How to Become an International Lawyer

Lawyers typically help resolve legal issues or disputes in a local area or in a specific state where they take clients. However, an international lawyer’s duties extend beyond the borders of their country. They focus on international disputes including international business, trade, or criminal issues. Some skills that are required for being an international lawyer are critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and thorough knowledge of legal research and search engines.

There are steps that those who are interested can take to pursue a career as an international lawyer. See below for more information.

1. Complete an Undergraduate Degree Program

Law schools require applicants to have an undergraduate degree when applying. It also helps if the applicant was a good student or active in campus groups or organizations. There are no specific undergraduate degrees that law schools require, but degrees in History, Political Science, or Government are popular. If interested in International Law specifically, some courses in international relations or law would be helpful. Also, depending if the applicant has a specific country in mind they’d like to practice, being fluent in the native language and local culture would provide an advantage.

2. Take the LSAT

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a requirement for attending law school. It is common for students to take the LSAT during their junior or senior year of college and then submit the score with their law school application. The half-day test focuses on reading comprehension as well as logical and verbal reasoning proficiency.

3. Attend and Graduate from Law School

To become a lawyer, it is required to graduate from law school. Law school requires a three-year full-time commitment. While there, students learn the basic principles of law such as contracts, torts, property law, and constitutional law. After the first year, students may take electives or select an area of law they feel they’d like to pursue. Sometimes, they can complete judicial internships, work-study hours, or clinical experience to bolster their educational background and hands-on experience. At this point, if considering a career in international law, a student should take electives or concentrate their studies on the topic.

4. Take the Bar Exam

A bar examination is an exam administered by the bar association of a jurisdiction that a lawyer must pass in order to be admitted to the bar of that jurisdiction. In the United States, bar exams are administered by individual states and territories. In most states, the exam is two days long and consists of multiple-choice questions, essay questions, and legal writing tests. Typically, it is a requirement to have a degree from a law school before someone is allowed to take the bar exam. Most law schools provide preparatory classes designed specifically for getting ready for the bar exam.

5. Get a Job as an International Lawyer

Recent law school graduates can find work in government or at a local firm that practices international law. The firm may not exclusively practice international law and may also require the attorney to be proficient in other areas of law as well. Government agencies that have dealing abroad may be a better option for an attorney who wishes to only focus on international cases.

Individual attorneys should have some plan in place if they wish to pursue a career in international law. An additional step of acquiring a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree can give them an edge. An LL.M. can be specific to international law, and focus on international business, human rights, the law of international institutions, or public international law. Regardless of the path, an attorney pursuing international law should have some knowledge of current events that may affect the field.