International Externships

Summer Externships

A full-time judicial externship is available at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica for a student who is completely fluent in Spanish. The Court is an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States established in 1979. Its objective is the application and interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights and other treaties concerning this same matter. Interested students may also contact Professor Tom Antkowiak in the Clinic, who has worked for the Court.

Each summer the Externship Program may have part-time positions available in various countries, depending on staffing. In most years, a limited number of two-credit judicial externships are available in Uganda for students who have very good research and writing skills.

Spring and Fall Externships

The Externship Program has full-time international externships available for spring and fall semesters in both The Hague and Geneva. If you are interested in any of these positions, listed below, please meet with the Externship Director to discuss both the position and eligibility. Most of the sites have asked that the Externship Program screen applicants and, in some cases, send the applications directly to our contact rather than to the general contact listed on the web site. For all the full-time positions, though, you must have completed 60 credits and be in the top 50% of your class.

Full-time externships for fall and spring semesters are 15 credits and require that students begin work on the first day of the semester and work through the entire exam period. For some international sites, this time period is fine, but others give preference to students who will work for five or six months. Students also complete a seminar requirement that involves meeting with the externship director or designated faculty member for several sessions, writing a paper and a critique of the site, and completing journal entries and time sheets.

Full-Time Externships in Geneva

The Externship Program currently has six full-time externship opportunities in Geneva. Four of the positions focus on world trade, with at least two narrowing the focus to intellectual property law: WTO, WIPO, ITC, and CIEL. The first three are UN organizations, but CIEL, which stands for Center for International Environmental Law, is a watchdog NGO focused on WIPO policies that affect sustainable development. The fifth site is the ILO, International Labor Organization. We are currently working on two additional sites.

The International Trade Center

The ITC is the joint technical cooperation agency of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WTO for business aspects of trade development. Although the ITC generally takes only one legal extern per semester, our contacts are looking forward to reviewing an application sent by SU.

The student should have the following qualifications:

  • Background in economics
  • “A good command of English and French”
  • Writing sample that relates to trade
  • International trade coursework

Note that our contact who probably would conduct the phone interviews is from Paris, so students claiming proficiency in French would be put to the test rather quickly. Fluency in another language might suffice, but talk to the director of SU's externship program.

Although the ITC takes externs in several departments, a student must work in the legal department under the supervision of a lawyer to receive externship credit.

See the ITC website at for more information, but apply through the SU externship office.

The World Trade Organization

Obtaining an externship at the WTO is not an easy matter. Although the site takes three to four students from the USA each year, not all of those are in law. Only an externship in the legal department qualifies for externship credit. Competition is very strong, and our contact emphasized that he will consider only those students with top credentials and a real interest in international trade. An applicant should have the following qualifications:

  • Top of the class
  • Specialized training in international trade
  • Fluent in a second language (or close to fluent) (this is a preference, not a requirement)
  • Either be from another culture or have lived in another culture (again, a preference)
  • Should not have entered law school directly after completing undergraduate work
  • Must be able to make a mark (one previous U.S. intern is now working for an international trade firm in Geneva; another is clerking for the Court of International Trade in New York)

The contact requires that the Externship Program screen the applicants carefully before forwarding applications. Once the Externship Program has completed the screening, a letter of recommendation will be sent, along with the application. Check the WTO Web site for more information about the organization at but apply through the SU externship office.

The World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO hires very few externs but will take them for up to six months (spring or fall semester). The organization is "dedicated to helping to ensure that the rights of creators and owners of intellectual property are protected worldwide and that inventors and authors are, thus, recognized and rewarded for their ingenuity." WIPO administers 17 treaties, and legal externs assist in that work.


  • Strong academic credentials
  • Keen interest in the program
  • Enthusiasm
  • Completion of intellectual property courses, preferably international intellectual property

Our contact emphasized the "keen interest" because the field supervisors select externs with a view to channeling them into full-time work at WIPO following graduation.

SU must screen applicants and send our contact only the top few for each semester. Please see the WIPO website at and contact the SU externship office if interested.

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

CIEL generally takes only one intern at a time. Depending on current workload, CIEL may take up to two fellows and two interns; the fellows have law degrees but the interns (externs under ABA terminology) do not. The fellows and interns are involved in meetings, observe WIPO, conduct research, do not perform administrative work, and help with CIEL projects, most of which involve the intersection of intellectual property and biodiversity. Sample writing projects for the fellows and interns focus on sustainable development in more specific areas, such as the following: the Vienna Conference on rules governing agreements; impact assessments requirements; and biodiversity product liability. Writing skills must be very strong.


  • Keen interest in trade (and preferably the sustainable development program)
  • Key commitment to public interest
  • Excellent research and writing skills
  • "Quick study" ability (student must be able to analyze materials and quickly evaluate how to use them to create a basis for a position paper)

Housing is difficult to find in Geneva, but CIEL has a list of possibilities. Applicants must provide proof of health insurance and permission from the Swiss government. As a result, CIEL must decide about externs at least two or three months before they are due to arrive.

Two Seattle University law students have externed at CIEL in the past two years. Both found the experience transformative. Review the CIEL website at for more information and contact the SU externship program if interested.

The International Labor Organization

The ILO offers a wonderful opportunity for students to get a flavor of labor and employment issues at the international level. Although the ILO takes a number of externs each semester, very few are in the legal department. For externship credit, the student must work in the legal department.

The site is located in a modern building in Geneva, Switzerland. Externs work closely with the attorneys in a well-supervised program.

Full-Time Externships in The Hague

The Externship Program has four possible positions in The Hague at the present time: ICTY, the ICC, the PCA, and The Permanent Bureau. The competition for positions at any of the four is stiff, but the Externship Program has placed a number of students at the ICTY, which accepts more externs each semester. Additionally, these UN agencies have two official languages, English and French, and prefer fluency in both plus one other working language. Students lacking complete fluency in other languages, however, have been accepted.

The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia)

At the ICTY, students may apply for either The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) or Judicial Chambers. At the present time, the ICTY is winding down, so the best options are now with Chambers. In Chambers, students work for a team of judges and staff attorneys assigned to certain cases. Both the trial court and appellate court are accepting applications. The ICTY gives preference to students willing to work for six months. The Externship Program does screen applications for this position because the ICTY has blacklisted law schools that have sent unqualified applicants.

The OTP generally takes 10-12 externs per semester. About half of these externs are already lawyers, some with years of experience. Most countries require that students "article," which is like completing a medical residency, before they can apply for full bar credentials. So those students complete a law degree, spend some time articling in an initial placement, and then often take a master's or a Ph.D. in law before applying to the ICTY. Although law is an undergraduate degree in almost every country other than the USA, most of the hiring personnel have been through those programs and focus on the total years of training devoted to law. Still, the hiring personnel give preference to schools that provide good students, and SU students have performed very well.

In the OTP, students research both law and facts for the trials and have done briefing on certain issues. The trial phase of the ICTY should wind down by the end of 2009. Only appellate work will be available from 2010-2011 if the ICTY's case work remains on schedule. It appears, though, that the schedules may slip. Check with the Externship Director for updates.

A student applying for the OTP should have the following abilities or characteristics:

  • Strong writing ability
  • Background in criminal law, evidence, and laws of war or international criminal law
  • No arrogance
  • Bright, but not genius
  • Good work ethic (hard worker)
  • Good judgment/commonsense
  • Good attitude

In Chambers, students work for judges, researching and writing about various aspects of law. In each judge's chambers, a staff attorney oversees the externs' work (the ICTY calls them interns). Externship positions in Chambers should be available through 2010 or possibly 2011. Applicants should have the abilities and characteristics listed above, but the research and writing must be stellar. The first SU extern to work in Chambers set a very high mark; in fact, her supervisor said she was the best extern he had supervised in his four years at the court. She had a marvelous work ethic as well and an even, calm, personable manner.

Review the ICTY website at for more information and contact the SU externship program if interested.

The ICC (The International Criminal Court)

Like the ICTY, the ICC has three divisions: Presidency, Chambers, and Prosecution. SU law students may extern only in Chambers or Prosecution because Presidency requires too much administrative work.

The ICC has a different funding source, the European Union and either Norway or Finland, which permits it to offer more benefits to externs. Those benefits often include the return flight, medical coverage, and a housing stipend. Because of these benefits, the ICC receives an incredible number of applications for every position, so the positions are very difficult to obtain.

The ICC considers the following factors in selecting applicants:

  • Fluency in English and French (many working documents are in French)
  • An applicant's ability in the following "working languages": Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish
  • Ethnicity/diversity
  • Gender
  • Strong motivation
  • Willingness to work
  • Keen interest in criminal law
  • Strong writing and drafting skills

Our contact at the site emphasized strong writing and drafting skills.

For more information about the ICC, review its website at and contact the SU externship program if interested.

The PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration)

Obtaining an externship at the PCA is incredibly difficult because the site takes only one extern a semester and the competition is world-wide. About 15% of the externs have been from the USA, but the PCA usually selects practicing attorneys or at least someone who has completed an L.L.M. The positions are available only for the semester, not for six months.


  • Keen interest in ADR and public/private international law
  • Excellent writing ability, ability to draft
  • Excellent ability to research manually in the library, which is superb
  • Fluency in two languages, preferably English and French (must be fluent in one of those two plus one other language)

Visit the PCA’s website at and contact the Director of SU’s Externship Program for more information about applying.

The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law

Externships at the Permanent Bureau are called Stages; externs are stagiaires. Applicants must be fluent in both English and French. At least half of the legal work at the Permanent Bureau is conducted in French. Externs' duties include

  • basic research on particular points of private international law or comparative law, relevant either to the operation of existing Hague Conventions or to the future work of the Conference;
  • preparation for meetings (working groups, Special Commissions, Diplomatic Sessions);
  • and preparatory work of translation or documentary research according to the needs of the Bureau's lawyers.

The Permanent Bureau is reluctant to take law students from the United States. Previous experiences have shown that U.S. law students lack sufficient training in private international law to be useful. Successful applicants will need the following:

  • the highest legal research and writing skills;
  • fluency in French and English, with proof of linguistic abilities;
  • course work in private international law, including research papers;
  • a keen interest in the subject matter, preferably with some experience;
  • and references from professors teaching both private international law and legal writing.

Visit the Permanent Bureau's Web site at and contact the SU externship program if interested.