Types of International Lawyer Jobs
The scope of legal careers on an international scale is extensive. Lawyers specialized in this field are hired to provide counsel to individuals, large corporations, non-profit organizations, and even government entities regarding criminal law, trade law, human rights law, environmental law, patent law - the list of international legal careers goes on.
Inventors and innovators often seek the protection of patent law. However, a patent granted by a domestic patent office is protected only within the country’s borders. While worldwide patent protection does not exist, lawyers who take on international patent law jobs help make patent filing and granting for several countries easier. Among other things, they should be well-informed on regional patent applications, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) activities, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and The Paris Convention.
International criminal law jobs are a career path attorneys at law pursue to defend or prosecute individuals in cases of crimes with an international aspect, such as war crimes, genocide, aggression, and other crimes against humanity.
International trade law jobs deal with trade rules and customs between sovereign countries. Lawyers in this specialty area mainly provide counsel regarding compliance with international trade rules to foreign companies or those conducting business abroad. When violations of these rules occur, people with this job title also represent their clients in enforcement actions.
Lawyers who perform international human rights law jobs have the responsibility of defending people’s fundamental rights. They protect the rights of migrant workers, refugees, and individuals who belong to racial and ethnic minorities. International human rights lawyers not only help victims of human rights violations but also dedicate themselves to the promotion of international human rights standards.
International environmental law jobs involve roles created to ensure that the set of agreements and principles resulting from the world's collective effort to protect the environment are implemented and followed. Lawyers with this type of job usually work for advocacy groups or government agencies. They participate in the arbitration tribunals and are vital in litigating and resolving environmental disputes between sovereign states, making sure that international environmental agreements are carried out and respected.
Similarly to those practicing international trade law, lawyers who hold international business law jobs protect clients’ business interests. They advise their clients on matters related to legal issues and disputes with business entities operating in another country. International business lawyers must be familiar with various domestic and foreign policies and laws, such as labor laws, tariffs, taxes, licensing procedures, etc. They should be very well versed in economics, as well.
Work Environment and Schedule
Lawyers spend most of their working hours inside their firms’ offices. Still, those who hold international law jobs abroad are often required to regularly travel to numerous places across countries, especially when they need to appear in court to represent clients.
Like many other jobs nowadays, international law jobs are known for the heavy workload they come with. The role of an international lawyer can be particularly stressful during trials when meeting deadlines and gathering relevant data is of the essence.
Those interested in starting their international law career surely wonder about the number of hours lawyers put in every week. On average, they have a 40-hour workweek. However, those who work full time in private law firms usually spend additional hours researching, reviewing, and preparing legal documents to meet their clients’ demands.
How to Become an International Lawyer
The road to international law careers can be quite long and bumpy. After completing high school education, an aspiring international lawyer would need to go through another seven years of studies. Most US jurisdictions and states require lawyers to get a Juris Doctor degree at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.
Before prospective law students can consider holding an international law degree, they must first complete their bachelor studies to get into law school. Although no specific fields of study are required for admission, courses in economics, mathematics, history, foreign languages, and public speaking have proven useful when preparing for law school.
Besides completing a bachelor’s degree, students of the law must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to get into an ABA-approved law school.
International jobs for law graduates also come more easily if the students earn a Master of Laws degree in international law. This allows them to gain in-depth knowledge of specific sectors such as international business, international human rights, or any of the aforementioned fields of law.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Careers in international law require a lawyer to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and a licensing exam, often referred to as the bar exam. After this, the lawyer is then admitted to a state bar association. Most states require lawyers to stay current with their legal education by completing mandatory CLE (continuing legal education) courses on an ongoing basis.
Many schools and bar associations offer various forms of continuing education to provide law students and licensed lawyers with an opportunity to further their international law careers. The purpose of these programs is to keep lawyers up to date with the latest law-related developments. In some cases, the programs are given in the form of online courses.
International Law Jobs Salary
Like most other high-profile lawyers, attorneys practicing international law have excellent earning potential.
According to the 2020 data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers was $126,930. That equals $61.03 per hour, which is well above the median personal income in the US. The highest recorded salaries exceeded $208,000. That said, international law careers’ salary may be lower in the government and non-profit sectors.
On the other side of the spectrum, the lowest-paid lawyers earned below $61,490. However, relatively low income is expected for all entry-level international law jobs.
Interestingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that lawyers who have their own practices earned less than those employed at large firms and big businesses.