Career Advice

7 Strategies Canadian Lawyers Should Use When Looking for International Law Jobs

Legal Embassy

Photo Credit: Legal Embassy


HAVE YOU ever thought of how you could use your legal skills to make a living in another country? As a lawyer, it is easy to get trapped in the misconception that you can only use your legal skills in your home jurisdiction. Nothing can be farther from the truth than that.


TRUTH be told though, law is perhaps the most jurisdictional-restricted of all the professions in the world. However, with globalization and Internet revolution, things have taken a different shape. Now, more than ever before, there is an increasing need for lawyers with cross-border experience in international governmental organizations, multilateral agencies, thinktanks, consulting firms, international law firms, academia, and global organizations.


THERE are countless opportunities for Canadian lawyers outside their home jurisdiction. If you want a quick getaway or a complete change of environment, or you simply want to experience legal practice from a different jurisdictional perspective, we have provided a list of strategies that Canadian lawyers can use to land international law jobs.




 1. United Nations (UN): Most UN jobs are open to citizens of its member countries; hence it presents a good opportunity for Canadian lawyers who want to work outside Canada. Although, UN jobs are very competitive but if you are bilingual and have a graduate degree, you stand a better chance. To search for vacancies through the UN jobs portal, select Legal from the portal and click Search. The portal also allows you to streamline your search to certain job categories (consultant, internship, permanent, etc.) or location (US, Australia, Europe, Africa etc.).

IBRD law jobs

Using the functions shown on the screen above, the legal positions below were displayed:

UN Law Jobs

Assuming you didn’t see any position that resonates with you, you can set up an alert so that you can get updates once the organization posts a new job that matches your qualifications. It only takes a few minutes to set up the alert!


2. WORLD BANK GROUP: World Bank consists of five organizations: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Apart from the UN, World Bank is another international governmental organization that Canadian lawyers should eye for job opportunities.

 A. IBRD and IDA - Application for jobs at the IBRD and IDA are done via their online job portal. To search for law jobs, start by selecting Legal from the JOB FAMILY dropdown menu and if you want to streamline your search you can use the JOB TYPE and LOCATION menus. When you see a job you like, the job description page will specify if it is International Hire or Local Hire position. If the position is designated as Local Hire, it means it is reserved for the legal residents of the location of the position. You will want to focus your search on positions that are designated as International Hire.

IBRD law jobs

B.  IFC – To use the IFC’s job portal, simply select Legal from the STREAM dropdown menu as shown below. Assuming you are interested in a particular location, you can filter the job search by indicating the country of your choice using the LOCATION dropdown menu. The system also allows you set up a job alert or submit an expression of interest that enables you to be matched to a position that will become available in the future.

IFC law jobs

C. MIGA Although MIGA doesn’t have a functional job portal that allows you to search for available positions or create an alert, it does post legal jobs from time to time on its careers page. The following are examples of legal jobs at MIGA that closed recently:

MIGA law jobs


All the four legal roles shown above are based in Washington DC and are International Hire positions. With the exception of the Paralegal and Associate Counsel roles that require bilingual skills (English and French), the remaining two jobs require competence in only English language.


3. COMMONWEALTH: Commonwealth posts law jobs from time to time to his career page. Currently, it has a Legal Counsel position that many Canadians lawyers qualify for; see below:

commonwealth law job


4. AFRICAN UNION (AU): If you are an African-Canadian lawyer, you may also explore job opportunities at the AU through its career page. The following legal jobs are currently available at AU:


AU law jobs


5. EUROPEAN UNION (EU): If you have or qualify for a dual citizenship status in one of the EU countries, you may consider pursuing a legal career with the organization. Although its job portal is not very user-friendly as it does not give you the option to set up a job alert or select job categories. In order to streamline your search, you can type multiple legal roles like “lawyer”, “paralegal”, “legal counsel”, “legal advisor”, “legal assistant” etc. in the Keyword(s) menu.

EU law jobs

6. PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION (PC): The PCA recruits lawyers and law students from member states to fill various law jobs including Legal Counsel, Fellow, and Intern at his office in Hague, the Netherlands. Considering Canada is a member of PCA, lawyers with background in arbitration and who are familiar with the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules may want to consider an international law job opportunities with the PCA.


Its Legal Counsel position is for lawyers with reasonable years of experience. Its Fellowship Program is a one-year program suitable for recent law graduates and young legal professionals who wish to gain experience in international dispute resolution. Its Internship Program is for law students and recent graduates who wish to gain experience at an international arbitration institution. Its law jobs are posted on its career page; check it from time-to-time to determine the application deadline for the programs.






 1. GREENPEACE - With offices in over 40 countries, Greenpeace uses lawyers in achieving its objectives of protecting and conserving the environment. Its vacancies are listed on its career page. Canadian lawyers who like to use their legal skills to promote environmental causes at the global level should add Greenpeace to their list of organizations to watch.    


2. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL – If you are cut out for defending human rights and fighting for justice for the less privileged, you should consider working for Amnesty International. Its law jobs are posted on its career page.





1. THINKTANKS – Typically, the nature of the works of thinktanks are such that require legal skills. Their works include public policy formulation, research, publication, lobbying, and advocacy. Some non-Canadian thinktanks that Canadian lawyers can put on their list of favorite organizations include: Adam Smith Institute, Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Brookings Institution, Chatham House, and Singapore Institute of International Affairs.


 2 CONSULTING FIRMS – If you are a business- or management-centric lawyer, you should consider opportunities at consulting firms. The list of global consulting firms Canadian lawyers may want to consider setting up job alerts with include McKinsey & Co, Boston Group, EY, Bain & Co, KPMG, Deloitte, and PricewaterhouseCoopers‎.


3. INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRMS: Canadian lawyers who are considering a short-term getaway, or young lawyers or law students seeking cross-border law experience should consider an internship opportunity with one of the large international law firms. They can use law firm directories and ranking organizations like Chambers & Partners, Legal 500 or Martindale-Hubbell to help them streamline their choice of firms.





 1. Canadian organizations with operations abroad – Canadian lawyers willing to work abroad may want to start their job search with Canadian organizations that have international operations. There are so many of them. They include AIMCo, Enbridge, Rio Tinto, RBC, Transcanada, TD, Nexen, Encana, SNC-Lavalin, Bombardier and many others. Being a Canadian entity, the lawyers’ “Canadianess” in terms of education, work experience and cultural background will give them a real leg up in the competition for their international jobs.


You should sign up for their job alerts and whenever they have a position in a country of your choice, don’t waste time in making your application. If you happen to have any contacts in the organization, reach out to them and tell them to keep you in the loop on any international openings in their organization and ask if they will be willing to give you a reference. And if you don’t have anyone in your network that works in the organizations, it is better to start making friends with their employees so that you could get an in on the organizations’ recruitment process. That is what LinkedIn is for.


 2. Global Corporations with operations in Canada – There are several multinationals that have active operations in different sectors in Canada. From oil and gas to mining to IT to engineering and construction: the list is endless. As mentioned above, you should sign up for their job alert and be on the lookout for any opportunity that will come up.


While you are waiting on international opportunity to be open, if an opportunity opens for you in Canada in these organizations, please take it. Every step you take towards your goal counts. Often, when you are headed somewhere, it doesn’t matter which direction you take; the objective is to get there, safe and early enough. In essence, being their employee will make it easy for you to get an international posting from within the organization.





Job boards present another avenue where Canadian lawyers can start their international job search. While some job boards have a global outlook – Indeed, Glassdoors, Zip Recruiters, CareerBuilder, others are regional - naukrigulf (Middle East), Trovit (Europe and Latin America), and AfricaLegalJobs (Africa). In most cases, most of the jobs posted on one of the boards are replicated on other boards. So you don’t need to sign up on all of them. Just pick one or two that you like and set up an alert on their websites, and whenever any opportunity that matches your qualifications is posted, you will be notified.




Certainly, the easiest way to get a law job in the country you want to relocate to is to start your own law practice there. Here is the deal. Canada offers a wide range of immigration programs – including skilled worker program, investor program, refugee program and student program - to foreigners. Indeed, series of surveys have shown Canada to be a top pick for many would-be immigrants. According to a survey conducted by Gallup between 2009 and 2011 in 151 countries, over 42 million people said they were willing to permanently relocate to Canada. This survey further reveals that countries with the highest number of potential immigrants are China, Hong Kong, Indian, and Nigeria. This shows there will be high demands for Canadian immigration lawyers in those countries. If you are a Canadian immigration lawyer and you are keen on living abroad, these are some countries you should consider. The fact that you know how the Canadian system works and could provide a face-to-face interaction with the locals who want to immigrate to Canada will help you to establish trust very quick. To broaden your client base, you may also serve as a representative for Canadian academic institutions that want to promote their brand in those countries to their would-be students.


There are a few downsides you need to be aware of. Unlike the situation where your employer will handle your residency visa in the foreign country, you will be personally responsible for it under this option. Also, you will need to verify the country’s requirements for foreign lawyers who want to carry on a limited practice relating to their home law.





If you utilized these strategies you will eventually get your dream international job, though it may take a while. However before you hop on the plane to your destination, there are some housekeeping items you need to take into consideration:

 1. KEEP YOUR STATUS ACTIVE - Contact your law society and find out how to keep your status active while you are out of the country – whether you need to maintain a professional liability insurance coverage or maintain an address within the province/country.


2. TAX AND RESIDENCY IMPLICATIONS FOR THOSE WHO ARE YET TO BECOME CANADIANS – Find out about the tax implications of your relocation and make sure you get everything sorted out before you leave. And for those who are permanent residents, they should keep in mind the need to maintain the minimum residency requirements that will allow them to keep their permanent residency.


3. CULTURE SHOCK AND LANGUAGE BARRIER – Relocating to a new country is a big decision that must be well thought out. Hence, it is important to research the culture of the destination as well as the language very well before making your traveling decision. Even if the country is an English or a French speaking country, please note that there are bound to be dialectical differences. The bottomline is that you should be prepared psychologically for a major change of lifestyle. One rule of the thumb that many expats have used in minimizing the effect of culture shock is to first take a vacation in the place they wish to relocate to. During this vacation, they will make friends with the locals, eat their foods and integrate into the community as much as they can. These will give them the opportunity to see first hand whether they can adjust to the environment or not.


4. FAMILY CONSIDERATIONS – For a lawyer who has a partner, it is important to take the interest of the partner into consideration as well. Life abroad could be lonely and isolated unless you put necessary measures in place to facilitate your easy integration into the new community. Critical questions that a family relocating abroad should ask themselves include – will there be job opportunities for the spouse? Will there be qualitative schools that meet Canadian standard for the children? A negative answer to these questions is a red flag warranting the reconsideration of the relocation, irrespective of its associated benefits.


The essence of this article is to highlight some strategies for searching for international job opportunities and relate them to the legal field in Canada. By so doing, any Canadian lawyer who is interested in pursuing a law career outside Canada but does not know how to go about it can utilize them. In any case, the specific strategy to adopt in any particular situation will depend largely on the lawyer's areas of interests as well as the country/continent of preference.