If you're looking to expand your horizons (literally) and improve your resume, an internship in law abroad is a great way to continue developing your professional skills while seeing another part of the world -- and potentially help improve the communities there, if you choose to intern in certain fields of law.
The good thing is that law is practiced all over the world in a variety of different forms. There are also frequent opportunities to intern abroad in law that you, as a law student, are uniquely qualified for. There will certainly be differences in practice between what you've studied and done back home and your host country, but an internship can help broaden your mind, give you greater appreciation for the positive power of law in the world, and advance your career in the process.Photo credit: weiss_paarz_photos.
Aside from learning the intricacies of practicing law in a foreign country, an internship abroad in law can give you a great chance to learn which fields of law are most interesting to you and gain professional experience in those areas. Some of the most common fields of law where you can work abroad include the following:
Naturally, practicing international law is one of the largest opportunities for budding attorneys or barristers who wish to gain experience abroad. International law covers everything from understanding the nuances of government and judicial systems to the diplomatic, criminal, and civil cases that apply across borders. If you hope to someday have a law career that includes moving around the world, an internship in international law will help you on that path.
Political science is a term that isn't often used outside of undergraduate degree programs, but more academically-minded lawyers can study and practice political science as part of their career. If a particular country or region is interesting to you, a political science internship will allow you to put your knowledge about law into practice.
Human rights is one of the largest opportunities for lawyers around the world. Most major human rights issues are handled by NGOs (non government organizations) with an army of lawyers to help find a fair and just resolution. While you may not be in the largest cities or most popular countries, an internship in human rights gives you the chance to not only improve your law experience, but also to make the world a better place.
Large businesses all over the world employ attorneys to help ensure they are doing business lawfully wherever they are. Similarly, interns are an important part of the legal team at big companies, presenting a great opportunity to get hired afterward! You may be able to find global companies in your destination country that are looking for English-speaking or bilingual interns, widening your opportunities beyond just English-speaking or US-based companies.
Whereas studying abroad in law may have a direct impact on your future prospects, an internship abroad is a great way to broaden your skills portfolio, then head back to your home (or host!) country to continue practicing there.
You can also consider the more popular destinations such as England, Australia, and Canada in your research if an English-speaking country aligns closer to your professional goals, but here are some of the many diverse opportunities for interning in law around the world:
Law interns in Sri Lanka have a great opportunity to get involved in the day-to-day workings of the legal system there. Whether it's observing court hearings or assisting practicing attorneys in preparing documents and briefs, there are plenty of opportunities in this small, beautiful country.
Home to some of Europe's largest multi-national companies, there are plenty of internship opportunities for law students in Germany. Their immigration policies are quite reasonable, making it easier to focus on finding an internship that's a good fit and less on whether you'll qualify for a visa.
If human rights is an important part of your motivation to practice law, consider joining a project in Mongolia. There, you'll have the chance to work alongside local attorneys to help improve the living and social conditions for residents in communities around you.
One of Africa's more stable economies, Ghana has good opportunities for interns to practice both international and human rights law. As you'll work alongside local attorneys, you can customize your internship to give you a valuable experience for professional development.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Though you may struggle to place it on a map, Bosnia & Herzegovina offer a great chance for law interns to practice in the field. Since its split from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Bosnia & Herzegovina have undergone massive political and economic changes, and lawyers (and interns) are an important part of helping shape the future success of the country.
Finding a Law Internships Abroad
There are lots of resources that list law internships, this site included. Be sure to always verify that the internship is legitimate and that you'll be working with bar association (or equivalent) certified lawyers on your internship. Also consider going straight to multi-national corporation career sites to see what internships they might offer in various countries.
Applying for an Internship
An important part of your successful internship application will be demonstrating that you have the knowledge of specific fields of law to help form a valuable part of the team you're working on. In any application, be sure to highlight experiences that help demonstrate this. This will in part show how you personally have the skills to adapt to a foreign internship placement successfully.
Housing & Living
For most internships, you'll probably need to find your own housing, though your intern employer may provide you resources to help get you settled. Some programs may provide homestay options, especially when working in rural or field settings related to human rights issues. Don't shy away from this opportunity -- these are a great chance to get to know the locals in your host city.
Regardless of your internship placement, it's best to assume you'll need a professional wardrobe to hand for any official meetings or work that you end up doing. A few suits and formal outfits that mix and match with a few business casual clothing options will ensure you're prepared for any social or professional situation you attend.
Consider bringing wrinkle-resistant clothing or, to be the most prepared, pack a handheld iron to smooth out those pesky luggage creases.