International law is the binding set of rules, agreements, and treaties between countries to promote shared interests such as peace, justice, and trade. Attorneys can choose to practice either public or private international law. This area includes both public international law (diplomacy, international relations, war) and private international law (also called international business law).
Among many other career paths, international law attorneys can be found advancing global policies at the United Nations and other international agencies, prosecuting war crimes at the International Criminal Court, and working as general counsel at multinational corporations.
When choosing an international law program, the most important factors to consider are coursework, extracurriculars, study abroad, and career services. The following law schools offer some of the best international law programs in the U.S.01of 10
American University Washington College of Law
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American splits its international law offerings into three separate tracks: Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, International and Comparative Law, and International Trade and Investment Law. The human rights concentration offers an excellent array of courses and opportunities for students interested in humanitarian law, while the international trade courses boast a large and impressive faculty roster.
AUWCU also has several exciting externship opportunities, including The Kovler Project Against Torture that works in tandem with the United Nations. The Lawyering Peace Project offers top students the chance to take part in peace and post-conflict negotiations. The War Crimes Research Project provides several unique opportunities to study international criminal law, including a summer program at The Hague.02of 10
UC Berkeley School of Law
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Berkeley offers its law students the opportunity to earn a Certificate of Specialization in International Law. The program features an advanced curriculum designed to recognize students who have done intensive coursework and produced substantial work on an international or comparative law topic. Berkeley also offers several unique opportunities for study, research, and clinical practice. These include the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, as well as the Robbins Collection, which sponsors research in the fields of religious and civil laws around the world.03of 10
Columbia Law SchoolDosfotos / Design Pics / Getty Images
Columbia Law School has several unique opportunities for J.D. candidates interested in international law. The New York City location enables students to participate in the United Nations Externship, spending several days per week at the UN or a UN-related office. In addition to the well-known Jessup International Law Moot Court, CLS also sponsors the European Law Moot Court and the Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court, which students can join as early as their first year. There is also a menu of semester abroad programs at universities in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Shanghai, and Tokyo. One of Columbia Law's most popular programs, Spring Break ProBono Caravans, offers students an opportunity to work with experienced attorneys providing free legal services to underserved populations and understaffed organizations. Past caravans have assisted hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and asylum seekers in Italy and Germany.04of 10
Georgetown University Law CenterGeorgetown University Law Center Campus.
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Georgetown University Law Center is well-known for its cutting-edge international law curriculum-in fact, it was one of the first law schools to offer a course on the legal aspects of Brexit. However, the Institute for International Economic Law (IIEL) is the main attraction here. IIEL runs a practicum in which students work in groups to solve specific, real-world legal questions related to international economic law. The Institute also offers a wide range of courses covering the intersections of law, finance, and policy. Opportunities abound beyond IIEL, too. The Center for the Rule of Law in the Americas (CAROLA) connects students with public and private Latin American organizations for internships and externships. Students can also get involved at clinics such as the International Women's Human Rights Clinic or the Harrison Institute for Public Law.05of 10
Harvard Law School
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Harvard Law School's international law program prepares is one of the best in the country. With 100 courses in the area of international law, Harvard provides a comprehensive education in virtually every aspect of the field, from international development to human rights to international trade. Fellows from Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society teach courses on digital privacy and the global economy. Students interested in studying abroad can choose to either design their own semester-abroad program or participate in an exchange program at a non-U.S. law school. Clinical programs include the International Human Rights Clinic, the Transactional Law Clinic, and more.06of 10
University of Michigan Law School
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University of Michigan Law School's Center for International and Comparative Law is known for its extensive course offerings, which cover everything from broad topics (International Trade Law) to highly specific issues (Global Animal Law, Water Wars/Great Lakes). Mich Law is highly regarded for its Refugee and Asylum Law program, which offers courses, workshops, fellowships, and more. Students with an interest in international business law can participate in the International Transactions Clinic. Mich Law also offers opportunities for study abroad in global business centers such as Amsterdam, Geneva, Hong Kong, Hamburg, and Tokyo.07of 10
NYU School of LawHaizhanZheng / Getty Images
Students who wish to practice public international law will find an abundance of resources at NYU Law. NYU's Guarini Institute for Global Legal Studies offers a robust selection of courses in all aspects of international law and business. Students can take courses in European Union law, global justice, international arbitration, Latin American governance, and more. For those seeking a career in international business, the Guarini Global Law and Tech program offers cutting-edge studies in global legal and regulatory issues at the intersection of technology. Opportunities for real-world experience include externships at the United Nations and the World Bank and specially-designed courses in Buenos Aires, Paris, and Shanghai.08of 10
Stanford Law School
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Stanford's W. A. Franke Global Law Program is one of the most comprehensive international law programs in the country. In addition to foundation courses on global legal practice, students have the opportunity to undertake a "global quarter": an intensive 10-week immersion in international law and finance. SLS supplements coursework with intensive overseas study trips. During these 7-10 day trips, which take place between quarters, students earn law school credit while observing the international legal system in locations including Thailand, South Africa, India, and The Hague.09of 10
University of Virginia School of Law
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The University of Virginia School of Law has a robust international law program with a strong focus on national security, human rights, and international criminal law. UVA's human rights study project sends students abroad to research and study human rights issues, while grants and fellowships enable students to gain hands-on experience at The Hague, the United Nations, the CDC's Global AIDS Project. Opportunities are also available with non-governmental organizations such as Earth Rights International. UVA students can take courses in nearly all aspects of international law, from banking and trade to human rights and European Union law. What separates Virginia from other law schools is the number of courses dedicated to national security and global diplomacy. J.D. candidates also have access to some of the classes at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School. Short- and long-term international study options are available; one notable example is a dual degree program with Sciences Po.10of 10
Yale Law Schoolsshepard / Getty Images
Yale Law School offers a comprehensive roster of international law courses covering topics such as global health policy, climate change, and human rights. In addition to traditional classroom courses, Yale offers international law workshops, including Law and Globalization, Human Rights, and more. The extracurricular international law programs at YLS are some of the most specialized and diverse in the country. Through the Global Health Justice Partnership, YLS students partner with School of Public Health students to study interdisciplinary global health issues. GHJP offers a practicum course, fellowships, conferences, and more. Yale's Paul Tsai China Center, an organization focused on U.S.-China relations and legal reforms, also provides fellowship opportunities.
Choosing an International Law Program
Need more help choosing an international law program? Consider the following factors:
- Coursework. What kind of international law do you want to practice? Look or a program that has significant coursework in your area of interest. If you aren't sure, select a program that offers a well-rounded curriculum in both public and private international law.
- Extracurriculars. Look for law schools with robust, well-regarded international moot courts and international law review programs. These extracurriculars will provide invaluable hands-on experience.
- Study Abroad. Most law schools offer study abroad opportunities. Look for schools with study abroad programs specifically designed to supplement international law coursework.
- Career Services. Look for law schools that send students to externships at international law firms and global businesses.