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Public international law is a set of rules, norms, and standards that govern how nations interact with other nations, citizens of other nations, and businesses of other nations. There are thousands of non-governmental organizations throughout the world that focus on international issues, including but not limited to, development, human rights, the environment, trade, arms control, and transitional justice. The US Government hires attorneys to work on international issues in many of its agencies. Hundreds of lawyers also work at the United Nations, the World Bank, the Organization of American States, international tribunals, the International Criminal Court and other intergovernmental organizations.

Interested in learning more about public international law work? The following resources can help you begin your exploration.

  • The video of OPIA’s 1L International Job Search Strategy Session is designed to help 1L students navigate international summer employment options in the public sector. At the ten-minute mark, this video explains additional considerations for international internships for the summer of 2021, in light of the fact that we do not yet know when Harvard University-wide travel restrictions will be lifted.
  • OPIA’s Legal Practice Settings: Public International Law videos of past events feature attorneys working for governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations providing advice on how students can pursue summer, entry-level, and lateral opportunities.  
  • OPIA’s website provides an overview of public international law. Also read OPIA’s Public International Law at a Glance, which explains some of the work settings, issue areas, and types of work most commonly found in international practice, and discusses both summer internship opportunities and entry-level hiring. Review a comprehensive list of international resources at HLS.
  • Make an individual advising appointment with OPIA staff to discuss your specific skills and interests in public international law.
  • OPIA’s Career & Application Guides offer background information, “day in the life” narratives, and general career advice from practicing attorneys. Check out OPIA’s International Development Guide and Insider’s Guide to United Nations Jobs and Internships; in addition, many of the issue-specific guides discuss relevant international opportunities and include narratives from practicing international lawyers.  
  • PSJD, the National Association for Law Placement’s public interest careers website, offers a list of international resources.
  • Supplemental summer funding for international work, available through the Chayes  and Human Rights Program summer fellowships; information on other supplemental funding sources is available through Student Financial Services.
  • HLS Amicus connects student and alumni communities through one-to-one advising and group mentoring.
  • Students interested in government work with an international focus can also reach out to HLS Heyman Fellows practicing international law to learn more about their careers (the Heyman Fellowship offers financial support and a community of peers to young HLS graduates who have secured post-graduate positions in federal government).