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International Law

“International law,” in the traditional sense, is the body of law concerned with the relations between governments. However, over the years, the term has become a much broader umbrella, covering any practice that has a global or international component. Under this umbrella, in addition to PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW, are INTERNATIONAL TRADE, international finance and cross-border transactions (See BUSINESS: INTERNATIONAL). Even such areas as tax, environmental law, employment law, and intellectual property can have an international focus when U.S. laws are not the only laws that apply to clients’ increasingly global business activity.

Often international attorneys will focus on a specific geographical region and need to have an understanding and appreciation of the region’s different cultural and legal traditions. That understanding and appreciation can be gained in a number of ways: learning the language of the region, travel and experience in the area, and coursework, such as a course fostering cross-cultural teamwork. Although most transactional documents are drafted in English, speaking the language of a region significantly enhances a lawyer’s ability to build relationships and develop business opportunities. If it’s not feasible to develop fluency in another language during law school, at a minimum, students should develop a better understanding of their region of interest, taking courses outside the law school that offer an in-depth look into the political and economic context of that country or area.

Students interested in specific substantive areas also should select core courses on U.S. law in the specific area, such as U.S. laws affecting intellectual property rights, or U.S. tax and securities laws. They can then explore the interplay between U.S. and foreign laws in the field.