International Lawyer

International law refers to the rules and regulations that govern relationships between nations. The law promotes common interests, advancement of peace, and respect for human rights. Unfortunately, disputes arise between entities due to legal, language, and cultural differences between nations. International lawyers are legal professionals that help resolve these disputes. They also help clients navigate the complex areas of international law. Keep reading to learn more about the international lawyer.

What Does an International Lawyer Do?

International lawyers specialize in international law. Due to the board scope of international law, many attorneys in this field choose to specialize. For example, an international lawyer might focus his field of practice on private international law to deal with conflicts between private parties in different countries. They help determine which jurisdiction’s laws apply, and which jurisdiction should hear the dispute. They also advise corporations on operating legally on the international stage, and draft company policies to meet national standards.

Public sector international lawyers generally work for national governments. They draft trade agreements and draw up international contracts. These attorneys can also become employed by international organizations such as the World Bank. Some even spend their careers protecting human rights, improving immigration laws, or assisting immigrants with citizenship.

On rare occasion, international lawyers also handle cases that go before international courts such as the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.  These cases involve more serious issues such as war crimes or genocide. Additionally, they may work for private organizations representing clients detained in foreign countries.

Regardless of what they specialize in, the basic duties include drawing up legal forms, researching laws in various countries, and representing clients in and out of the courtroom. They meet with clients, interview witnesses, and attend negotiation or mediation meetings.

Professional Requirements 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. Students also benefit from focusing on international studies and foreign languages.

Before graduating, students must pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). This half-day exam assesses analytical reasoning, critical thinking, and reading skills. The score plays a major factor in their admission into law school.

Law school entails three years of study to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Students complete basic law courses such as contracts and torts the first year. Second and third-year studies include elective courses. During this time, students can participate in judicial internships or clinical experiences.

While in law school, students begin preparing for the bar exam. After receiving a law degree, students must pass the bar exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The last requirement to become an international is gaining admission into a state’s bar association.

Additional Educational Requirements

To widen their career opportunities in the field of international law, some lawyers choose to earn a Master of Laws (L.L.M) degree. This degree gives degree allows for more advanced studies on international law. It also gives lawyers global credibility.

Additional Licensing Requirements

In order to practice law, attorneys must meet additional licensing requirements. While these vary by state, most require lawyers to stay up-to-date with laws through Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses. The number of course hours required vary as does the frequency.

Where Can You Work as an International Lawyer

There are many possibilities when it comes to where you can work as an international lawyer. A law firm that specializes in international law is one option. Many attorneys join firms in the beginning of their careers with hopes of making partner in the future. If they fail to become partner, they generally move to another firm or become solo practitioners.

Other job possibilities include working for a college or university. With this career choice, you can teach courses or research international studies. Some international attorneys seek employment with the government. This job may call for the drafting of international agreements, or representing the U.S. government before agencies such as the World Trade Organization.

Regardless of where you work as an international lawyer works, you can expect to spend most of your time in an office setting. However, some international attorneys do a lot of traveling to deal with legal matters.

How do International Lawyers Get Paid

The billing method and the legal issue determines how international lawyers get paid. Typically, they charge an hourly rate, especially if they cannot predict how much time they will spend on the case. For cases that are more cut-and-dry, such as drawing up a specific legal document, they might charge a flat-rate fee. When a client expects the court to award money damages, a lawyer may charge a contingency fee. The attorney receives the fee only if they win the case.

Many lawyers require a retainer fee. The client pays the retainer fee up front, and the lawyer places it into a special account to use as he or she works on the case. It is common practice for international lawyers to charge additional fees for services such as filing court documents. Regardless of whether the attorney’s method of billing, ask about the fees before signing any agreement.

International Lawyer Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average annual lawyer salary is $119,250 as of 2018. The BLS does not distinguish between areas of practice, therefore some specialties pay more than others.

The exact salary varies depending on several factors, including geographical location of the practice and the lawyer’s experience. Typically, those with more experience tend to fall on the higher end of the pay spectrum.

Employment Outlook for International Lawyers

The BLS predicts that the employment rate for lawyers will increase by around 8% by 2026. This growth is average for jobs in the U.S. The market in the field of law continues to remain competitive as more students graduate from law school than jobs become available.

Hiring an International Lawyer

Hiring an international lawyer with experience can greatly affect the outcome of your case. The attorney you hire should have expertise in the relevant field in order to effectively represent you. Additionally, he or she should also communicate openly with you. This includes keeping you up-to-date as the case develops. You in turn, should feel comfortable discussing important aspects of the case with the lawyer.

Before hiring any attorney, set up an initial consultation. Most lawyers offer these meetings free of charge and it gives you the opportunity to ask about their experience and track record. You should also inquire about the fees involved and the method of billing to avoid surprises down the road. Meeting with more than one lawyer can help you avoid hiring the wrong one.

How to Find the Right International Lawyer

Knowing how to find the right international lawyer makes the process less stressful. The best way to start is to ask family, friends, and business associates if they know an international law attorney they would recommend. If you know a legal professional, ask them for a recommendation, even if they practice in another field.

Attorney databases are another great option if you use a reputable one. These databases allow you to search for a lawyer by name, location, or field of practice. Some even provide additional information including experience, client reviews, and disciplinary records. Also, check the bar association website in your state. Some provide a public list of licensed attorneys in the state. Before meeting with an attorney, visit their website if available. Most provide information about their education, experience, and expertise.

Essential Information

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) is strongly encouraged
Degree Field(s) Law
License/Certification Licensure in state of practice
Key Skills Critical thinking, negotiation, verbal and written communication, fluent in foreign languages, ability to research, analytical, well-versed in international law
Number of Jobs (2016) 792,500
Job Outlook
8% growth rate (average growth rate)
Median Salary (2017) $119,250*
On the Job Training Moderate term of on-the-job training
Top Earners Top earners in the field are generally employed by large law firms

(*Source: the BLS)