In today’s world, you never know when international law will come into play. Globalization is no fleeting trend. Take McDonald’s. It operates in 119 countries. Ford has plants in Dearborn, Mich. — and one in Azambuja, Portugal.
Even smaller companies may be exporting their goods overseas these days, said professor Herbert Lazerow at University of San Diego School of Law, which offers an LL.M. in international law.
“There is all sorts of different work in the field,” he said, noting that some University of San Diego LL.M. grads work for the International Labour Organization in Switzerland and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria. Some look for foreign service work with the U.S. State Department. And still others work in San Diego law firms, helping companies navigate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
International law work could include anything from writing contracts for international transactions to transferring patents overseas, he said. Those who get the best “bump” from an LL.M. are lawyers who are already employed in the field or working lawyers who hope to move into it, he said.
Those who go straight into the graduate program after receiving their J.D. see the least benefit, he said.
Lawyers who are bilingual or trilingual have an advantage in this field, he said. For instance, someone with Chinese heritage who grew up in San Francisco and can speak Mandarin would likely be better prepared than a person who grew up in the U.S. without such a diverse background.
Lawyers who have lived abroad and plan to live abroad again also would be good candidates for the LL.M.
One of the benefits of the LL.M is that it can help prepare you for the problems you’ll run into, Lazerow said.
They can be unique, since you’re dealing with other countries. A dispute can get dicey, particular if it’s heard in another nation, where the legal system may not be as streamlined.
“It could take 25 years,” he said.
This type of legal work can come into play anywhere, even Laramie, Wyo., Lazerow said. He knew of a lawyer who was representing a client injured in an equipment accident. The manufacturer had gone bankrupt, but the lawyer managed to trace the maker of the defective part to a Japanese firm that had out-sourced the labor to a Mexican maquiladora.
So even though the accident took place stateside, the lawyer had to deal with considerable amounts of international law.
Read about more specialties and find out what graduate law programs are available in the 2016 Lawyer & Statesman.