Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Who doesn’t want to become an international lawyer? After all, imagine the fun you would have working in such a well-paid and uniquely challenging profession. There is the thrill of the chase when you negotiate clauses and agreements with big companies. You can work in a variety of fields, from entertainment to marketing to intellectual property issues, and in many different countries across the world.

Becoming an international lawyer is not easy. It is easier than ever before, but it is still a difficult and long path to take, and there are many things that must fall into place for the journey to be successful. This article will go over what you need in order to become an international lawyer, and give some general guidelines on where to start.

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What Can I Become If I Study International Law? -

international law degree

So you want to become an international lawyer. No doubt, you’ve thought it through carefully, and you’re sure it’s what you want to become. But let me ask you – what does it mean to you exactly? After all, if you think about it carefully, the term can mean different things to different people.

If you are looking to become an international lawyer, this post will shed more light and research on the requirements to become an international lawyer. You will also learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an international lawyer.

International law careers

A career in International Law is attracting- some people already picture themselves jetting around the globe from client meetings to international conferences- but it is more complicated than that. So, what is an International Lawyer, and how do I become one?

Let’s start with the basics: International law is the set of rules, agreements and treaties that are binding between countries. That’s for the definition.

As a practical matter, International Law covers three areas:

1. Private International Law, or Conflict of Law

With this first area, we address conflicts between private entities, whether individuals or corporations. Let’s say you have a corporation in the United States that sues another Corporation based in France: then, which jurisdiction should hear the dispute? Which law should be applied? This is basically what is Private International Law about.

2. Public International Law

The second area regulates the relationship between nations and international entities. This involves treaty law, law of the sea, international criminal law, international human right law and international trade law. 

3. Supranational Law

Supranational law is a form of international law based on the limitation of the rights of sovereign nations between one another. It includes regional agreements where a nation’s law may be held inapplicable when conflicting with a supranational body of rules. For example, European Union law for the Member States of EU: has its own set of laws that are directly implemented by the Member States.

Now that we’ve got the basics, let’s focus on lawyers. Most attorneys specialize in one area, such as contract, corporate, customs, immigration, tax or human rights to name a few. They usually advise their clients on the domestic laws of their home country.

what do international lawyers do

Lawyers help resolve legal problems by advising and/or representing their clients in court. A lawyer’s most common job tasks include drafting legal documents, researching laws, handling settlement negotiations, and representing a client in court. An international lawyer is an attorney who focuses their legal practice on international disputes. These types of disputes may include international business, trade, or criminal issues.

Although lawyers have long educational paths, once established, lawyers of all kinds can earn large salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2018 that the median annual salary for lawyers was $120,910. Individuals working for private practices may earn more money than those who serve non-profit organizations or governments.

Lawyers work in office settings at least 40 hours a week, although some work much longer hours to grow their client base or to prepare for a case, and some travel may be required.

how hard is it to become an international lawyer

The truth is, lawyers work in and are admitted to practise in jurisdictions, which by their nature are local. In other words, being an international lawyer is not just another type of lawyer, like an employment lawyer or a criminal defence lawyer. So what exactly is an international lawyer?

Of course, there is the body of law known as international law, defined by the International Law Students Association as:

“The rules and principles of general application dealing with the conduct of States and of international organisations in their international relations with one another and with private individuals, minority groups and transnational companies.”

To a large extent, it represents the meeting point of law and politics; it is a highly specialised area of law, and doesn’t seem to be what we mean by an international lawyer.

Could it be something much simpler? Where the work being carried out by a lawyer does not only relate to their home jurisdiction, perhaps it should be regarded as international legal work? For example, if a corporate lawyer in Germany is advising a Japanese car manufacturer on an acquisition of a stake in a German car manufacturer, should that lawyer be regarded as an international lawyer? While the work may be limited to German law, and possibly European Union law, the parties involved cross borders, and the work requires familiarity with multiple business cultures and languages.

Premium Photo | Lawyer studying the law

Or perhaps in order to be practising international law, we need to be involved in dispute resolution, such as international commercial arbitrations? That too involves parties from different jurisdictions, the forum for the dispute could be anywhere from Singapore to Paris, and the applicable law could be the domestic law of one party or another legal system entirely.

how to become an international lawyer uK

Ok, so far we’ve established that we’re not talking about international law in the strict sense of the term. We also haven’t quite settled on what we do mean, but let’s try to set out some minimum requirements for being an international lawyer:

Here are steps to take to become an international lawyer.

Step 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree Program

Almost all law schools require that applicants have bachelor’s degrees. The BLS states that there is no specific undergraduate field of study required to attend law school, and many law students possess degrees in economics, government, or history.

You may benefit from completing a bachelor’s degree program in international studies. These programs can provide a foundation of information about international issues that may prove beneficial when studying international law in law school.

Also consider studying a foreign language. Developing fluency in a foreign language could help you when speaking with colleagues in, or traveling to, other countries. Many language programs also include lessons about a country’s culture and traditions, and knowledge of local customs can be helpful when discussing legal matters.

You will also want to prepare to take the LSAT. Law school applicants must submit their Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores with their applications. Most aspiring lawyers take the LSAT during their junior year of undergraduate study. Many schools offer multi-week preparatory courses that inform students about the exam’s format and provide test-taking tips.

Step 2: Take the LSAT

The LSAT, which is a half-day exam, focuses on analytical reasoning, critical thinking, and reading skills. A student’s LSAT scores play a large factor in their admission to law school.

Step 3: Attend and Graduate from Law School

Law school requires three years of full-time study. First-year students complete a curriculum of courses focusing on basic law subjects, such as contracts, property, torts, and constitutional law. Students in their second and third years complete elective classes, and they can participate in a judicial internship or clinical experiences.

Some schools allow students to concentrate their studies on international law. These concentrations include courses in comparative law, comparative legal cultures, international sales and trade, foreign policy, and multinational business law.

Regardless of whether you complete a concentration in international law, completing elective coursework in the subject can provide you with a solid understanding of the field. Examples of elective courses include advanced international business law, arbitration of international disputes, international legal research, and international children’s rights.

While in law school you’ll also need to prepare for the bar exam. Not passing a state’s bar exam means you can’t practice law in that state. Proper preparation for the bar exam increases the chances of passing the exam on the first try. Private companies offer multiple-week preparatory courses that provide instruction about the subjects on the exam and test taking techniques.

Step 4: Take a Bar Exam

According to the BLS, each state requires that lawyers be licensed. Becoming licensed usually requires passing a bar exam, passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, and being admitted to a state’s bar association. Although the format of each state’s bar exam differs, some consist of multiple days of testing. Questions are often in essay and multiple choice formats.

Step 5: Work as an International Lawyer

Government agencies and private firms hire lawyers to practice international law. Many times, these employers expect lawyers to practice other fields of law in addition to international law. Some employers may prefer to hire candidates with multiple years of experience or a portable book of clients.

Step 6: Consider Earning an LL.M.

Some law schools offer licensed attorneys the opportunity to earn Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees. LL.M. programs related to international law often focus on a specific sector of the field, such as international business, international human rights, law of international institutions, or public international law. The curriculum of these programs provides in-depth instruction about the chosen subset of international law.

international lawyer salary

Degree LevelJuris Doctor (J.D.); Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree for international business
Degree Field(s)Pre-law or other majors (for bachelor’s); law school
License/CertificationMust pass state bar exam
ExperienceNone; must be licensed lawyer to apply to LL.M program
Key SkillsCritical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing skills; thorough knowledge of Microsoft Office, project management, and accounting software, legal search engines, and other related software
Median Annual Salary (2018)*$120,910

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

To become an international lawyer, you need to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.). You also must pass your state’s bar exam. In addition to your formal training you will need skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing. You need thorough knowledge of Microsoft Office, project management and accounting software, legal search engines, and other related software.

A day in the life of a lawyer | Simply Law Jobs Blog

how long does it take to become an international lawyer

The requirements to become an international lawyer involve seven years of full-time study. Students spend the working towards a bachelor’s (B.S.) degree. Law schools do not require specific fields of undergraduate study, though many aspiring attorneys choose to major in government or history.


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