Blogging the NALP Conference: Five Qualities to Make Yourself a Strong Candidate for International Public Interest Jobs

Greetings from NALP’s annual conference in sunny Palm Springs, California.  Earlier today we sat in on a terrific program called “Counseling for International Public Interest Careers.”  Several dozen law school public interest career counselors were in attendance to pick up best practices and strategies for advising students and alumni.

One of the panelists, Akua Akyea of Yale Law School, laid out five qualities that successful candidates for international public interest jobs typically possess:

  1. Substantive Knowledge of International Legal Issues – sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important for law students who wish to work in the international arena to figure out  how they can soak in the most knowledge through classes, writing opportunities (journal, etc.), experiential learning opportunities, attending extracurricular lectures/programs, networking with faculty and practitioners, and of course, through summer work.
  2. Demonstrated Commitment to Becoming an International Public Interest Advocate – this career path is not a backup plan.  Aspiring international public interest lawyers should take advantage of every opportunity they can get to build their credentials.  (See no. 1 above.)  It’s one thing to tell a job interviewer that you’re committed; it’s another to show that you’re living out that commitment through your legal education.
  3. Language Skills – when the PSLawNet Blog practiced in civil legal services, he often found himself regretting that he never developed anything even approaching a proficiency with a second language.  (Some would say the PSLawNet Blog is still struggling enough with English.)  In any case, possessing  foreign language skills – or not – can make a break a candidate for an international public interest law job.  It’s not too late to build skills.  Look into foreign language offerings within your law school’s larger university system.  Some students even take temporary leave to pursue language immersion courses – or do it during the summer.
  4. International Travel Experience – in two words: “Go abroad!”  Travel abroad – even for leisure – helps us to build awareness of different cultures, and it helps us to at least begin to understand what might be involved in integrating and working in a different culture.
  5. Gain Relevant Work Experience – this will help you take care of tips 1 and 2, and at the same time you’ll figure out what kind of work setting is right for you, what areas of law/policy interest you, and where in the world you might like to work.

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