Careers in International Law: A Comprehensive Guide


If cross-border issues like international business and human rights are topics that interest you, International Law is a career you may want to consider.

International law is a highly specialized and interdisciplinary field. To enter this field, you need to earn a Master’s degree, besides your undergraduate legal course to be eligible. Moreover, it is also a good idea to specialize in an international language to gain an edge. Some of the most preferred languages are French, German, Japanese and Russian.

As for skills and abilities you’ll need to have an analytical bent of mind, expert research skills and the ability to identify and bridge the basic differences between the legal and cultural systems across the world. .

Here’s all you need to know about the field.

Career paths and average remunerations

International law is a fast-changing dynamic field, and experts have no dearth of opportunities.  After qualification in this domain you can choose to become a corporate lawyer, policy advisor, mediator, or a legal advisor, to name a few. You can also work with non-governmental or inter-governmental organizations later in your career. For instance, international organizations like the United Nations are on a constant lookout for talented individuals inclined towards bringing forth a global change. Lawyers for the United Nations are employed in a wide range of fields including environmental law, maritime law, trade law and treaties. In such a situation, a person with expertise in international law holds a prominent edge above the others.

Corporate lawyer

They are the most active international lawyers today. The main task of a corporate lawyer is to aid clients in business transactions. They are champions of international business laws. They represent clients in courts, defend their case and also initiate legal actions on their behalf while keeping them in the loop. However, professionals with expertise in local issues such as securities and regulations or trademarks are more likely to be hired. The nitty-gritty of the application of these in the international sphere can be learned later as well. On average, they earn USD 107,300 p.a

Types of job roles as a corporate lawyer

If a candidate meets the required eligibilities for becoming a corporate lawyer, he can either work at a law firm or any other organization. However, both the paths vary from each other a lot. Let’s have a look at the detailed job descriptions.

Usually, the students from the top universities make it to the prestigious law firms. They don’t need to surrender their licenses to work here.


Freshers who have just ventured into corporate law can join companies in the capacity of junior or senior attorneys. Working under the supervision of a senior associate, their task generally adheres to looking into the day-to-day affairs of their clients. While the work allotted depends on the size of the firm, the career growth is tremendous with increasing years of experience.


Their work generally pertains to supervising the legal and technical support teams of the law firms while running the daily administrative affairs. Other areas that are of interest to them include managing the new projects allotted by the clients and keeping an eye on vendor relationships. Their expertise lies in handling all the projects perfectly while ensuring that the work on the talent is balanced to receive the best outcomes.

Industry Experts

Their expertise is used in legal insight in all the essential matters of the organization ranging from transactions and business associations to contracts and beyond.

Chief Legal Managers

An expert with years of experience in commercial law, he is the head of all the legal matters of an organization. They are the legal face of the firms and preside over the entire legal procedure from the minutes of details to the biggest of deals.

What is the difference between corporate law and commercial law?

While commercial law is pretty broad in its arena and includes within its fold legal relations between different business entities including but not limited to intellectual property and franchising, corporate law is a more restricted term which only relates with the specific business. Corporate law, for instance, deals with the incorporations of the business houses and their mergers and acquisitions.

Though the pressure that comes with becoming a corporate lawyer is tremendous, it is worth it. Corporate lawyers are paid not only handsome renumerations but also have a high career growth.

A list of the most popular industries hiring corporate lawyers

  • Law firms
  • Consultancies
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Corporate firms
  • Judiciary
  • Law institutions


Besides collecting and sharing information relevant to their client’s needs, diplomats also work towards maintaining healthy international relations. After all, the entire corpus of diplomatic law is derived based on state immunity and sovereign immunity. Moreover, they work relentlessly toward negotiating treaties and providing aid during crises. They earn USD 86,200 p.a. on an average.

Policy advisor

Besides working closely with policy analysts on the implementation of public policies, these experts lend their expertise in writing and presenting well-researched reports for government bodies. They basically have three interlinking roles: advising, negotiating and litigating. Over time, there has been tremendous growth in the scope of work of policy advisors thanks to the diversification of international law and the pressing need for specialization thereby, the gradual codification of international and also an increase in monitoring and accountability mechanisms. They can also evaluate potential risks on policy documents . Their average paycheck is of USD 74,500 p.a.

A policy advisor’s job requires a high level of expertise. Therefore, a masters degree is recommended. Further, an aspirant can also go for a PhD to get more access to opportunities. The importance of internships and work experiences cannot be neglected either.

Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Policy and the Master of Public Policy, are the most popular courses among aspirants. Since the degrees are quite broad in themselves, many of the students choose to concentrate on a particular area that interests them.

Another good decision would be to opt for entry-level jobs right at the bachelors level. This will give more insight into the professional lives of policy advisors, and the hands-on practical experience gained is indispensable. This will also act as a reliable platform for network building. Many students also volunteer for political organizations.


Mediators study individual cases in depth. Upon doing so, they do their best to provide mutual solutions and avoid the possibility of a court hearing for both the parties. Being a mediator is all about conflict resolution so a person with good reasoning, problem solving abilities and peace making skills will reach great heights in this profession. Examples of conflicts that mediators generally strive to resolve include labour issues, health care disputes, environmental issues and international conflicts. This job is highly confidential. Mediators make over USD 51,700 p.a.

Though a degree in law goes a long way, education in mediation is the most important which can either be attained as an undergraduate course or an individual training course.

Mediation has always been a sought after option historically. Today, a large number of colleges have started offering courses in dispute resolution and conflict management keeping in mind the needs of the globalized world. The growth rate of this field is exponential, and it is expected to overtake all the other areas soon.

Legal advisor

As the name suggests, upon receiving all the necessary documents from the client, legal advisors work towards providing useful advice regarding legal issues and transactions. Their job is different from that of arbitrators as the parties are in no sort of prior agreement to accept the suggestions made unconditionally. They are also known as “in-house counsel”, “in-house lawyers” and “corporate counsel”. Often, they specialize in issues such as contract disputes, compensation issues and other workplace related conflicts. This job can fetch you USD 78,700 p.a. on an average.

It is a highly competitive field and merely getting a diploma won’t cut it. At least an LLB course from a recognized university should be completed. Moreover, working as a Legal Assistant can fetch amazing opportunities on this career path.

Though the beginning can be challenging, this career brings forth an array of opportunities in a diverse range of sectors. The flexible working hours, possibility of self employment and the financial merits are the cherry on the cake.

Project officer/assistant

These officers generally work for organizations which have their presence in the legal arena as well, for instance inter-governmental organizations or NGOs. Their scope of work is pretty wide and can range from carrying out awareness campaigns and brainstorming in research to even collaborating with beneficiaries directly. On an average, they make $72,500 p.a.

How to pursue a career in international law?

International law is a diverse and unrestricted field. That being said there is no fixed route into it. In fact, even professionals are not from the legal field can work with the employers in supportive roles say finance and HR. If the above interest you, then here’s how you can , pursue  a career international law.

  • It is prudent to supplement your legal degree with a masters course in international affairs or a related field.
  • Knowledge and skills earned through internships are indispensable.
  • Besides a keen interest in pursuing law in a global setting, an aspirant should also have command over an international language and robust overseas experience. French, German, Japanese, Russian are the most in demand.

While the formal qualifications are vital too, the interpersonal skills shouldn’t be overlooked either. They include –

  • Keen interest in law
  • Sold relevant skills right from research and drafting to advocacy.
  • Incredible flexibility and adaptability to shine either in challenging environments or firms with a broader base which are indulged in other service areas as well.
  • Good grasp on cultural awareness to forge cordial bonds in a multinational setup
  •  Good eye for judgement and an analytical bend of mind

Adding these feathers to your hat will allow you to sail through this career smoothly.

Top universities for international law in the world

If you have made up your mind to pursue this field further, you may be perplexed regarding choosing the perfect law school with thousands of such prestigious schools in the world. According to the QS World Universities Ranking 2019, these are the top 10 law schools in the world –

Rank Name of Institute Location
1. Harvard University U.S.A
2. University of Oxford U.K
3. University of Cambridge U.K
4. Yale University U.S.A
5. Stanford University U.S.A
6. University of Melbourne Australia
7. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) U.K
8. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) U.S.A
9. Columbia University U.S.A
10. New York University (NYU) U.S.A

Also Read: Law Colleges in Canada: Best Guide for International Students in 2022


The current economic scenario has forced many law firms to cut down on hiring. However, the field is still in demand, and there are a lot of opportunities for talented individuals.

Globalization has, in recent years, led to close ties between the private and public sectors, and this has fuelled a demand for international lawyers. . Owing to the phenomenon, we are also seeing a lot more big corporates opening global headquarters. The top 5 commercial law firms in the U.K namely Allen & Overy, Slaughter and May, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – are constantly on the lookout for Indian talent which is licensed to work both domestically as well as abroad. This cooperation with the Indian lawyers allows them to function in the country and even advise on Indian law which they are otherwise prohibited from doing.

Developing countries also need lawyers to help them in their legal transformation. The role played by lawyers in the development of countries while assisting with new laws and amending current laws in legislatures and parliaments just can’t be overlooked. Also, international organizations like the United Nations, are in need of lawyers to interpret their charters and international law. True, these are few and far between, but they are something to keep on your radar if you are in this field.

The opportunities exist, and as with most sectors, you have to keep up with the latest trends and keep an eye out for where the opportunities lie.

Future challenges in the profession

Now, for the challenges.

Firstly, the international landscape is fairly dynamic, as new subjects and trends are continually being added. This can be a challenge for professionals to establish their expertise or to become all-inclusive lawyers. The dynamic nature of the field also makes it quite unsystematic. There is no clear ladder to climb or a career growth line to pursue.

Moreover, it requires immense patience to wait for the right opportunity to come your way. As a convention, lawyers first try to establish themselves in the domestic sphere. Gaining a global foothold requires getting an international client who is interested in leveraging their domestic expertise

Potential organizations to work for

Experience matters a lot in the legal profession. You can keep a tab on these platforms to land an internship or work experience.

Intergovernmental organizations

Professional associations


Final words

International law can immensely add to the depth of your career. By becoming well-versed in global best practices, you can open up many opportunities for yourself.

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