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, investment, and finance. 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, the Department of Defense, or 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.
These are the basic courses for the specialty. An employer is likely to expect a student interested in the specialty to take at least two of the following :
Students interested in this practice area should consider including courses from the "International Law" area and the "Comparative Law" area as electives. We also offer a Concentration for students interested in focusing in this area. See International and Comparative Law Concentration for information on the requirements.
International Law Courses
- European Union Law
- Immigration Law
- International Business Transactions
- International Commercial Arbitration & International Environmental Law
- International Taxation
- International Trade Law
- Selected Problems in International Law (Law 918)
Comparative Law Courses
(Note that whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.)
For particular International Law curriculum questions, contact:
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 Sumudu Atapattu, Associate Director of the Global Legal Studies Center.
Summer internships are available for 1L and 2L students in Vietnam at an international law firm. For more information, contact Sumudu Atapattu, Associate Director of the Global Legal Studies Center.
The summer internship program in India was launched in 2009 and is coordinated by the Global Legal Studies Center. There are seven institutions in India that accept our students for summer internships - these institutions range from law firms to NGOs based in Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai. 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. For more information, contact Sumudu Atapattu, Associate Director of the Global Legal Studies Center.
Dual Degree in Latin American Studies and Law
For those interested in the practice of law related to Latin America, we offer a dual degree in Latin American Studies.
Centers, Student Organizations and Related Activities
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.
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: Research Center events.
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. Students must be selected by the UW Moot Court Board through competitive try-outs in order to be eligible to participate in the Jessup Competition.
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 practicing 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. The UW Vis Team is organized independently of the UW Moot Court Board, and you do not have to be a member of the Moot Court Board to participate in the Vis. Please contact Professor Yackee for more information.
The Law School participates in seven 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, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
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. Classes take place in Giessen, Germany. View applications and more details on the program in Giessen, Germany.
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.
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.
Second and third-year law students can receive academic credit, through the Law Externship course, for working on matters involving international law at organizations such as the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Chief Counsel, and many other nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Contact Externship Director Erin McBride for more information.
Here are some of the faculty and academic staff who teach or have an interest in this subject area:
- Sumudu Atapattu
- Kathryn Hendley
- Alexandra Huneeus
- Kevin Kelly
- Heinz Klug
- John Ohnesorge
- Asifa Quraishi
- Mitra Sharafi
- Steph Tai
- Jason Yackee
- Richard Bilder
- Joseph Thome