Career Path Introduction
Public international law consists of the laws, rules and customs that govern relationships between countries, and it often includes provisions that relate directly to businesses and other organizations. Comparative law is a set of methods that can be used to understand foreign legal systems and procedures and to deal more effectively with foreign lawyers and the foreign elements of legal situations.
The dramatic increase in the interconnectedness of people, businesses and governments demands ever greater use of international and comparative law study. The information and methods can be applied to areas such as international trade, banking and finance, intellectual property, environmental law, employment law, trade compliance, and antitrust and competition law. This kind of specialization and emphasis is primarily used in dealing with the legal affairs of businesses, although it also often plays an important part in legal practices dealing with the legal problems of individuals. Examples of these are family law, inheritance issues and immigration law.
Lawyers with these specializations are usually employed in corporations or are part of law firms. Many are also employed by U.S. government agencies of all kinds. In particular, the government employs lawyers with specialties in international law in the International Trade Commission; the departments of Commerce, State, Defense and Homeland Security; and the Central Intelligence Agency. Those interested in public interest law often focus on international criminal law, environmental law and human rights law.
Jobs are also available in intergovernmental organizations such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the World Intellectual Property Organization. NGOs often rely on international and comparative expertise. Examples of these are the World Wildlife Fund, Amnesty International, Heifer International and Doctors Without Borders.
On a typical day, depending on their focus, lawyers in these types of positions may do research on foreign law, negotiate business transactions, or counsel clients about contracts or investment disputes. In some situations, they may investigate human rights violations, review and edit company prospectuses or financial filings, or write reports on fact-finding missions involving environmental violations. They might advise individuals, businesses and governments on matters ranging from sales contracts and patent or trademark rights to rights and obligations associated with inheritance or adoption or immigration.
Internationally oriented attorneys benefit from strong research and writing skills, excellent problem-solving skills, fluency in foreign languages, and the ability to work well with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
During law school, many students who are interested in international law work as externs at law firms, consulates, relevant NGOs and the legal departments of corporations that do business abroad. They also compete in interscholastic moot court tournaments and serve as editors of student-run publications on international law. Students who participate in a study abroad program can gain valuable exposure to foreign legal systems in their host countries.
Chicago-Kent offers a J.D. Certificate in International and Comparative Law for students who wish to learn about conducting international business transactions, to navigate foreign legal regimes, and to understand global institutions such as the International Court of Justice, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.
>> Learn about the certificate program curriculum and requirements.
Related: Chicago-Kent also offers master of laws degree programs with strong international orientations:
>> Visit the J.D. Certificate Program in International and Comparative Law faculty page to learn about Chicago-Kent faculty who teach courses relating to these areas of law.
The Chicago-Kent Journal of International and Comparative Law is an online law forum dedicated to discussion of all matters relating to international law as well as to the publication of articles, notes and comments about various international law issues.
Members of the International Law Moot Court Honors Society field a team for the annual Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, which bringings together law students from more than 50 countries to compete on an international legal issue.
The International Law Student Association promotes an understanding of international law and its place in furthering world peace.