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International Organizations and Nonprofit Groups

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The range of international legal positions in international organizations and nonprofit groups is far-reaching and sometimes difficult to discover. In most cases, law students are best advised to start out in private practice or the Federal government.

The two most active legal shops in international organizations are the UN Legal Counsel's Office and the legal departments of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The UN Legal Counsel's Office is deeply involved in legal problems before the Security Council and the General Assembly, particularly the activities of the assembly's Sixth Committee (which handles legal affairs) and legal problems arising from the administration of UN operations. Attorneys working closely with the Sixth Committee and its subcommittees negotiate and draft documents on such matters as rules relating to the non-use of force, the peaceful settlement of disputes, the maintenance of international peace and security, improving the efficiency of UN procedures, codifying offenses against the peace and security of mankind, international trade, international treaty-making conferences, relations between the UN and its host country, the U.S., the safety and protection of diplomats and their missions, various treaties governing the law of outer space, the host of projects before the International Law Commission and numerous other legal issues.

At the World Bank Group and the IMF, attorneys' activities correspond to a greater degree to those in the private sector. Most of the attorneys in the legal department of the World Bank are assigned to lending operations. Others participate in the settlement of investment disputes between member countries, World Bank borrowings in international capital markets and participation in specialized technical assistance programs to member countries and other international organizations.



Legal positions can also be found in certain private nonprofit organizations, such as Amnesty International USA, CARE and Catholic Relief Services. Again, it is advisable to start one's legal career in private practice before exploring these particular options. Salary scales are quite low and the young attorney will want to leave open the option of returning to private practice.

The Future of International Law

International law is hardly a static profession. New areas of practice in international law emerge every year, making it increasingly difficult for attorneys to describe themselves as all-purpose international lawyers. Some of the new areas to keep an eye on are the explosive developments in capital markets (trading in stocks, bonds and money-market instruments) throughout the world. Lawyers with a solid grounding in securities regulation law will be those at the forefront of that new and quite lucrative field of international practice. The international debt crisis and the profusion of new financial instruments, such as swap agreements for interest rates and foreign currencies, are making knowledge of banking law essential. Another area that is growing is the law of intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks and copyright, especially for high-technology products such as computers and biotechnology. International trade will continue for the foreseeable future to employ legions of attorneys in the United States. Every time there is a change in any aspect of U.S. trade law or in international agreements on trade, it can have a tidal wave effect on the operation of businesses (and consequently the work of lawyers) in the U.S. and overseas.

One thing is certain. Despite the skepticism that people typically express about whether or not there is "international law," the fact is that it exists and lawyers will continue to practice it every day of the year.

Employers

All the international organizations, governments and businesses dis-cussed in this book are potential employers. They may want to hire you as a full-time employee, or, more likely, as a short-term contractor.

Language specialists work in a variety of capacities. Conference interpreters and conference translators are at the top of the career ladder. There are more than 20,000 governmental, international or private conferences held each year. A conference is any organized encounter of two or more people who cannot communicate effectively in a single language. These events include the sessions of the multilingual UN General Assembly (which last about three months); multilingual Canadian or European Parliament; inter-national seminars or banquets; or meetings in which professionals such as engineers, lawyers, teachers, scientists or city planners from different countries congregate to discuss their work.

Language specialists who work conferences are generally not found through agencies. Most of the large international organizations test prospective translators and interpreters and establish a roster of approved free lances whom they contact when needed. Professional organizations are another source of calls. Finally, language specialists submit bids to work at nongovernmental meetings, which are announced in periodicals.

Free-lance conference interpreters and translators are paid by the day, with fees ranging from $150 to $450. Staff salaries depend on previous experience. (Few staff members are hired without experience.) In UN organizations, salaries range from $25,000 to $40,000 (according to post adjustment). For free lances and employees, the number of hours they are expected to interpret or the number of pages they must translate per day is clearly defined, as is the number of people needed for a given task.

Other interpreting assignments are escort, seminar and court interpreting. Escort interpreting takes place in a more informal setting than conference interpreting. Escorts are expected to guide their charges throughout their day's (or weeks') meetings. The Department of State uses escort interpreters, at a daily rate of approximately $100, to accompany foreign visitors in meetings with their American counterparts. Travel agencies organizing tours for businesses or other groups also hire escort interpreters. Seminar interpreters usually deal with one topic at a time, repeating the same lecture or class for different groups.

Court interpreters interpret during court proceedings. The U.S. Court Interpreters Act of 1978 directs the Administrative Officer of the U.S. Courts to "prescribe, determine, and certify the qualifications of persons who may serve as certified interpreters," and "maintain a current master list" of all interpreters certified by the director. Some states have followed the Federal system and hire only certified interpreters; others have their own system. (An official scale of qualifications for different kinds of language services has been established only by the Australian government and is available through the National Resource Center for Translation and Interpretation.

So far, the only language test that has been offered for certified court interpreters is Spanish/English. The tests, which have been given five times in various cities throughout the U.S., include oral and written parts. Many languages other than Spanish are needed, in particular, Asian languages, Greek and various central and Western European languages, but because the total number of such cases is small compared with the Spanish case load, no testing arrangements have been devised. Court interpreters should have a thorough legal education in both languages.
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