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International Legal Practice at St. John's

Center Co-Director Professor Margaret E. McGuinness (right) during a panel with Kenneth Hackett (center), US Ambassador to the Holy See and Heiner Bielefeldt (left), UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (Rome Conference, June 2014)

Spurred by globalization, the scope of international law has expanded with the proliferation of international tribunals, bilateral investment treaties, international environmental rules, as well as the increasing vitalization of human rights law. This internationalization of law in turn has led to a similar internationalization of the legal profession. Lawyers assist clients who come from, work in, and engage in activities in jurisdictions throughout the globe. Clients purchase goods from foreign suppliers, execute cross-border mergers, litigate before foreign and international courts and arbitral tribunals, and pursue international human rights and environmental claims before domestic, foreign and international courts and agencies. Studying international and comparative law is a way to prepare for practice in a world in which national borders have become far less significant than in an earlier era and in which knowledge of U.S. law alone will no longer suffice.

Any legal specialty becomes an international practice when multiple national jurisdictions apply to a problem. Any legal counselor becomes an international legal counselor when the organization she represents engages in international activities. Criminal law, civil litigation, corporate transactions, real estate financing, labor and employment law, and family law are some examples of practice areas where knowledge and experience of international and foreign law are helpful tools in a lawyer’s repertoire. In addition, new lawyers with interest in international law and issues of globalization can embark on a career path with the government, such as the U.S. military Judge Advocate General (JAG) program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or clerkships on the U.S. Court of International Trade. In addition to working as a lawyer, legal training can be useful preparation for work as a policy analyst in a state or federal agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Further, the United Nations and its affiliated agencies offer opportunities for legal and policy work on issues of peace, security, international development and human rights.

Students interested in international legal practice at St. John's can choose classes in four pathways: Cross-Border Transactions and International Business Counseling, International Dispute Resolution and Litigation, National Security and International Law Enforcement, and Public International Law and Human Rights.