International Law Professional: How Can I Become One?

Jul 10, 2020

Should I Become an International Law Professional?

Lawyers help individuals resolve legal problems by researching laws, writing legal documents, negotiating settlements and arguing clients' cases before judges and/or juries. International attorneys focus their practices on handling international law issues. They often work long hours, and travel may be the norm.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Undergraduate degree; Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Degree Field Law
Licensure All states require that lawyers be licensed
Experience Employers may prefer candidates with 2-7 years of experience
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation skills, research and writing skills; ability to use legal research engines, such as LexisNexis or Westlaw, project management software and accounting software
Salary (2015) $115,820 per year (median salary for lawyers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop, job postings

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most law schools require that attorneys possess an undergraduate degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), no specific field of study is required to attend law school, and many law students complete bachelor's degree programs in economics, history or government.

Aspiring international law professionals might consider completing an undergraduate degree program focusing on international studies. These programs provide an overview of the relationships that exist and the problems that arise in the world. This knowledge may prove beneficial when practicing international law.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the LSAT. Law schools require applicants to submit scores from the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In fact, an individual's score on this test is often a determining factor in whether he or she is admitted to the law school of his or her choice. Companies offer multi-week prep courses that provide test taking techniques and familiarize students with the format of the exam's questions. Completing one of these courses may help the individual increase his or her LSAT score.

Step 2: Take the LSAT

Most students take the LSAT during their junior year of undergraduate study. This half-day test consists of multiple-choice questions designed to test an individual's reading comprehension, critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills.

Step 3: Graduate from Law School

Full-time law studies typically require three years to complete. During their first year of study, students complete courses in basic law subjects such as contracts, property, torts and criminal law. During their second and third years of study, students complete judicial internships, clinical experiences and elective classes.

Many law schools allow students to concentrate their studies on international law or international and comparative law. Courses in these programs cover topics such as the federal courts, international dispute resolution, international taxation, public international law and conflict of laws.

Success Tips:

  • Take elective courses in international law. Regardless of whether a law student completes a concentration, elective courses in international law provide them with in-depth knowledge of the field. Classes related to international law include international business transactions, arbitration of international disputes, international legal research and international criminal activity.
  • Complete a study-abroad experience. Some schools allow students interested in international law to complete a study-abroad experience. These experiences can consist of several weeks or a semester abroad. They introduce students to other cultures and may provide them with an opportunity to learn a foreign language.

Step 4: Take the Bar Exam

The BLS reports that every state requires lawyers to be licensed. Usually, to become licensed, lawyers must pass a bar exam and a professional responsibility exam and be admitted to a state's bar association. The format of each state's bar exam differs, but may include multiple choice and essay questions. Some exams last several days.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the bar exam. Failing a state's bar exam prevents an individual from practicing law in that state. Companies offer bar prep courses that provide instruction about the subjects of law normally tested on a state's exam and test-taking techniques. Completing one of these prep courses may increase the likelihood of an individual passing the exam on his or her first try.

Step 5: Work as an International Lawyer

Law firms, private companies and government agencies hire lawyers to work on international law issues. These companies may prefer to hire individuals with several years of experience.

Step 6: Consider Earning a Master of Laws Degree

Law schools allow licensed attorneys to earn a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law or International Legal Studies. These programs provide advanced instruction in the issues that could arise in the field of law. Courses cover topics such as international sports, human rights, environmental or tax laws, international tribunals and European Union business law. Some programs may allow students to specialize their studies in international human rights, environmental or business law, for example.

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