Law School Discussion

European LLB...what now?

European LLB...what now?
« on: December 29, 2013, 12:08:36 PM »
Hello everybody,

I am an American citizen with dual citizenship who is scheduled to receive his degree in International and European LLB this school year. However, my aim has always been to work in the US, with Canada being my second choice. I would also accept some Western European countries (England, France, Switszerland) but the US is my clear top choice. I would like to work in some kind of position which involves international law, whether it is in a public function or in a private company. A organization like the UN or another IGO would probably be my preferred choice however.
My question now is, how to accomplish this. I am aware that doing a JD would probably be the best course of action, but I am unsure if I would get accepted (I have a 7/10, unsure how this would convert in GPA) and I am unsure if I could fund such an endeavour.
I've thought about a US LLM as well, as this would give me the chance to take the bar. I am unsure however if taking the bar is necessary if I want to work in international law. Anybody know the answer to this? Also, I am unsure if my GPA is high enough.
My last thought was to just do a LLM in Europe and then look to the US for perhaps future education. But again, I am unsure how much this would help me in finding a legal job.

I hope someone can help, if I need to clarify something, just ask away!

Re: European LLB...what now?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2013, 10:59:48 PM »
Well, your question has a lot of moving parts, but I'll try to address the main issues.

Let me start with a caveat: I'm just some guy on the internet, and this is just my opinion. I could be wrong about a lot of this stuff, and I don't know the specifics of your situation. Don't make important life decision based on what I (or anyone else here) says. Do the research yourself, contact the state bars, contact the law schools, and contact the employers. They can give you better information than anyone.

Working in the U.S.

If you plan to practice law in the U.S. you must become a member of the state bar for the state in which you intend to practice.
Most states will require an LL.B holder to complete a U.S. LL.M before they can apply to take the bar exam. A handful of states such as California and NY will allow LL.B holders to sit for the bar without an LL.M. An LL.M is two years, a J.D. is at least three. However, the J.D. is better preparation for the bar exam in my opinion, as evidenced by bar pass rates. (The pass rate for foreign degree holders here in CA is very low). 

For many legal jobs, the obsession over law school rankings is greatly overstated. (You don't need a Harvard J.D. to write wills in Little Rock, for example). However, there are certain fields of law in which prestige matters greatly and international law is one of them. Most of the big firms and international organizations are well stocked with graduates of elite institutions, and will usually only hire the same. If you are serious about this field, you really need to consider this. An LL.M from Unknown State U probably isn't going to cut it when everyone at the office went to Yale and Stanford. 

European LL.M

If you plan to work in the U.S., then I don't think a European LL.M is advisable. It will not qualify you to take the bar in most states, and will not prepare you for the bar in the few states that may admit you. A U.S. LL.M seems to make more sense.

Is taking the bar necessary to work in international law?

If practicing international law involves appearing in U.S. courts or giving legal advice, then yes, you must be licensed.

"International law" is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion, as there is very little truly international law. Typically, you are talking about countries which are signatories to trade agreements or treaties. The laws are applicable to those nations or entities. So, if the U.S. and Italy have an agreement as to how arbitration clauses in sale of goods contracts are to be handled, and your client is an American manufacturer doing business in Italy, then you are advising your client on American and Italian law and you are filing and arguing cases (probably) in an American federal court. Thus, you would need to be a licensed attorney.

Working at the U.N. or IGO

Depending on what specific work you do, I imagine that bar admission may or may not be required for this type of job. If you are filing cases in U.S. courts and dispensing legal advice, then yes. But if the job is more like a policy analysis/policy development position, then maybe not.

One thing to keep in mind when discussing organizations like the U.N. is the stiff international competition for these jobs. In the entire world, you're probably talking about a few thousand people (or maybe a few hundred!) whose job fits this description. People who get hired tend to have many years of legal and/or diplomatic experience, very impressive academic credentials (Harvard, Oxford, etc), and have worked their way up the ladder. Some are professional academics with numerous publications and others are internationally recognized judges. I don't think very many lawyers at the U.N. or the Hague are hired straight out of law school. Not trying to be negative, just something to consider.

Re: European LLB...what now?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2014, 03:29:52 PM »
Thank you very much for your informative post, it helped a lot.

I have a question though:
In your post you say that a good school for internationa law is important. I will obviously try to get into the top schools, but I thin kit is more likely I get into schools which are not T14. I think it is most likely I get into schools around the level of UIUC and UConn. Do you think these schools are still high enough in the rankings for my personal case?

Re: European LLB...what now?
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2014, 05:37:30 PM »
I think if you graduate from an ABA accredited law school and pass a state bar exam it is possible to work in an international organization particularly if you speak multiple languages. A Harvard educated Lawyer that can only speak English will not be as sought after for some of these international organizations as an attorney from State U who speak English, Spanish, Mandarin, French etc.

It is also important to realize that working for the UN is very difficult and even if you attend Harvard there is no guarantee. If you want to be a lawyer in America obtain an LLM you may not end up working for the UN, but you can be employed as an attorney.

Good luck

Re: European LLB...what now?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 09:42:02 AM »
I think it is most likely I get into schools around the level of UIUC and UConn. Do you think these schools are still high enough in the rankings for my personal case?

I don't know enough about your personal case to make a determination. It's impossible to say "If you go to School X you will work in international law, and if you go to School Y you will not." I'm sure that there are graduates from just about every law school who work in international law, so I'm speaking in general terms only.

That said, there are some things to keep in mind, and which are applicable to any applicant.

1) Big Firms
Much of the international law market involves big firms with offices in LA, NYC, London, Shanghai, etc. These jobs are highly, highly competitive, and if you look at the firm profiles you will see that many of the lawyers are graduates of elite law schools. They like to hire graduates of internationally recognized schools like Harvard and Stanford because it impresses their international clients.

2) International Organizations/NGOs
Pretty much the same story. Highly competitive, lots of applicants, and a preference for elite pedigrees.

Now, does this mean that you can't practice international law unless you graduate from an elite school? Of course not! I know a woman who graduated from a lower tiered school here in CA and who is practicing internationally helping a foreign government to organize their own legal system. However, I think her case is exceptional. My point is simply that in any highly competitive market where the employer has the luxury of choosing from among many highly qualified applicants, pedigree can matter. As far as I can tell, this seems to be truer for some jobs than for others, and international law is one of those jobs.

I would contact the law schools you are interested in attending and ask them directly about international employment, internship opportunities, etc. Ask about alumni working internationally. Also research and contact firms and organizations that you are interested in, ask where they hire from and what they look for in applicants. Don't rely on anything you read here or elsewhere from me or anyone else, it's just our personal opinions. Get the information straight from the source. Your European LL.B is probably considered a very positive asset, and may give you a better chance of getting into international law than the average student.     

Re: European LLB...what now?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2014, 09:34:02 PM »
Agreed I imagine the more experiences you have internationally the better suited you become for international law. However, defining what international law is can be difficult and as in any form of education there is no guarantee of employment.

One thing you might want to consider is contacting organizations like the International Court of Justice and talk to attorneys working there and at other international organizations and see how they got there.

Obtain information directly from people working where you want to be as Maintain says advice from anonymous internet posters should be taken with a grain of salt.