University Career Center

There are a variety of opportunities available to students studying international law

Everyone is gearing up for the FIFA World Cup, which starts next week, so it seems as good a time as any to look outside our nation’s borders in this pre-law post. Today, we’re featuring guest bloggers Cara Cunningham, Professor and Director of the Mexican & American Dual Degree Program, and Amy Smith, Assistant Director of the Canadian & American Dual J.D. Program, both from UDM Law, to talk about options for studying and practicing international law.

International law is defined broadly as the body of laws governing relations between nations. The term also is subdivided into either public or private international law. Public international law governs the relationship between states and international organizations and includes international criminal law and international humanitarian law. Private international law governs private transactions and disputes between parties from differing nations.

You might ask what does it take to study international law successfully? Two traits come to mind. First is cultural curiosity– a desire to learn not only the legal rules of a particular legal tradition, but to delve deeper and seek to understand the cultural and historical foundations upon which the system is based. Second is open-mindedness–a willingness to understand and appreciate the differences between various cultures and legal systems. If you possess these qualities, pursuing a law degree and career with an international law focus may be of interest to you.

If you decide to embark on this course, several factors may guide your decision. You may want to consider whether the school has a demonstrated commitment to globalizing your legal education. The law school’s geographic location also may be a consideration. Schools located near an international border may be specially situated to offer comparative courses with foreign faculty and cross-border enrollment. Finally, you may want to consider a school with a diverse student body. A campus that attracts students from all over the globe will give students a truly international experience—both inside and outside the classroom.

Whether you obtain a J.D. with an international law emphasis or take advantage of a dual degree program, your opportunities are diverse. You may seek a career with a multi-national corporation, the government, an international organization, or a non-profit corporation, and areas of practice may include banking and finance, environmental law, immigration, international trade, development, social justice, or humanitarian initiatives–just to name a few.

A few law schools offer these unique opportunities. For students seeking a three year program, the University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Windsor Faculty of Law offer the Canadian & American Dual J.D. Program. This is a true comparative program where students learn both countries laws simultaneously and attend classes at both universities all three years. For students seeking a four year program, Michigan State University and the University of Ottawa offer a J.D./LL.B. program, the University of Colorado Law School and the University of Alberta Faculty of Law offer a J.D/LL.B. and NYU School of Law and Osgoode Hall Law School offer a J.D./J.D. program. With the four year programs, students attend each school for two years; therefore, students must seek admittance at both institutions. Another unique opportunity for bilingual students seeking an international experience is the J.D./L.E.D. program offered at UDM. This program allows students to earn both an American J.D. and a Mexican law degree (L.E.D.) in five years.

Students interested in learning more about these unique international joint degree programs should visit the school websites for further information.

Photo credit: Dano on Flickr.