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Everything about the work of legal professionals at the UN

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Everything about the work of legal professionals at the UN

March 31, 2021

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

work of legal professionals at the UN

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 everything about the activities performed by law professionals at the UN 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

Generally speaking, the work of legal professionals at the UN varies according to the specific demands of the department, agency, or office where that professional is located. However, certain tasks can be expected to form part of one’s work routine no matter what the position.

Next, we will present a compilation of the most common work performed by legal professionals at the UN. This is just a small sample of all the information covered by our eBook. Get a copy today!

UN National Officers

  • Develop and produce communication instruments and materials, including briefing materials, press releases, and drafts of articles, campaigns, publications, and manage its dissemination;
  • Plans and facilitates the engagement of key traditional and non-traditional partners, including government, civil society, private sector, development partners and others new as well as traditional actors;
  • Provides substantive support for publications and branding management;
  • Plans and facilitates digital communications;
  • Identifies and assesses potential issues, concerns and risks related to communications and advocacy, and suggests corrective actions;
  • Plans and facilitates public engagement on the UN’s role and work in-country;
  • Providing technical support to the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all stages of social policy programing and related advocacy from strategic planning and formulation to delivery of concrete and sustainable results;
  • Gather relevant information for project implementation and analyze it.

UN General Service/ UN Administrative Support

  • Assist in research and reporting activities of the unit/department, including by compiling, synthesizing and analyzing relevant information and preparing and editing reports;
  • Manage the unit/department’s intranet site, communities and other online files using Google Apps;
  • Coordinate the preparation of workplans, annual reports and other reporting mechanisms;
  • Manage policies and procedures document repository system, create and manage archived policy database;
  • Organize, schedule and attend internal meetings, consultations, workshops, conferences, brainstorming sessions, meetings as required, and prepare briefing notes, minutes, follow up where required;
  • Make routine updates in applications managed by the unit/department;
  • Undertake administrative tasks, such as procurement, payment processing, hiring, travel arrangements, etc;
  • Apply organization rules, regulations and procedures.
work of legal professionals at the UN
Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

UN International Professionals

  • Examine reports by governments on ratified and unratified Conventions and Recommendations;
  • Examine and analyze complaints;
  • Prepare comparative analyses of the legislation and practice of the different member States;
  • Draft comments for presentation to and discussion with high-level committees and/or groups of experts for discussion;
  • Prepare legal opinions and interpretations on a variety of legal questions or in a specialized field;
  • Prepare notes, reports and documents concerning questions of international law, including requests for interpretations on complex legal questions;
  • Represent the work unit at meetings, conferences and committees;
  • Review and approve instruments of ratification.

UN Director

  • Provide leadership, direction, and advice at the national or international levels dealing with extensive legal issues;
  • Promote collaboration of different functions within the operation/Bureau/divisions to address cross-cutting risks and issues;
  • Representing the Organization in litigation proceedings, administrative tribunals, and other judicial or quasi-judicial bodies;
  • Prepare or review and input to management reports to external stakeholders;
  • Manage the Program of Work and Budget for the Office within a framework of Results-Based Management and Results-Based Budgeting to ensure the proper delivery of activities;
  • Represent the Office at meetings of the Policy-Making Organs, international seminars, conferences, and meetings etc;
  • Provide legal advice on policy, program, or other matters with legal aspects or related to legal instruments, including advising Management on complex and sensitive legal issues relating to the functions, structure, and activities of the organization;
  • Direct the drafting of legal-related instruments, such as contracts, agreements, rules and regulations.

UN Consultants

  • Provide consultancy advice for clients, local government actors and other relevant parties;
  • Participate in technical consultative meetings to discuss reports with key relevant stakeholders;
  • Develop policy impact assessments;
  • Participate and present key findings of the reports in consultative workshops;
  • Prepare/draft bid solicitation documents for contracting of services, requests for price quotations; and related correspondence for review/approval by the supervisor;
  • Maintains manual & automated procurement files & records according to the organization guidelines;
  • Monitoring progress of policy implementation at the national and regional levels;
  • Organize multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral expert meetings to jointly analyze gaps and needs in the implementation of specific policies.

As you have seen, a law professional at the United Nations may be engaged in different sorts of activities according to the specificities of each agency and job category. The work of legal professionals at the UN is all-encompassing, providing an in-depth knowledge of most of the practical aspects of the organization.

Nevertheless, for the most part, responsibilities are adapted to the individual’s academic and professional background, requiring some flexibility around performing supporting tasks.

That’s why a potential candidate should be able to perform not only activities to do with legal studies, but invest time in developing administrative, technological, and soft skills as well!

Do you want to know more about these and many other activities and opportunities for legal professionals at the 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

work of legal professionals at the UN

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