International Paths for JD Students

International JD studentThough most Duke Law students choose to launch their legal careers in the United States, a few start their practice abroad. And, during their three years at Duke Law, a large number of students work part or all of their summers abroad.

To recieve the latest updates about summer internships abroad, please subscribe to the International Opportunities Listserv by clicking here. The website will ask you to enter your NetId and password. Once you log in, on the left pane, please click "subscribe" and enter your email address to be added to the listserv.


You may also contact Oleg Kobelev, Director of International Career Development, with any questions.

Overview of International Summer Opportunities

2L students seeking opportunities abroad typically work for either a private law firm or a public service oriented organization, such as an NGO or international court.

A. Private Sector

1. U.S. Law Firms

In the past several decades many large U.S. law firms opened overseas branches. Many have departments that specialize in international trade or international finance. Lawyers who specialize in international law at private law firms typically represent U.S. clients or assist foreign clients with various aspects of U.S. law. In the past several years international arbitration has emerged as a growing area of international law firm practice. Some of the more established practice areas include: project finance, M&A, debt/equities and derivatives, international tax, and cross-border IP disputes. In addition, boutique law firms specialize in maritime law, customs and international trade disputes, and foreign corrupt practices investigations.

Although there are some opportunities for law students to work at U.S. law firms overseas, these opportunities are generally limited and occur outside the typical summer associate hiring. One notable exception is the practice by many major law firms to allow summer associates to split time between the firm's domestic and overseas offices. Students interested in doing this split are generally expected to have strong command of the language spoken in the overseas office and experience living overseas.

Because opportunities to work at branch offices of U.S. law firms are rarely advertised and tend to be disseminated through word-of-mouth, students are typically selected through active networking and outreach to the target law firms. The selection process is lengthy and decisions are often not made until well into the spring. Students should also know that compensation for such positions varies widely and is not always pegged to the firm's domestic summer program.

2. Foreign Law Firms

The largest non-U.S. law firms that would be interested in American law students tend to be firms in the United Kingdom, particularly those in London's prestigious "Magic Circle." These firms tend to have more international presence than U.S. law firms and often advertise positions in their international offices under the headings "internships" and "traineeships" on their websites. As with their U.S. counterparts, law firms tend to hire students fluent or highly proficient in the language of their branch office and often require prior overseas experience.

A few European and Asian law firms hire U.S. law students to work in their offices during the summer. Even more than U.S. law firms, however, these positions tend to be very limited and take place mostly through personal connections, networking, and outreach. Students interested in these positions are encouraged to contact Oleg Kobelev, kobelev@law.duke.edu, for additional information.

B. Public Sector

1. International Courts and Tribunals

Among the most rewarding and challenging opportunities for students interested in working overseas are internships or "stages" with international tribunals, arbitral bodies, and other judicial organizations designed to arbitrate disputes between international actors. Some of these tribunals are created by U.N. and E.U. treaties, while others function as ad-hoc dispute resolution bodies. The internship positions at these organizations are often unpaid and will require a significant commitment and dedication on the part of the student. Most judicial and quasi-judicial bodies have structured programs and provide clear instructions on how to apply. Even organizations that do not have formal programs are frequently open to taking interested students, provided they are willing to work without compensation.

2. United States Government

Numerous U.S. agencies are heavily involved in international work. In addition to specialized agencies that focus on international development, commerce, and national security, many of the largest executive agencies such as the State Department and the Department of Justice are deeply enmeshed in various aspects of international law from diplomacy and treaty negotiations to criminal law, environmental and anti-dumping enforcement.

3. "Supranational" Institutions and Organizations

There are many organizations such as the U.N., the International Organization for Migration, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the Asian Development Bank, and many others that occasionally hire law students for internships within their legal departments. Most of these have formal internship programs that are accessible through their websites. For more information on these organizations and how to find them, please contact Oleg Kobelev at kobelev@law.duke.edu


4. International Public Interest Organizations

There is a tremendous diversity in the types of organizations available to students who wish to pursue opportunities in international public law. There are thousands of public interest organizations around the world that focus on international issues, including but not limited to, development, human rights, environmental issues, energy, trade, arms control, and transitional justice and the rights of stateless persons.

Because of the tremendous variety in the types of organizations, students are encouraged to speak with Oleg Kobelev, kobelev@law.duke.edu, for additional guidance with respect to particular geographic and practice area in which to pursue their interests.