Lunch Session: Trailblazing a Career in International Law: Lessons Learned on a Road Less Traveled
November 13, 2014
Foreign Service Officer, DFATD
Trade Law Bureau, DFATD
Cassidy Levy Kent
Perley, Robertson, Hill &
Canadian Lawyers Abroad
Office of the Judge Advocate General
2016 JD/MA Candidate
This session presented a discussion between numerous international law practitioners working in various capacities in an effort to encourage and provide insight to upcoming legal professionals seeking to break through in the field. Each panelist shared their own experience in practise, the relative advantages and challenges in each of theirs sectors and tips on how to successfully establish a career in international law.
While each panelist’s experience was unique, one common theme which emerged was that legal work is full of variety. Whether from the private, non-governmental or public sector, panelists described their work as diverse. Experience included work related to negotiating or drafting international agreements, litigation, advising multinational corporations on various issues including sanctions, international trade law, international commercial arbitration, humanitarian and military law, non-profit work as well as policy work and political affairs.
The work was generally described as rewarding, stimulating and busy regardless of the chosen sector. As described above, the work allows young professionals to gain experience in various domains. While travel is something often on the mind of those hoping for a career in international law, not every job in the field allows for frequent time abroad as much work can be done by teleconference, especially in junior positions. This being said, careers with the Office of the Judge Advocate General do result in postings at home and abroad and some work, such as in international trade remedies, may offer more international work than others. It is important to remember that many careers outside of traditional international law also offer work with an international component requiring travel.
In sharing advice to students looking at a career in international law, panelists agreed that gaining experience as well as connections was key. Both articling and internship choices were characterized as ways to develop your professional brand and to display genuine interest in an area. These interests must be evident from your experience and reflected in your resume. This being said, there is some merit to understanding domestic law and being flexible to different areas of law and varied work. Getting outside of law school and being engaged in one’s community is also important in building important relationships. This must be done with confidence and requires seizing every opportunity presented. Seasoned professionals are usually glad to meet with students who demonstrate genuine interest in their field and who make the effort to reach out to them. This can be a great way to build connections potentially providing future opportunities.