International law permeates every area of legal practice and defies easy definition. Good international lawyers first and foremost are good lawyers, with expertise in particular legal areas developed through experience in the areas in which they practice. More specifically though, international law as a broad legal field generally refers to public law, private law, and comparative law. Public international law concerns relations between nations. Private international law applies to cross-border transactions and other activity between individuals and entities like corporations. Comparative law is the analysis of different countries’ laws, legal systems, and legal institutions.

Public International Law includes a vast array of treaties, statutes, and regulations fulfilling U.S. international obligations in areas as diverse as commercial law, trade law, export and import control (relating, among other things, to foreign relations and national security concerns), international criminal law (including extradition and mutual legal assistance), international civil litigation (as well as arbitration and mediation), environmental law, immigration law, and even family law, to name a few. The basic Public International Law course covers a number of these different topics at an introductory level. Lawyers engaged in public international law may work for the U.S. or other national governments; intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations; international tribunals like the International Criminal Court; nongovernmental organizations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International; the military; or private law firms.

Private International Law, as it is called around the world (or Conflict of Laws, as the subject and the course are called in the United States), addresses the conflicts of jurisdiction between states in applying, adjudicating, and enforcing their law in private disputes. Lawyers most often practice private international law in U.S. or foreign law firms, but also may work for nongovernmental organizations. Private international law necessarily covers a wide range of potential specialization, including taxation, securities, and banking law; corporate law including mergers and acquisitions; international trade; antitrust/competition law; intellectual property; immigration; family law; and international arbitration and mediation.

Comparative Law deals with how different legal systems function and how lawyers trained in foreign systems address legal issues in ways that are not obvious to U.S.-trained lawyers. While comparative law is not generally an area of private practice, since many countries’ legal systems, legal institutions, and legal professionals are very different from those in the United States, it is vital for legal practitioners who may work on international law issues to have some knowledge of comparative law and legal institutions.

Courses in Public International Law, Comparative Law, and Conflict of Laws are thus good places to start in preparing for practice in light of the increasing frequency with which international interactions now occur. From there, students have a wide array of choice depending on their area of interest, as well as study abroad opportunities in Poland and Rome and the Certificate Program in Comparative and International Law.

Foundational Courses

  • Comparative Law
  • Public International Law

Highly Recommended Course

  • Conflict of Laws

Specialization Courses

  • Advanced Issues in Human Rights: Human Rights Compliance
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Art Law
  • Comparative and International Trade (offered on Kraków summer program)
  • Cyberlaw
  • Entertainment Law
  • Environmental Justice (some attention to international issues)
  • Ethical and Philosophical Approaches to Human Rights
  • European Union Law (offered on Kraków summer program)
  • Foreign Relations and National Security Law
  • Human Trafficking Seminar (covers domestic law as well as international law)
  • Immigration Law: Deportation and Asylum
  • Immigration Law: Employment, Family, and Naturalization
  • International Business Transactions (offered on Kraków summer program)
  • International Communications Law
  • International Corruption and Compliance
  • International Criminal Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • International Legal Issues in the protection of Cultural Heritage and Sacred Space
  • International Religious Liberty
  • Law of War
  • Legal Aspects of Social Media
  • Military Justice (includes comparisons of U.S. law and military law of other jurisdictions)
  • Music Law
  • Space Law

Clinics, Skills, and Externships

Students should consider the Comparative and International Law Certificate Program, the International Human Rights Summer Law Program in Rome, and the International Business and Trade Summer Law Program in Poland.

Faculty: Breger, Destro, Fischer, Payne, Perez