Overview: International and Comparative Law

International and comparative law involves a wide variety of legal work driven by the increasing globalization of the world's economies. A growing number of U.S.-based lawyers are practicing international law in law firms, corporate legal departments, nonprofits, and government agencies. Although most jobs are found in large cities, this, too, is changing. Jobs may require an expertise in public and/or private international law. Alternatively, they may require a strong background in comparative law, namely knowledge of how other legal systems are organized and the substantive law of other countries.

Many international lawyers work in large law firms that have departments specializing in international trade. International lawyers in the private sector most frequently represent foreign companies seeking to do business in the United States and domestic corporations doing business abroad. Lawyers representing foreign clients provide a wide range of business services, including the formation of business entities; compliance with federal, state, and local U.S. tax laws; employment law; environmental and regulatory requirements; intellectual property; product or service distribution; and all other aspects of establishing and running businesses in the United States. Lawyers representing domestic clients interested in doing business abroad draft contracts and agreements; open branch offices and subsidiaries; structure foreign operations; ensure intellectual property protection including patents, trademarks, and tradenames; supervise international litigation and arbitration; and conduct international financial transactions.

Other international lawyers work for corporations with international interests, including accounting and consulting firms and financial institutions. And yet others work for government agencies such as the Department of State, Department of Commerce or the Department of Defense, the International Trade Commission; for international governmental organizations such as the United Nations or the World Bank; and for international non-governmental organizations such as the Human Rights Watch.

International Law is a competitive area, and jobs are highly sought after. Language skills and business experience are valuable, as are strong interpersonal communications skills and an interest in working with people from other cultures.


The Law School’s faculty is noteworthy for its international and foreign law research and teaching experience. Many of the Law School’s permanent faculty have worked overseas. The Law School draws on the international law expertise of numerous faculty members who teach courses in the international and comparative law program. Many other faculty members also engage in research on international and comparative law issues.

The following faculty are among those who teach International and Comparative Law courses:

Sumudu Atapattu
Room 6218

Steven Barkan
Room 6358

Richard Bilder (Emeritus)
Room 8113

Shubha Ghosh
Room 8111

Kathryn Hendley
Room 5311 C

Alexandra Huneeus
Room 7110

Charles Irish
Room 6101

Kevin Kelly
Room 5105

Heinz Klug
Room 5211 B

John Ohnesorge
Room 4312 A

Asifa Quraishi
Room 7111

Mitra Sharafi
Room 6112

Mark Sidel
Room 6104

Joseph Thome (Emeritus)
Room 8113

David Trubek (Emeritus)

Jason Yackee
Room 9106

Externships and Internships

Summer Internship in Bangkok, Thailand

The UW Law School and Thammasat University Faculty of Law offer a six-week unpaid summer internship program in Bangkok, Thailand, that takes place during the month of July and the first two weeks of August. Most of the time is spent working in an international law firm in Bangkok. Before the internship begins, participants spend one or two days attending lectures and field trips organized by Thammasat University law faculty as an introduction to Thai law. Participants are not required to speak Thai. For more information, contact John Ohnesorge at the East Asian Legal Studies Center.

Internship in Vietnam

Summer internships are available for 1L and 2L students in Vietnam at an international law firm. For more information, contact John Ohnesorge in the East Asian Legal Studies Center.

Internships in South Asia

The summer internship program in South Asia was launched in 2009 and is coordinated by the Global Legal Studies Center. There are eight institutions in India and Sri Lanka that accept our students for summer internships - these institutions range from law firms to NGOs based in Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and Colombo. The students typically negotiate the start date as well as the duration of the internship with the organization in question. There is a formal application process.

Student Organizations and Related Activities

Moot Court

Moot court is a mock appellate advocacy experience that helps law students develop strong writing and oral advocacy skills, intellectual flexibility, the ability to function well under pressure, and the self-confidence necessary to be successful advocates. Moot court, like law review, gives students the opportunity to focus on a single issue, prepare an in depth written product, and enhance their oral advocacy skills. For students interested in international law, the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition provides an opportunity to brief and argue a legal issue that could come before the International Court of Justice. 

Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot

UW students interested in international law also have the opportunity to participate in the prestigious Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. The Vis Arbitral Moot is an international competition that seeks to promote the study and practice of international commercial law and arbitration. Each year students from law schools across the globe compete in Hong Kong and Vienna, Austria. The competition consists of written submissions on behalf of a claimant and respondent in a realistic hypothetical international business dispute, and oral arguments presented before high-level praticing international lawyers. The UW Law School's East Asian Legal Studies Center sponsors the UW Vis team, and UW Law School has competed in the Moot since 2006. Students wishing to join the UW Vis team are required to take International Commercial Arbitration during the fall semester and to practice in a competitive try-out directed by the current student members of the team. Interested students are also encouraged to take Contracts II and/or International Business Transactions. Please contact Professor Yackee for more information.

Study Abroad Programs

The Law School participates in ten exchange programs with foreign universities. In an exchange program, UW students pay the same tuition and fees to UW that they would pay for a semester at UW but attend foreign law schools or programs. In exchange the foreign schools send their students to the UW Law School. Some of the foreign programs are taught in English. Some, however, require proficiency in another language. Currently, the UW Law School has exchange programs with schools in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, India, Chile, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. For more information on the application procedures, see Study Abroad.

Summer Study Abroad Programs

The Law School has partnered with Marquette University Law School and The University of Giessen Law School to offer a one-month session in international and comparative law.

See Applications and details

Wisconsin International Law Journal

The Wisconsin International Law Journal offers articles of scholarly and practical interest in various areas of international law. Student members of the journal edit articles of scholarly and practical interest in various areas of international law and draft articles for submission and possible publication. Each spring, the Journal staff coordinates a conference on recent topics of interest in international law.

Wisconsin International Law Society

The Wisconsin International Law Society provides a forum for people and ideas involving international legal issues by getting together experts in diverse fields for informal discussion and cordials. They have also coordinated guest speakers and round table discussions on contemporary international law issues.

Related Centers

East Asian Legal Studies Center

The East Asian Legal Studies Center continues the Law School's long history of involvement in international and comparative law with a variety of programs and activities related to the people and academic institutions of East and Southeast Asia.  The Center formalizes and increases the Law School's academic interaction with universities, government ministries, and the private sector, and is active in advanced law studies, course development and library enhancement, providing student opportunities for work and research, scholarly exchanges, professional programs and outreach.

Global Legal Studies Center

The Global Legal Studies Center is a partnership between the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Division of International Studies and Programs at the University of Wisconsin - Madison to promote the understanding of international, transnational, and comparative legal systems, processes, and regimes. The Center supports research in international legal studies, organizes workshops and conferences, expands connections with scholars and institutions in the U.S. and overseas, deepens links with international programs on campus, and shares expertise with constituencies in Wisconsin and worldwide. Information about GLSC events can be found at: http://www.law.wisc.edu/gls/events.html.

Lock Icon