As another summer comes upon us I know that there are two primary thoughts on the mind of a law student: 1) will I survive my current summer job and 2) will I find a job for next summer? It’s almost second nature and a necessity for 1L or 2L students to begin strategizing about their summer during the summer before. Although this strategy process is a heavy hurdle to overcome, this process becomes even more difficult for students looking to work overseas, due to the lack of opportunities and the scarcity of information available to provide guidance. However, despite these limitations, I’ve put together this handy guide in the hopes that it will somewhat demystify the process.
Where Can You Begin?
If you’re looking for a summer job abroad, I highly recommend starting your search with your Career Services office. Yes, that office you’ve been avoiding in lieu of rabbit hole searches on the internet is a particularly helpful starting point for this venture. As I noted above, there is just not much information available online regarding open positions overseas. In fact, many of my searches on the internet route me to the career services page of different schools with their personalized guides for this unique job search. However, some of these pages are password protected and thus your mentor at the Career Services office may be extremely helpful in filling some of those gaps. I recommend sitting with your career mentor to run through your work interests, create a job plan and allocate resources for your job search. Your career mentor will likely have access to a broader network, either through employers with a connection to your school, your alumni pool or handy passwords necessary to access international job search engines online. Even if you’re just dabbling in this idea, your career mentor is the best person to start with for this discussion.
What Are My Job Options Abroad?
The job options abroad are in a macro sense similar to the domestic job options available in the U.S. Job opportunities are typically available for US J.D. students in the private sector or the public sector and it’s primarily a matter of deciding what path you would like to venture on and then doing the deep dive to get a position. However, in the micro sense, options are more limited as highlighted below.
- Private Sector Jobs
Private sector jobs in law firms overseas are available within the international office of a US based large law firm or in a foreign law firm. Students would rarely have the variety of smaller law firm options with more relaxed hiring processes. Obtaining a summer position at a firm overseas may mean first securing a position at a large law firm in the US and then expressing an interest in completing a part of the summer in their international office. If you would rather work in a foreign based law firm with no domestic office here, it would mean strongly utilizing your network to access these opportunities. Foreign law firms in the UK have traditionally shown interest in hiring US JD students, however, these opportunities are very few and far between and thus having a strong network would be crucial.
- Public Sector Jobs
As for public sector jobs, there are many opportunities available as outlined within this guide. Opportunities run the gamut from jobs within international sectors of the federal government, jobs in UN agencies, or local Non-Governmental Organizations that focus on international human rights law. There are even opportunities available within International Tribunals for students interested in working in the court system. The good news is that some of these organizations have a formal internship process in place for students to take advantage of. However, the bad news is that these positions are highly competitive and typically offer very little pay or funding, if any at all. Therefore, if seeking any of these opportunities, it will be crucial to begin your search well in advance and engage your network to secure advantages.
Although I highly recommend using your Career Services office as a primary medium for your international job searches, if you’re leaning towards a public sector job, these opportunities are a bit easier to find online. I highly recommend checking PSJD for job postings. In addition to opportunities that you can apply for, this site also provides handy guides on popular topics for job searches abroad. You can also take advantage of school sites that may offer some guidance. The NYU, Harvard or Duke law sites offer some pretty detailed information for job searches abroad. Although some aspects of these sites are password protected they may be a good place to start. Your school may also have postings dedicated to international job searches, so be sure to take advantage of this.
How Will I Pay For It?
Finally, I want to cover the question on everyone’s mind, “if I get a job overseas how will I fund it?” Now, if you get a private sector position you may have less to worry about because these positions are typically paid. However, public sector jobs are rarely ever funded or in some scenarios may offer a stipend for living expenses. Therefore, if you take the public sector path you may need to seek funding elsewhere. I recommend starting this search at your law school. Are there public interest grants available through on campus organizations or does your career services office provide funding for students on this path? The likelihood of this is very high so I recommend taking advantage of this opportunity if it is available at your school. Additionally, I recommend applying for grants or fellowships available for public interest work through different organizations. This guide offers an extensive list of funding options available.
As you get started on this journey, I wish you the best of luck!
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