Global Law Careers
Career options in global law (international, comparative/foreign, migration, foreign relations and national security law) are as varied as any in domestic law. Graduates of Northeastern University School of Law follow many paths. Some work with private law firms and corporate general counsel’s offices on international business transactions, arbitrations and intellectual property matters. Others document human rights violations for non-governmental organizations, advise on trade law and policy, organize humanitarian assistance for refugees or internally displaced persons, advocate at international tribunals, petition courts to grant asylum and petition international bodies to pressure governments not to impose the death penalty.
- Which domestic legal issues am I already most passionate about (e.g., domestic violence, corporate governance, environmental protection, civil rights, public health, labor and employment, juvenile justice, financial regulation)? How are they addressed in transnational context? Which organizations are working on those issues in foreign or transnational settings?
- Is there a country or region that is already of particular interest to me?
Do I have specific legal skills (or a plan for acquiring them in law and on co-op), or specialized skills that will be useful to employers, clients and communities in the countries in which I’d like to work?
Have I sharpened foundational legal skills such as writing, research and oral advocacy? Have I taken key introductory courses in both domestic and global law fields?
Do I have existing connections or networks in other countries (e.g., immigrant background, travel, friends, relatives or professional contacts abroad)?
Do I have a reading or speaking knowledge of languages other than English? Have I taken a language course and practiced with friends fluent in the other language? Have I worked in immigrant communities in which that language is spoken?
Am I staying current on global law news by reading a respected international news source daily? Am I a student member or volunteer for an organization that sponsors speakers, conferences or service events in global law? Do I develop contacts in global law by participating in related listservs, blogs and social networking sites?
Have I conducted informational interviews with career counselors in the law school’s Office of Career Services, faculty advisers in the field or with other students and alumni/ae who share my interests?
United States Government Agencies: Many US government agencies (not just the State Department) offer positions relating to international work. Try searching “international” and “legal” at the following sites:
USAJobs (federal government jobs)
Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Department of Legal Affairs
Other US Government Agencies: Check out internship opportunities and job postings at the Departments of Justice, State, Commerce, the Treasury, Homeland Security and the US Trade Representative; each does a lot of international work.
International Organizations: Look beyond the United Nations. Consider other international organizations and the smaller agencies within the UN, all of which do interesting work in a variety of fields and might give you the chance to do more hands-on work than the UN Secretariat or other main UN organs.
NGOs: Find out which organizations have consultative status with the UN (check the UN website), which regional organizations such as the European Union, the Organization of American States, the African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Law Association, or with other specialized international organizations. Consider work with smaller, grassroots NGOs, where you can get client- or community-based experience.
Working with an NGO is also a back-door way to build relationships with international organizations, observe their work and decide whether you want to pursue that route in the future.
Private Law Firms: Consider small and medium firms as well as multinational firms.
In trade law, for example, a lot of the work in the US is handled by smaller law firms that specialize in trade; the same is often true for intellectual property. Such boutique law firm positions are harder to find, but could be well worth the effort if you know you’d like to practice in a particular area.
There are many ways to find attorneys who work in your field of interest: For example, ask your Career Services counselor for Northeastern alumni/ae connections; browse bar association websites for information about practitioners. Attorneys who teach Continuing Legal Education classes for other lawyers are generally very knowledgeable about which firms practice in particular fields.
Some of the full-service mega-firms offer international rotations in their overseas offices.
Finally, talk to fellow students who have gone on international co-ops; talk to your professors and career counselors!
While a resume is the norm in the United States, a CV is the most accepted form of job application in Europe, Africa and Asia. Therefore, you should expect to submit a CV when applying to positions outside the United States, or possibly with international organizations operating within the United States. NUSL's Curriculum Vitae Guide available under NUSL Career Services Office Publications can assist you in preparing your CV.
The following lists selected online networks and databases available to those seeking to pursue careers in global law. Northeastern students and alumni/ae should contact the Office of Career Services for information about additional resources and for password to access restricted sites.
- American Society of International Law — This organization of international lawyers is more than a century old. The site lists job and fellowship opportunities and offers career guidance.
- Association for Women’s Human Rights in Development — AWID’s mission is to connect, inform and mobilize people and organizations committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights. The website and listserv contain human rights and development job listings.
- CARE USA — Jobsite for CARE USA, one of the world’s largest international development and relief organizations. Lists jobs at all levels in countries throughout the world.
- Ethical Jobs — Ethical Jobs is regularly updated with jobs in areas of work including Charities, Corporate Social Responsibility, Family & Children, Peace/Conflict Prevention and International Development.
- Euro-American Lawyers Group — A list of law firms in Europe, Scandinavia, the U.S. and Central America.
- Finding and Funding International Public Service Opportunities (PSLawNet, 2011-2012)
- Foreign Policy Association - Provides general resources and jobs in foreign policy
- H.G. Worldwide Legal Directories - Law firms, lawyers and attorneys worldwide by name, location and area of practice
- Human Rights Internet — Lists job openings in the human rights field in the U.S. and abroad.
- Human Rights Jobs — Human Rights Jobs is an advertising website specializing in human rights jobs: covering legal, campaigning and administrative jobs.
- Human Rights Watch - One of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights
- Idealist.org — An interactive social justice website where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters.
- International Career Employment Weekly — Published bi-weekly, this is a comprehensive source of international careers for professionals, including international development jobs.
- International Law Firms — An international association of independent law firms.
- Law Careers.net — Newsletter that reports legal news from London, England.
- Legal Study Abroad Headquarters — A comprehensive online collection of legal study abroad materials.
- OverseasJobs.com — Guide to overseas and international job opportunities.
- Political Jobs — Political Jobs contains jobs in political parties, political consultancies, parliaments and senates worldwide and political campaigning jobs.
- PSJD.org — A database that lists several thousand organizations with available public service opportunities ranging from short-term, uncompensated volunteer positions during school semesters to full-time summer internships, to post-graduate jobs and fellowships. Also includes international organizations, jobs listings and fellowships.
- Policy Jobs — Research and policy-making jobs from around the world.
- Public Interest Law Institute - Jobs and other postings related to public interest around the world
- ReliefWeb — Positions with humanitarian/development/relief agencies.
- Reuters AlertNet — Listings of human rights positions through the Reuters Foundation.
- United Nations Web Site Locator — Links to most of the constituent UN organizations. Many organizations list their own vacancies, while others are listed under the international civil service.
- Xela Pages Travel & Resource Guide — Information on Spanish language immersion programs in Guatemala.
*(c) 2009; Hope Lewis.
**(c) 2009; Sonia E. Rolland.
Photo: Tim Tabor