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4 UN Organizations with Law internship opportunities

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4 UN Organizations with Law internship opportunities

March 25, 2021

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

This guide will present you with valuable information on law internship opportunities at UN-related organizations

Do you think that only International Relations students and young professionals have a chance of getting a job at the United Nations? Do you believe you’re not supposed to have a rewarding international experience in your field?

In this article, you will find out four UN-related organizations with law internship opportunities for legal students and see why, if you think these things, you are – fortunately – wrong!

The United Nations system has a complex structure composed of many agencies, funds, and programs, each with departments and offices in every corner of the world. In these UN agencies, there are many opportunities for law professionals.

In pursuit of its mission, the OpenIGO network has prepared a comprehensive eBook and support and guidance services, with the aim of highly increasing your chances of success in these competitive processes. These services include revising your UN application documents (curriculum vitae/resume and cover letter) and a mock interview, as per the United Nations model.

As you go through the chapters of the eBook, “UN Careers for Law Professionals”, you will discover what the competencies, requirements, and most common tasks performed by law professionals at the UN are. Moreover, we will bring you updated information about the agencies offering the greatest number of internships and job opportunities, as well the most common countries and positions by grade level.

For more info, access:

UN Law Careers – Products & Services

In the United Nations, there are different bodies with legal mandates that play important roles in the international system. These organizations are responsible for a number of roles such as arbitrating investment disputes, providing general legal and advisory services, judging crimes against humanity, protecting the rights of certain groups, and establishing international rules for diverse sectors.

Next, we will present an overview of the main UN bodies with legal mandates and their respective law internship opportunities. This is just a small sample of all the information covered by our eBook. Get a copy today!

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the main judicial organ in the UN System, and it is responsible for settling investment disputes between states which have become parties to the statute of the ICJ or which have accepted its jurisdiction, as well as requesting advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by other UN bodies.

The internship at the ICJ is an opportunity for law students and young professionals to put their knowledge and experience into practice, while performing certain tasks for the Court under the supervision of Registry officials.

Placements are possible in all departments and divisions of the Registry. The Registry is the permanent administrative secretariat of the Court. It is accountable to the Court alone. It is headed by a Registrar, assisted by a Deputy-Registrar.

Since the Court is both a court of justice and an international organization, the Registry’s tasks are not only those of a service helping in the administration of justice—with sovereign States as litigants—but also those of an international secretariat. Its activities are both judicial and diplomatic, as well as administrative.

The Registry consists of three Departments (Legal Matters; Linguistic Matters; Information), a number of technical Divisions (Personnel/Administration; Finance; Publications; Library; IT; Archives, Indexing and Distribution; Text Processing and Reproduction; Security and General Assistance), and the secretaries to Members of the Court. It currently comprises some 100 officials, either permanent or holding fixed-term contracts, appointed by the Court or the Registrar.

First, candidates must hold a relevant degree or be in the final stages of their studies at a recognized university. Second, there is the language requirement of proficiency in English or French. Beyond those requirements, it is also important to have a good academic performance. Work experience is not required for ICJ’s internship program.

Established by the Rome Statute in 1998, the International Criminal Court (ICC) marked a milestone in humankind’s efforts towards a more just world.

Taking effect in 2002, the Rome Statute was ratified by 60 States. In addition to founding the Court and defining the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Rome Statute also sets new standards for victims’ representation in the Courtroom, ensuring their rights of the defense.

The ICC internship program offer openings at the Registry Legal Office (RLO). The RLO is responsible for ensuring the quality, uniformity, and consistency of legal positions across the various Registry divisions, units, and sections; coordinating an internal legal network comprised of all the lawyers across the Registry; and providing legal advice to its clients.

Besides that, the RLO also advises the Registrar in staff litigation. It provides a broad range of legal services including drafting, negotiating, advising, and litigating. It combines a commitment to legal excellence with a result-oriented and policy-friendly approach in delivering legal services.

A different possibility may be to work for the External Legal Teams, which represent defendants or victims before the Court. Composed of one or more persons admitted to the List of Counsel and any persons assisting them (legal assistants, case managers, etc.), they perform their duties in an independent fashion.

First, candidates must hold a relevant degree or be in the final stages of their studies at a recognized university. Second, there is the language requirement of proficiency in English or French. Beyond those requirements, it is also important to have a good academic performance. While work experience is not a requirement, practical experience that is relevant to the Court may be considered an asset.

The ICC also appreciates the following competencies in candidates: ability to work both independently and in a team; a good standard of computer literacy, especially in the Microsoft Office suite; and important qualities such as discretion, reliability, intellectual rigour, precision, perseverance, honesty, creativity, co-operative spirit, and integrity.

flag of different countries un members
Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

As one of the main bodies of the UN, the UN Secretariat is composed of international civil servants responsible for a broad range of administrative and coordination activities that are essential to the organization. The UN Secretariat is distributed into departments and offices located in different countries spread around the world.

The Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) is the most important legal division of the UN secretariat and is a great start for those seeking law internship opportunities at UN. Its mission is divided into four points:

  • To provide a unified central legal service for the Secretariat and the principal and other organs of the United Nations
  • To contribute to the progressive development and codification of international public and trade law
  • To promote the strengthening and development as well as the effective implementation of the international legal order for the seas and oceans
  • To provide a unified central legal service for the Secretariat and the principal and other organs of the United Nations
  • To contribute to the progressive development and codification of international public and trade law
  • To promote the strengthening and development as well as the effective implementation of the international legal order for the seas and oceans
  • To register and publish treaties, and to perform the depositary functions of the Secretary-General.

The Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) offers an internship program primarily to university students and recent university graduates in the field of law and occasionally in other areas of study such as administration and information technology.

Moreover, it is important to say that the UN secretariat organizes their activities into job networks, which have been established to promote better career opportunities for staff members. Each network is a flexible grouping of job families with common, related, and interrelated fields of work.

One of these is the Legal Network (LEGALNET), which seeks to provide a unified legal service for the Secretariat and other organs of the United Nations.

The Legal Network provides legal services on questions of international, national, public, private, procedural, and administrative law, and provides substantive Secretariat functions to United Nations bodies. It also contributes to the understanding, acceptance, and consistent application of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and related implementing Agreements.

First, candidates must be enrolled in a graduate school program (Master’s or PhD) or in the last year of an undergraduate school program (Bachelor’s level or equivalent). Second, there is the language requirement of proficiency in English or French; also, knowledge of Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Spanish will be an advantage in the selection process. Third, candidates must be at least 18 years old and citizens of a UN member state.

Another option to be eligible for a legal internship at the UN Secretariat is to have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate course in the last 12 months.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is one of five organizations that make up the World Bank Group. It is considered a multilateral and autonomous institution established with the purpose of promoting the arbitration and conciliation of conflicts concerning the international flow of private investments among its member states.

ICSID is the only global institution offering an International Forum for arbitration of investment disputes. Since its creation, more than 600 disputes have been arbitrated under the agency’s rules.

The ICSID internship program offers graduate students with an interest in international investment law and international investment dispute settlement a suitable environment to develop their professional and academic skills. The organization offers up to four internships every four months.

First, candidates must be enrolled in a graduate degree program that is eligible and qualified for an internship. Second, there is the language requirement of proficiency in English, with knowledge of at least one of the other two official languages of the ICSID (French and Spanish) deemed an important asset. Third, candidates must be at least 18 years old and citizens of a UN member state.

Competency-wise, ICSID values in candidates the ability to conduct research on a range of issues in the fields of arbitration and investment law, as well as strong writing and legal drafting skills. A demonstrated interest and knowledge of investor-State dispute settlement and international investment law is also crucial.

Another option to be eligible for a legal internship at the ICSID is to be a Rising 3L, LLM or Ph.D. Student.

Do you want to know more about these and many other law internship opportunities at UN? Then check out our eBook, “UN Careers for Law Professionals“, to discover all about the opportunities that law professionals have at the UN:

UN Careers for Law Professionals – eBook


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