To succeed in today’s legal profession, a lawyer may need not only substantive knowledge of the law, practical lawyering skills, and strong ethics, but also what we call “career skills”: the ability to distinguish yourself from other lawyers in a highly competitive environment, work as a member of a team, be a leader, network, and cultivate a client base (or, in the public interest arena, sources of funding for your organization). Only with such a complete package can you maximize your chances of securing employment in the first place and then, over time, rising through the ranks in the profession and enjoying a sustainable and rewarding career.
Students at Lewis & Clark have numerous opportunities to develop career skills, many of which are associated with the International Law Program.
Distinguishing Yourself from Other Lawyers
- Finding a “niche”—Most lawyers are familiar with contracts, torts, and other core areas of the law tested on the Bar. Yet many know little or nothing about areas within international law such as international business law, international dispute resolution, public international law, and international environmental law. For the right employer or clients, such knowledge can be a significant asset. While you may not be able to practice exclusively in these areas, they can be an important component of a more diverse practice. Our international law curriculum includes multiple classes in each of those areas, among others.
- Becoming an authority in your chosen field(s)—It is not enough to take a class in an area in which you wish to practice. You will need to build on that initial foundation through independent research and obtaining hands-on experience. Lewis & Clark students can engage in independent study projects on international law issues, and may also be able to obtain practical experience via an externship, the International Environmental Law Project, or the Jessup International Moot Court competition.
- Build your reputation through engagement with the broader community: Developing expertise in your chosen areas will do you little good if no one knows that you have it. It is therefore important to build a reputation for yourself over time through engagement with the broader community, such as by writing articles, presenting at conferences or seminars, blogging, or teaching. You can obtain experience with scholarly or professional writing during your time at Lewis & Clark by writing the analytical paper required for the International Law Certificate, taking one of the courses within the international law curriculum that has a paper component, or writing an article with a member of the Oregon State Bar International Law Section. There are also ample opportunities within the International Law Program to develop public speaking skills, such as by participating in one of the international law courses that require a student presentation or taking part in the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition.
Working Effectively as a Team Member or as a Leader
Virtually any position within the legal profession will require you to work amicably with your colleagues even under stressful conditions, and, when appropriate, to assume a leadership role. Experience working closely with others in a collaborative or leadership capacity can be obtained in a number of different contexts within the International Law Program. These include taking an international law course structured in seminar format, participating in the International Environmental Law Project, becoming an active member or leader of the International Law Society, taking part in the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition, joining a student directed reading group, or undertaking an externship.
Networking and Cultivating a Client or Funding Base
Many positions within the legal profession involve a significant business development or fundraising component. In such positions it is not enough to perform competently the work you already have; you also need to generate new work and collect fees from your clients or bring in funding for your organization.
Doing so requires a number of skills and attributes. As a starting point, you will need to have expertise in your chosen areas, and become known for having it. But you will also need the ability to “network”; that is, to identify potential clients or sources of funding or referrals, cultivate relationships with those individuals, and maintain those relationships over time. Networking with other members of the legal community can also be of assistance in finding employment, whether at the outset of your legal career or for lateral moves down the road.
The International Law Program affords students with a number of opportunities to develop networking skills, including:
- Attending international law events, which feature presentations by prominent legal professionals from around the country and attract members of the Oregon legal community. The receptions that often follow these events afford valuable opportunities to connect with speakers and attendees.
- Becoming active in one of the many student organizations on campus, such as the International Law Society, and helping to plan its events. This can bring students into contact with the relevant speakers, event co-sponsors, and faculty advisors.
- Participating in an externship at a law firm, NGO, or other organization. An externship can not only impart valuable substantive knowledge and practical skills, but also help you build professional contacts and develop your networking skills.
The international law faculty encourages students to take advantage of these opportunities to develop career skills within the International Law Program, as well as similar opportunities within the Law School’s diverse other offerings.