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What are the Different Types of International Lawyers?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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International lawyers are legal professionals who focus their career around questions of international law. Different nations conduct both private and public business with one another every day, thanks to the shrinking boundaries of communication and transportation throughout the world. There are many different types of international lawyers, including business or corporate attorneys, government-based lawyers, and private practitioners specializing in human rights and immigration laws.

In the 21st century, almost every large corporation in the world operates on a global level. While crossing national boundaries opens up markets and can vastly improve profits, it involves a considerable amount of legal maneuvering. Tax and labor laws, import/export laws, and statutes governing the legal operation of companies all vary from nation to nation. International lawyers specializing in business can do many things to ensure that a corporation is operating legally and being treated fairly in the international community. Some of the jobs that international lawyers in the business world may have include briefing a company on the legal pros and cons of a new market, drafting company policy to meet national law standards in a foreign country, and overseeing business practices in foreign nations to ensure compliance with applicable laws.

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Public sector international lawyers often act as go-betweens for different nations. These lawyers may prove vital in the drafting of trade agreements, international contracts, and the creation of international law. In addition to working for national governments, public sector lawyers may also be employed by international organizations, such as the World Bank or the United Nations. International lawyers in this capacity often have an extremely broad knowledge of law in different nations, as well as excellent foreign language skills.

International lawyers may choose to forgo working for one organization, instead focusing on private management of international law issues. Many human rights lawyers specialize in working on both public and private sector cases, as long as they revolve around the protection or expansion of human rights. Immigration lawyers often work to improve immigration laws between different nations as well as helping individual immigrants achieve citizenship or residency.

Issues before international courts, such as the United Nations' International Court of Justice, are typically handled by international lawyers. These matters may include such diverse topics as war crime tribunals, customary law between nations, and new or revised treaty agreements. Though international court cases are extremely rare compared with national court cases, they often involve months or even years of investigation, research, and preparation. The complexity of reaching cooperative agreements based on centuries of precedent and previous agreements between nations can be quite time-consuming, but may be an area of passionate interest for the right type of lawyer.

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