Studies & Degrees in International Law
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International Law Study Programs
International Law is applied in the affairs between countries, which may involve trade, crime, or commerce. International law basically encompasses a complex network of treaties, agreements, customs, declarations, international organizations, writings of judges, etc.; these represent the body of rules that bind nations in their relations. Normally, those building the international system are responsible for developing international law, but not every country takes part in the process. The United Nations is probably the most recognized of all international institutions.
As an international lawyer, you would need to not simply understand the law of your home country, but also have in-depth knowledge of the international law, concerned with the area in which you practice. Two main categories of International Law exist – public International Law and private International Law, which in fact are quite interrelated. Public International Law deals with relationships between different nations or between a nation and persons from another country, while private International Law gets involved with individual concerns, such as civil or human rights issues, not only between a government and its own citizens, but also in how its citizens are treated by other nations.
In real life, International Law covers a great deal of opportunities. Being an international lawyer could involve sorting out human rights issues, migration, or being involved in international trade and investment. A lot of corporate law firms also have an international department, dealing with cross-border mergers and acquisitions, infrastructure or development projects, and many other activities.
Excellent communication skills are a personal quality that would definitely represent a strength when embarking on an International Law degree.
Open-mindedness and flexibility are also prerequisites to be successful in this area, combined with some international experience – living or studying abroad for a period of time. Additional qualities are:
- Ability to memorize a large amount of facts
- Analytical and problem-solving skills; ability to use facts logically
- Persuasion skills
- Decision-making under pressure
- Liaise with a great number of people
- Integrity – and ability to understand its importance in the overall development of international law.
An undergraduate, postgraduate, or MBA degree in International Law would be an excellent option, considering that countries are becoming even more interrelated with the growth of technology, globalization, and various unions formed (i.e. European Union). The development of international laws also becomes a demand with nations becoming more and more bound together.
In any case, if you aspire to become an international lawyer, choosing a school that offers a good international law program is vital. All lawyers need to graduate with an undergraduate degree at the very least. It would be a good idea to check university’s rankings – both its general standing and the international law classes offered. It would also be smart of you to check whether the university offers some form of international internships or study-abroad programs that will definitely enhance your future career. Help with finding summer internships are offered by many law schools, and this provides a great opportunity to gain experience in a specific area of international law. Such opportunities are more likely to be found in a large, cosmopolitan city, and some schools even offer programs that allow students to interact with the United Nations or with the court system of a foreign country.
A final important point that you have to consider is what the exact requirements for becoming a lawyer in the country you wish to build your career are. For example, in the United States, on top of gaining an undergraduate degree, one has to also get a juris doctorate degree by completing three years of law school. Finally, one has to become licensed in the state where he or she plans to work by passing the bar, the multi-state professional responsibility examination, and pass a background check.
Career options in this area are very diverse. The requirements for securing a job are also very high, for which reason sound education background, combined with some experience, is crucial. Still, the degree in International Law provides options to work for national governments, international or non-profit organizations as well as private corporations.
Starting with governments, they have a lot of departments that have some form of international activities, which would definitely require legal support; for instance, environmental departments may work with other countries to implement agreements, such as the Kyoto agreement.
The United Nations and non-government organizations are another major employer of international law graduates. Taking a job in such organizations can be highly rewarding, as it can contribute to making a positive change in the world.