export regs, for example). It would also be a huge advantage if this person would accept a local contract, rather than an expat assignment. Someone just out of law school need not apply.

    And the fastest train from Zurich to Paris takes over 4 hours, not an hour. That’s when I knew this was a fantasy.

    The rest all seemed plausible to me…

    • MacK

      That is a pretty accurate summation – sorry if I was flip (and you probably know the conference room floor with the CO2 meters (brand new building too, near Brussels.) I would joke that not only do you need to know Articles 101 and 102 TEU, but also about 85/86 and 81/82 and may even occasionally misspeak.

      A major route into EU practice is to be a stagiaire at the European Commission, especially in DG Competition (formerly DG IV), but it is very tough for a non-EU citizen to secure a stage and in the past the most prestigious were unpaid (I don’t know about today.) EU law is best described as “pan-national” law and for corporate lawyers the most important area is competition law. There are certainly US JD holders working at the Commission, but most are Europeans (or EU/US citizens) who for whatever reason went to a US law school. Many US lawyers will have gone to the College of Europe in Brugge for an LLM – but I am not sure how good an entrée into a large firm this would be. They used to have a joking phrase “under cover american” for the many US lawyers who had EU passports as well, either by birth or marriage – I actually don’t know if you can get a permanent job in the Commission as a non-EU citizen (maybe a contractor.) If you want to work at the Commission you need to speak and read at least two European Languages, preferably English and French, the two working languages.

      One problem is that US firms want US trained lawyers to have US experience, even if in Brussels. I did do a stage more than 20 years ago and was offered in two BigLaw stores in Brussels – but both offices collapsed. Both expected me to go to NY/DC for 18 months, as a start. A lot of Europeans hired by BigLaw are seconded to NY/DC for 12-24 months for experience.

      The summation of the EU law that impacts a lot is pretty accurate – TUPE, Data-Directive, Competition law, some trade (Dumping/CVD). Although most deals are in English, you should have passable French and German, at least enough for small talk – and be able to read some too.
      Until recently Fordham was actually well regarded in competition because of its annual international competition law conference.

      You do need to understand as genedebien put it the differences between legal system and how each works – I know NY and US federal law pretty well (and quite a lot of state law), know EU law also pretty well, English law, Irish law, but then I am qualified in all 3 – but I also know a fair amount of Japanese law and practice, French law in a number of areas, German law – and decent amount of civil law (criminal/public and private), etc. You need to know this stuff because you cannot always call for a consult – and you need to have a good idea of what you can and cannot do in country X or Y (you need to know about distributors in Belgium for example.) At least you need to be able to know if you are getting into dangerous waters.

      The big issue though for most US law graduates is debt – you cannot hang around taking the “catch-as-catch-can” positions that will lead to most internationalish legal careers if you are carrying a huge debt and you’re broke to boot. Moreover, most (but not all) International law is domestic laws in an international context.

  • Xenos

    If you want to practice international law, just move to another country and get an LLM there. In my case I moved to a European financial center and got an LLM in EU law, which is international by definition. That and a few years in biglaw might have gotten me a law firm job here, but probably would not have. I do know American lawyers who have gotten jobs in EU agencies here, so that can be done.

    If I get a job out of the process it will be because I am a native English speaker who understands local corporate law (which is dead simple compared to US corporate law), or the EU directives on money laundering and financial consumer protection. But it will not be work that requires a law degree. Four years of law school to get a job that a local can get with a Bac +4 and a lucky break in getting an entry-level job and not fucking up for a couple years is, well, a bit humbling. Boo-hoo for me.

    Local law firms mostly hire locals – and you had better know French and English to native proficiency, and have a minimum of two more languages as well.

    But unless you do tax work for private equity deals, there is not that much that is international per se, and for the most part they can get English lawyers to do it. A CPA with a background in IFRS and tax is much more valuable and useful, and is considered a legit way to practice law in any case.

    The exception is when English businesses get outsourced… there is at least one job I am applying for where a department is getting shut down in London and the work is being shipped out for tax reasons. And it is already a fraught political issue in the UK, so I would not be surprised to see them pull the plug on the process without notice.

  • cpinva

    speaking of “practicing international law”, several republican controlled states are quickly beginning to resemble third-world countries:

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/03/kansas-republican-devises-new-plan-to-circumvent-supreme-courts-recent-voting-rights-ruling/

  • Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb

    It’s difficult to advise them…

    My roommate in college went to law school a year ahead of me with the goal of practicing “international law.” During his 2L year, he took the International Law elective, and I asked him about it.

    He said, “You know, I realize now that I don’t really like international law; I just like to travel.”

  • Mike Schilling

    It’s a lot like maritime law. Three miles out, it’s a free-for-all!

    • Comrade Stakhanov

      “It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.”

    • Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb

      Look at those poor saps back on land with their “laws” and “ethics”. They’ll never know the simple joys of a monkey knife fight

  • OhioDocReviewer

    So Austin Powers’ cover was that he was an international law attorney?

  • Yes, there is such a thing as ‘international law’, no, it does not neccessarily mean that you spend your life jet-setting. A classic area is IP – trademarks and patents can be applied for in a variety of countries, clients will want you to handle this for them, so you will contact your associates in the countries concerned and act as an intermediary.

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