If you’re interested in making a difference on the global stage as a lawyer, then you should choose from among the best law schools for international law. As an international lawyer, you can be involved in efforts to promote peace, protect human rights, and regulate diverse aspects of international trade and relations. Law schools in the US and law schools in Canada all have dedicated international law courses integrated into their curriculum. But some have gone the extra mile to develop world-renowned international law centres, think tanks, and schools that focus exclusively on international law and all its related fields. This article will list those law schools along with giving you tailored advice for how to cut a path toward international law as a rewarding career. 


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17 min read

Complete Lists of the Best Law Schools for International Law in the US and Canada Best Law Schools for International Law Schools: When Can You Start Studying International Law? Best Law Schools for International Law in the US: Overview Best Law Schools for International Law in Canada: Overview The Best Law Schools for International Law: Why Study International Law? How to Get into the Best Law Schools for International Law FAQs

Complete Lists of the Best Law Schools for International Law in the US and Canada

Best Law Schools for International Law in the US

  1. Harvard Law School
  2. Yale Law School
  3. Georgetown Law School
  4. Columbia Law School
  5. NYU Law School
  6. University of Chicago Law School
  7. Stanford Law School
  8. University of Michigan Law School
  9. UC Berkely Law School
  10. Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Best Law Schools for International Law in Canada

  1. University of Toronto Faculty of Law
  2. Osgoode Hall Law School
  3. McGill University Faculty of Law
  4. University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law
  5. University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
  6. Queen’s University Faculty of Law
  7. Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law
  8. University of Alberta Faculty of Law
  9. University of Calgary Faculty of Law
  10. University of Victoria Faculty of Law

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Best Law Schools for International Law Schools: When Can You Start Studying International Law?

International law is a career that you can start working towards very early, even in high school. Model United Nations and study-abroad programs are one of the ways you can start getting experiences that will prepare you for a career in international law. But at higher levels, international law is something you can seek out before, during and after law school. As an undergrad, you can start exploring international opportunities, such as going on an exchange program, or even learning a new language.

When deciding on law schools, if you’re interested in international law, you can choose a school that has a dedicated international law stream that focuses exclusively on international law, while also helping you meet your JD program requirements. But even if you don’t choose a law school that specializes in international law, it doesn’t mean you can’t become an international lawyer. There is no specific law degree or post-graduate certification that you have to get to become an “international lawyer” because there are so many different ways to serve as an international lawyer.

Being an international lawyer is not like becoming a cardiologist or neurosurgeon. You don’t have to take specific courses or spend years in a residency or certification program. You can pursue graduate-level degrees after law school to gain more academic knowledge of international law, but you could also start practicing as an international lawyer after law school, if you choose a specific position with an internationally-minded non-profit or multinational corporation.

Best Law Schools for International Law in the US: Overview

1. Harvard Law School

Harvard Law School, with its rich history and esteemed faculty, stands as a beacon for international law. Offering a comprehensive curriculum, including clinics such as the International Human Rights Clinic and the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Clinic for regular JD students, Harvard is also home to several different schools and policy institutes dedicated to international law, such as the Institute for Global Law & Policy.

Along with these resources, Harvard Law also offers you various research experiences for undergraduates where you’ll undertake comparisons of various national legal systems, learn from visiting international law scholars and participate in student-led activities such as the Harvard International Law Journal and the Human Rights Journal. All JD students at Harvard Law are required to satisfy the International and Comparative Law Course Requirement, which you can do by taking courses in the following areas:

  • Human Rights
  • Comparative Constitutional Law
  • Legal History: English Legal History
  • Regulation of International Finance

2. Yale Law School

Yale Law School’s commitment to human rights and transnational legal studies is evident through its diverse course offerings, such as International Humanitarian Law, Advanced International Refugee Assistance Project, and Advanced International Law and Foreign Relations in Practice. Many of its courses in international law are divided between different formats including seminars, clinics and fieldwork, so you can choose where, and how you study.

Along with the international law courses you can take starting in your second semester of your first year, Yale Law School also has a variety of different centers and schools dedicated to international law. Places like the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights or the Global Health Justice Partnership, which blends international law with public health, are where you can engage in discussions with visiting scholars, participate in international moot courts and contribute to international law studies and research.

Aside from the on-campus resources, you can also participate in study abroad programs with any of Yale’s international partner schools, such as Tsinghua University, Oxford University and the University of Cambridge. Similar to Harvard, Yale also publishes a Yale Journal of International Law, which is an excellent place to start to improve your understanding of international law, as you can network with international legal scholars or fellow students and gain experience for future legal endeavors.

Some quick tips for getting into Yale Law School:

3. Georgetown University Law Center

Georgetown Law’s place on this list of best schools for international law is underscored by its Center for Transnational Legal Studies, which is a research center located in London where you can spend a year abroad as an exchange student. But the CTLS is not the only manifestation of Georgetown’s desire to foster a global perspective among its law students. As a student, you'll benefit from clinics, externships, and research centers focused on international issues exemplified by the presence of such well-regarded centers as the Center for the Advancement of the Rule of Law in the Americas (CAROLA) and the Center for Asian Law. Georgetown also has unique degree offerings in its graduate LLM (Master of Laws) programs, such as International Legal Studies and International Business & Economic Law, which serves as an MBA law program.

4. Columbia Law School

Columbia Law School’s commitment to international law is reflected in its robust curriculum and research centers, as well as its proximity to the main advocate of international law, the United Nations. Columbia Law School has three different centers dedicated exclusively to the study of Asian law, which are the Center for Japanese Legal Studies, the Center for Korean Legal Studies, and the Hong Yen Chang Center for Chinese Legal Studies.

Throughout your JD studies, you can also participate in global initiatives connected to Columbia Law, such as the Human Rights Institute, which is both a center for research and advocacy that helps various disempowered groups fight international legal battles through fact-finding missions and legal analysis. Columbia Law school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary education is no better exemplified than the School of International and Public Affairs, which helps students gain a comprehensive understanding of international legal dynamics and regularly hosts international law professors and authorities.

5. New York University (NYU) School of Law

NYU Law’s Hauser Global Law School Program is a cornerstone for international legal education, but NYU Law has other interdisciplinary centers that analyze trade disputes, human rights, international arbitration, and land use law. But the Hauser Global Law School program is mostly for international students (non-US students) who want to study law, and it is not among the easiest law schools to get into. Only distinguished international applicants can apply to the Hauser Global Law School to become international graduate fellows, as it has strict law school requirements (you have to submit a personal statement, two law school letters of recommendation, and a law school resume).

But those who get in receive a full scholarship and the distinction of being enrolled in one of the top 14 law schools. For domestic US students, NYU Law has the Guarini Institute for Global Legal Studies, which is also a research and education center that offers several different types of academic opportunities if you're interested in international and comparative law, such as a lecture series that brings officials from the EU and presidents of various countries, from Cyprus to Ireland. You can participate in any of the various exchange programs organized by the center, or focus on research within the areas of transnational regulatory issues or the impact advanced technologies have had on the delivery of justice internationally.

6. University of Chicago Law School

The University of Chicago Law School distinguishes itself as one of the best law schools for international law through its interdisciplinary approach. It offers several summer undergraduate research experiences for first-year law students, such as the International Human Rights Summer Internship Program, which takes you abroad to work with non-profit and other non-governmental organizations engaged in various international legal issues. The issues range from human rights issues and women’s rights to environmental issues and minority rights.

The University of Chicago is also an important incubator for research and scholarship on common themes of international law. The Global Human Rights Clinic is one example of this. The GHRC is the school’s contribution to the advocacy of international law and provides all students with the opportunity to work on research projects involving various international law topics, such as land and labor rights to conflict resolution and promoting activism, while also learning valuable skills such as how to interview survivors of human rights abuses, collect evidence, and file legal briefs in various jurisdictions.

7. Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School provides a unique platform for exploring international law through hands-on experiences, from its creation of a new course called International Business Transactions and Litigation – an essential course if you want to learn about contract disputes and arbitration at an international level – to the various international trips you can take as a JD exchange student to China, Spain and Japan. But beyond these individual programs, Stanford Law school has developed an even more intensive international curriculum for JD students in international law.

The W. A. Franke Global Law Program is why Stanford is often at the top of law school rankings of the best law schools for international law. This comprehensive program involves a deep immersion into international law starting with a 10-week course covering law and finance. The program also offers many opportunities for fieldwork and overseas trips to countries in Latin America and Europe to explore legal issues prevalent in these regions, from prosecution of war criminals or contract and trade disputes between neighboring countries or nations and multinational corporations.

8. University of Michigan Law School

At the University of Michigan Law School, the Center for International and Comparative Law represents the school’s desire for its students to delve deep into the complexities of global legal issues. The CICL helps students, faculty and visiting scholars find international academic and research opportunities with global institutions, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or with overseas law firms.

The CICL also hosts several legal clinics aimed at broadening your understanding of the law in other nations and cultures, especially those outside of the common law tradition. You can immerse yourself in understanding legal systems derived from Native and Indigenous tradition in the Tribal Law clinic, or even gain a better understanding of Islamic legal principles through the Islamic Law clinic. But you can also choose from more specific international legal clinics, including the International Transactions Clinic and the International Refugee Assistance Project. In these clinics, you can gain hands-on experience by working on real cases, honing your skills in negotiation, advocacy, and transactional law.

9. UC Berkeley School of Law

UC Berkeley Law’s global perspective is evident in its emphasis on human rights and international law, which is why it is often on lists of the best law schools for international law.

The Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law is one of the places where you can explore more about human rights abuses globally through courses such as Technology & Human Rights or Human Rights and War Crimes Investigations. But the Center also gives you the opportunity to be an investigator and work on investigations through the Human Rights Investigations Lab that often partners with international NGOs such as Amnesty International.

At the Lab you can work with fellow students to help NGOs verify information and unconfirmed reports from conflict areas, document human rights abuses and help organizations publish this information in the media. You can also apply for a Human Rights fellowship as a JD student, which brings with it several study abroad opportunities, as well as working with established human rights organizations in various countries and regions. You can work on topics ranging from protecting foreign foster children living in the US, or prosecuting individuals involved in human trafficking.

10. Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

While not a traditional law school, the Fletcher School stands out for its interdisciplinary approach to international affairs and law. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is a graduate law school, where you can take several law degree types from traditional master’s degrees to LLM and even a PhD. The school also offers a variety of joint degree programs, such as a JD/MALD (Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy), which has helped position it as one of the best law schools for international law for the flexibility and versatility of its programs.

The JD/MLAD program allows you various opportunities such as participating in internships at organizations like the International Court of Justice or the United Nations, so you can get invaluable hands-on experience before you embark on your career. You can combine your JD degree with various types of master’s degrees from various international partner schools around the world, including India, Spain and China.

The breadth of the school’s degree programs covers every conceivable facet of international law and relations. If you’re a DVM student at Tufts, you can take a master’s in international law if you want to ascend to a career as an expert in international livestock regulation, fisheries law and other programs involving animal welfare and management.

Best Law Schools for International Law in Canada: Overview

1. University of Toronto Faculty of Law

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law offers various opportunities to JD and graduate law students to shape the evolution of international law and business, human rights, and global governance. The International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at U of T is one of the school’s most notable programs dedicated to the study of human rights. You can participate in various initiatives tied to the school including spending a summer internship at a law firm or business in Japan to a clerkship at the International Criminal Court. The IHRP also holds various working groups focused on specific countries and their human rights abuses, including Cameroon and Venezuela.

2. Osgoode Hall Law School

Osgoode Hall Law School's International Legal Studies Program provides a robust foundation for aspiring international legal scholars. You can take your JD specialization in International, Comparative, and Transnational Law that offers a robust curriculum exploring critical issues related to how international and transnational law affects local courts and legislation to giving you advanced knowledge on international contracts, organizations and ethical practices.

Osgoode also has a comprehensive International and Transnational Law Intensive Program (ITLIP) where you can participate in various legal clinics depending on your specific interest related to international law. Some of the organizations that you can work with are based in Canada (Social Rights Advocacy Centre) or abroad (Global Legal Action Network – Ireland), and cover issues such as policy alternatives, environmental issues and advocacy for HIV/AIDS populations.

3. McGill University Faculty of Law

The bilingual setting at McGill University, with courses offered in both English and French, only serves to enhance your international law education. McGill is among the many Canadian universities that has a dedicated research center for international law – the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism – which serves as a hub for impactful research and dialogue, especially through its various guest lectures from international legal experts to the many research opportunities for visiting international scholars.

For JD students, there is the International Human Rights Internship program that serves as a stepping-stone to international human rights law and other pressing issues of the global legal landscape. You have to apply to the internships and completing them will earn you six-credits toward your JD degree. You can choose from several recognized transnational groups including Maliganik Tukisiniarvik Legal Services in Nunavut or the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) in Gambia.

4. University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Law

The University of British Columbia has several centers and working groups focused on international law, which is why it is often ranked as one of the best law schools for international law in Canada. The Peter A. Allard School of Law’s commitment to global perspectives is best reflected in its specialized courses in international law, such as International Business Transactions taught by experts on transnational business law in countries such as China and South Korea.

You can also engage with many of the school’s interdisciplinary research centers, such as the Liu Institute for Global Issues, or the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions where you can attend workshops and conferences to learn about all the intricacies of different international legal issues. You’ll also work closely with students from other disciplines so you can better grasp a specific area of international law, such as disruptions to democratic norms during the pandemic to the intersection of AI and disinformation.

5. University of Ottawa Faculty of Law

As a law student in the nation’s capital, you’ll benefit from the university’s strategic location, as you’ll have direct access to many different NGOs and transnational organizations that operate out of Ottawa. In the JD program at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, you can take courses like “International Law and the Global Economy” that focus on the intersection of human rights and global commerce. The school also offers you the chance to participate in several summer internships at international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the World Trade Organization.

If you’re interested in researching international law you can become a fellow at the Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC) to explore fields as varied critical race and anti-oppression studies or international security and migrant rights. You’ll be able to visit the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) for seminars and conferences on global issues ranging from queer diplomacy and global security to the rise of nationalist governments and the democratization potential of artificial intelligence. 

The Best Law Schools for International Law: Why Study International Law?

Studying international law is for you if you want to contribute meaningfully to resolving complex global challenges, such as human rights, environmental protection, and conflict resolution. There is so much to international law that it is hard to know where it starts and where it ends. Saving rainforests, developing micro-lending legislation, or investigating war crimes all fall under the banner of international law. You can also approach international law from a traditional viewpoint, meaning the laws that govern relations between states, but that definition has diminished in the era of globalization and transnational actors.

Now, you can delve into issues that were once thought to be national (manufacturing policy, labor rights, wildlife management, human rights) and examine how each nation navigates them, either domestically or in relations with other nations and organizations.

International law is for you if you want to go beyond the more traditional fields within law, such as public and private law, torts, intellectual property, contract or business law, etc., since they have a narrower focus. By its nature, international law crosses borders, both physical and legal, which means you’ll not only have to travel to faraway places but also immerse yourself in other customs, cultures and languages, which is a draw for many people.

Studying international law can be intellectually stimulating as well. The dynamic nature of international law keeps everyone on their toes, and inspires legal innovation, which you can be a part of, even as a law student. Many of the best law schools for international law participate directly in helping draft new laws and legal frameworks to establish new norms that address contemporary global challenges.

How to Get into the Best Law Schools for International Law

1. Research Law Schools

Hopefully, this article can serve as a starting point for you to explore even more about the best law schools for international law, as not all law schools are made the same. Western University has a law school, the Faculty of Law at Western University but it does not have any individual research centers dedicated to international law, although it does offer an international law stream for JD students among all its other streams. That’s why it is so important to research law schools to find out what exactly they offer regarding faculty expertise, research centers, and opportunities for practical experiences in international law. Some law schools excel at being centers for international law studies and research; other law schools might only have subjects in international law as electives, but don’t offer anything beyond that.

2. Seek Out Specialized Achievements that Demonstrate You Interest in International Law

If international law is your passion, you should start looking for opportunities that demonstrate your dedication to the  objectives of international law. Thankfully, since international law is so rich and varied, you can choose from a variety of organizations and issues to work on as law school extracurriculars that will demonstrate your potential in this legal field.

You can choose from any of the fields we mentioned already (human rights, land use rights, environmental law, or women’s rights) or find something else that truly resonates with you. As an undergraduate, even volunteering at a law clinic for newcomers and refugees can demonstrate your ability in navigating various issues involved in international law. If you’re already a law student looking to deepen your knowledge of international law, you can join the international section of your country’s, state or provincial bar association, which will put you in touch with various professionals who specialize in international law and give you opportunities to attend workshops, and clinics. This is helpful whether you know for certain that international law is your path or simply looking to learn more about the field.

3. Demonstrate Leadership

How do you demonstrate leadership to get into the best law schools for international law? This applies more to you if you’re already a law student, but one thing we mentioned above is the fact that many of these law schools run a journal of international law (Yale, and Harvard, are among the few). Taking an editorial position with such a journal is a great way to demonstrate leadership and passion for international law. In this position, you can make a mark by publishing detailed, poignant essays and research. Aside from the editorial position, you can also be a regular contributor to other international law reviews by writing and researching on topics you’re interested in. As a prelaw student, you can also write interesting essays in topics related to international law for publication in undergraduate journals, but you can also get involved with various international law student groups, such as the Model United Nations, or even take study-abroad programs as an undergraduate. As an undergrad, you can also participate in the various research centers and policy institutes connected directly to international law, especially if you’re attending the same university as a law school. If you‘re allowed, you can attend conferences, guest lectures, or sign up for workshops. But, better yet, you can create new student clubs or associations that examines a previously undiscovered aspect of international law.

4. Excel Academically

This one is both for undergraduates who are unsure of how to get into law school, and current law students who want to go to graduate school for an LLM. Either endeavor requires going through an application process, and that means your grades and academic record will matter a lot.

If you’re an undergraduate looking to get into law school, then you should pay attention to your grades and GPA by getting extra help or taking additional courses, as many of the best law schools for international law are also among the hardest law schools to get into. Alternatively, remember that your major for law school is not as important as your GPA, which means that you are encouraged to major in courses you love and excel in, which will lead to a higher GPA.

 If you’re a law student looking to continue your international law education at one of the graduate schools we mention above, both your undergrad and law school GPA will matter. You can also take extra electives in international law subjects, and engage in various extracurricular opportunities to make the difference in your application.

5. Get a High LSAT Score

Not all of the best law schools for international law require the LSAT, but many do, so you should invest time and effort into figuring out how to study for the LSAT. Your LSAT study schedule should include a lot of practice tests, examining LSAT practice problems and reading over common LSAT reading comprehension strategies to get not only the scores you need to meet law school requirements, but also to impress future graduate program directors, employers and directors of research centers.

FAQs 

1. What are the best law schools for international law?

The best law schools for international law include some of the best Ivy League colleges, such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, but many of the top non-Ivy league schools are also great for international law, such as Tufts University and the University of Chicago.  

2. How can I study international law?

You can start studying international law by choosing an undergraduate degree related to it, whether it is international relations, political science or economics. However, many of the most revered international law scholars and experts started out in fields as diverse as anthropology, a foreign language or cultural studies. Afterward, in law school, you can take electives and clinics related to international law and take many of the steps we mentioned above, like joining a relevant student organization. After law school, you can seek out a master’s or LLM degree and get international experience. 

3. How do I get into the best law schools for international law?

If you want to go to one of the best law schools for international law, either as a law student or a graduate, you need to gain a lot of experience within the realm of international law, which, we’ve hopefully explained, is vast and wide, so you can choose from a lot. You can also do other non-law things such as a learning another language (which many people do) or study abroad as an undergraduate to gain international experience and learning in another culture. 

4. What are the differences between the best law schools for international law?

There are many differences between the best law schools for international schools, but there are also many similarities so it may seem hard to distinguish between them. Many of these schools will have comprehensive courses in international law for JD students, as well as various research centers for research and advocacy. But if, for example, they have specialized tracks, streams or programs specifically for JD students in international law that could make the difference. 

5. Do the best law schools for international law require the LSAT?

Some of the best law schools for international law are among the law schools that do not require the LSAT so you don’t not need to take any LSAT prep courses to get in. However, some of these schools do require the LSAT, especially the Canadian law schools, so, if you’re an undergraduate and want to go to law school, you should spend at least three months to prepare for the LSAT by going over each of the LSAT sections and developing good study strategies so you can only take the LSAT once and get it over with. 

6. What do the best law schools for international law look for?

The best law schools for international law look for students who have previous academic or work experience within the realm of international law, your participation in various global law initiatives and organizations, good LSAT scores, and well-written law school personal statements

7. Why should I go to the best law schools for international law?

You want to go to the best law schools for international law if you want to specialize in any facet of international law, from human rights and international treaties to conflict resolution and labor rights. Not only do these schools offer the best academic programs to learn from, they also offer various extracurricular and non-academic activities to get relevant practical experience within international law. 

8. Is it hard to get into the best law schools in international law?

Yes, it can be hard to get into the best law schools in international law as they are also some of the most competitive law schools in the US and Canada. International law is both a subject in law school and specialization, so you can choose to take electives in international law as a law student, and then start your career, but you can also choose to get a master’s degree and participate in graduate-level research to keep learning and contributing to the field. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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