TooOld4This wrote:No. "International Law" has a particular meaning. Just because you do work internationally does not mean you are practicing "international law." M&A attorneys or litigators who have international clients would not refer to themselves as practicing international law -- at least not within the field.
As a field of practice, international law refers to work with supranational organizations. This would include work with the WTO, certain human rights organizations, ICJ, etc. The dividing line is generally where the source of law comes from. If the primary source is domestic, it's not "international law."
Saying you practice international law when you are actually doing corporate or litigation work is akin to calling yourself a constitutional lawyer when you are a plaintiff's attorney that files a bunch of run of the mill Bivens or § 1983 actions as part of your practice. Descriptively accurate on some level, nonsensical within the field.
This is pretty spot-on.
Even at the top, you could be an M&A lawyer helping a NY subsidiary of a European corporation acquire a DE subsidiary of a Chinese corporation, and be working for international clients, but you're still just practicing New York and Delaware law. Most international corporations with significant US operations use US subsidiaries for transactions here to make things legally simpler, which means you rarely have to apply the law of other countries when dealing with them.
Or you could be in China helping advise Chinese companies on how to legally invest or incorporate in the US. You're working abroad, but really practicing US federal and state law. (Even these jobs are fairly rare and competitive.)
Or you could be a litigator helping one of your domestic clients suing a Brazilian distributor for breach of contract, but the contact drafter was at all competent they likely put a NY choice-of-law clause in, so the closest you come to "international law" you practice is convincing a federal or NY judge that federal/NY precedent dictates applying NY law to contract interpretation and enforcement. That's not exactly a new argument, there's reams of precedent on it, and it doesn't actually rely much on the law of other nations at all. It's pretty much "you signed it, you consented to our law, so we'll expect you to follow it now".
So your international M&A deal is still pretty much a standard domestic M&A contract, and your international corporate litigation is still pretty much a standard domestic breach-of-contract suit. Your actual work will still be at least 98% NY/DE/other state/federal law, and that's when you even have a project that's international in nature.
International law is a type of law you can practice. Working with the occasional or even regular international client ≠ practicing international law.