Find an International Law Lawyer

International law, sometimes referred to as foreign law, is the law that regulates the dealings among different nations of the world. It covers issues between governments of nations and between corporations in different parts of the world. Because the different countries of the world have different laws and standards for conducting business, it is critical to have experts versed in the intricacies of these inter-relations. International law organizations are have been instrumental in developing the international community and promoting fair trade and worldwide economic development.

International lawyers are in demand by multi-national corporations, banks, and heads of state. Since international law is an extremely broad category, there are many sub-specialties within it. Examples of specific issues international lawyers handle include: criminal defense and prosecution, terrorism, environmental issues, war crimes prosecution and defense, human rights legislation, international trade, and global government, health, aid and alliance organizations. International trade attorneys may be even more specialized with expertise in areas such as mergers, acquisitions, contracts, intellectual property and trade law. In addition, international attorneys may specialize in dealing with particular countries or particular combinations of countries.


The General Assembly of United Nations formed the International Law Commission in 1947. The commission's goal is to promote the effective development and codification of international law.

When selecting the appropriate international lawyer, it is critical to find a firm highly experienced in not only the required sub-specialty of international law, but also fluent with the law and languages of the applicable countries. For example, to set up offices of a U.S. corporation in Japan and France, it would be important to find a firm with expertise in international business and trade law with extensive prior dealings in both Japan and France. While the lead lawyer does not need to speak English, French and Japanese, the firm should have lawyers who are experts with each of these languages as well as on-staff translators.

Another common instance of international law in practice is the political issue of extradition. Extradition is when one country surrenders a person to another country so that they may be prosecuted for a crime in that country. International extradition is often determined by treaty, although some countries consider extraditions on an individual case basis. If someone faces an extradition hearing, it is important to find an attorney with expertise in international criminal law and with specific knowledge of the countries involved in the hearing procedures.

International lawyers also help arbitrate issues with airspace over the earth, ocean and sea rights and even outer space. The proliferation of satellites and private space flight organizations will create increasing need for attorneys specializing in these “out of this world” areas.

Most experienced international attorneys are based in large urban areas and have offices in multiple countries. When selecting an international attorney, it is important to ask not only for information about the firm's specialties and the lawyers experience and credentials, but also for relevant references. The attorneys should have their law degrees from institutions that specialize in international law, to ensure their training was appropriate to the field.

The American Bar Association can provide a list of United States-based attorneys specializing in international law.

By Ann MacDonald           


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