Over the last twenty years, we have seen hundreds of alumni go on to become successful international lawyers. We reached out to ask what advice they have for young professionals who are launching their careers now, and have compiled a sampling of their responses below.
• Keep contacts warm. Send any publications or professional updates to your network on a regular basis, so that they remember who you are and will keep you in mind for any opportunities that may arise.
• Think outside the box. There are many routes to get to your ultimate dream job or to determine what that dream job may be. Take the time to conduct informational interviews with people whose careers you find interesting.
• Get overseas experience early in your career. International experiences is one of the most common requests on international law-related job applications and getting this experience early-on in your careers can make you much more competitive in the medium-term. Also, of course, taking on these opportunities while you are relatively responsibility-free is often much easier on your personal life.
—Christina Sheetz, Senior Counsel at Public International Law & Policy Group
• While in law school, spend less time in the classroom and more time gaining real world experience. Spend a semester interning/externing in a certain subject area, rather than taking a class on it.
• Don’t take courses just because “it is helpful for the bar exam.” That’s what bar prep is for.
—Brian Soares, Attorney at U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
• Don’t worry about not having a perfectly linear career path. Sometimes having a range of experiences that don’t perfectly relate can end up fitting together in ways you’ve never expected.
• Figure out what you want to do and go for it, even if you’re not totally confident you can achieve it.
—Giselle Lopez, Data Programs Specialist at PeaceTech Lab
• Don’t give up! I know this is easier said than done, but if it is really something you want to do, go for it. I think that it shows a passion for the field that employers will appreciate.
—Diane Furstenau, Counsel at Public International Law & Policy Group
• Field experience counts more than academic experience. They will help you build your network and figure out your interests. They could also lead to a job.
• Make yourself marketable. Work on different issues, and for different organizations to have the flexibility to move through different fields.
• Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs where you might not meet the years of experience. Even if you don’t get the specific job you applied for, you’re now a known quantity and you might be approached about other jobs.
—Jennifer Ober, Senior Program Manager at National Center for State Courts
• Even if you want to work in public international law, consider starting in the private sector. Firms provide an opportunity to hone your legal abilities that will be invaluable later in your career.
—Kirsten Lavery, Counsel at Public International Law & Policy Group
• Be sure to make time for professional interests that go beyond the four corners of your day job. Pursuing these interests will bring you personal satisfaction and open up a broader range of career opportunities.
• Be open to job opportunities that look different from the specific positions on which you’re focused. Don’t be afraid to reimagine the “ideal” role if something compelling comes along.
• It is a myth that there are set paths to most destinations. While there are often boxes you must check (particularly in many legal fields), doggedly adhering to a pre-determined path is certainly not right for everyone.
—Prem Trivedi, Counsel at Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
• Based on your skills and talents, think outside the box to identify unique roles that may not solidly be in the legal profession.
• Leverage your educational background augmented by your other skills to excel in your own path.
—Miya Nazzaro, Vice President of Development and Finance at Public International Law & Policy Group and Managing Director at Capital Perception
• Don’t be afraid to persistently go after opportunities that you are really excited about. You never know why you weren’t successful when first applying for a particular job (especially for government jobs, where hiring can be fickle), and employers will appreciate your enthusiasm and dedication.
• Leave room in your schedule (especially 3L year) to take classes that seem interesting but might be outside of your comfort zone or not seem particularly relevant to your anticipated career. This might be the last time you get to spend a significant amount of time learning about random, but fascinating, topics and you should take advantage of it! Plus, you never know what kinds of experiences and knowledge will end up being helpful later in your career.
—Megan O’Neill, Attorney-Advisor at U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Advisor
• Do not follow the beaten path, but create the unique path that is needed to get to your destination. In other words, think about the need that you see in international law that you would like to tackle (e.g., the need to limit access to arms, the need to reach peace in a particular region) and think about how you can best tackle that need. Then test your ideas with professionals in the field. They will be pleased to see energetic and innovative thinking, and you will benefit from their advice and guidance, and possibly a position could be opened up for you. It’s win-win!
—Anna Triponel, Business and Human Rights Advisor at Triponel Consulting Ltd.