International Postgraduate Clerkships

Students and recent graduates can build experience and enhance their résumés with a short-term professional experience abroad.

Columbia Law School students and recent graduates are prime candidates for a postgraduate clerkship or similar position with international courts, tribunals, and organizations. This is a valuable opportunity to gain experience in an adjudicatory setting outside the legal, professional, and cultural context of Columbia Law School.

International clerkships are not bound by any single definition. They go by a number of names: clerkships, traineeships, internships, stages, etc. While some offer compensation, most do not. Some span as little as three months, while others are nine months or longer. In addition, some positions are embedded within highly structured institutional settings and have well-defined processes for applying. Others are not fixed positions at all, but rather lead to courts, tribunals, or other organizations that may be open to a compelling inquiry from an enterprising student.

Below are details about two prestigious postgraduate opportunities facilitated by Columbia Law School:

  • The Parker Fellowship at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, The Netherlands
  • The Dean Acheson Legal Stage Program

You can also browse our reference guide, which lists similar opportunities independent of the Law School.

For additional information, contact the Office of International Programs at [email protected].

Overview

For many years, Columbia Law School has successfully placed recent graduates in the ICJ’s 10-month “traineeship” program. Trainees assist members of the court in their tasks—including carrying out research, preparing case files, and drafting various types of documents—enhancing their understanding of international law and the court’s processes.

Columbia Law School nominates students for the traineeship, but the ICJ makes the final decision whether or not to invite a student to participate. There is no guarantee in any given year that the ICJ will select a student from Columbia Law School.

Students who are selected by the ICJ receive the title of Parker Fellow from the Law School, in recognition of the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law, and are awarded approximately $40,000 to cover health insurance, travel, and other living costs.

A committee headed by Professor Lori Damrosch reviews the applications and forward Columbia’s nominations to the court for final selection.

Applying

Applications are due in January of each year for the nine-month period beginning the following September.

  1. Download and complete the ICJ Application Form.
  2. Upload the following documents using CLS Passport:
    • Completed application form
    • Letter of application addressed to Dean Gillian Lester explaining your interest in and qualifications for the position
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Official transcript(s)
    • Two letters of reference, preferably from individuals who can attest to your abilities in the field of international law
    • Writing sample (no more than 15 typewritten pages of a scholarly publication or paper)

Eligibility

The program is open to graduating 3L and LL.M. students, as well as recent Columbia Law School alumni (within the last three years) who possess:

  • An excellent academic record, including excellence in the field of public international law
  • Proven research and writing skills
  • A thorough command of English or French, as well as a very good working knowledge of the other language

The Dean Acheson Legal Stage program promotes mutual understanding between the residents of the United States and the European Union. It places recent U.S. law graduates as stagiaires (clerks) at the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union. Candidates are nominated by Columbia Law, then presented by the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg for consideration by the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

Overview

Three types of stage are available:

  • With a judge of the Court of Justice. Work in the chambers of a judge of the Court of Justice in association with their referendaires (law clerks). The stagiaire is expected to assist the judge and their referendaires as required. This experience offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain insight into a judicial process that is characteristic of the European Court but very different from the American approach, involving a high degree of intellectual teamwork. Strong French language skills are essential.
  • With an advocate general of the Court of Justice. Work in the chambers of an advocate general of the Court of Justice in association with their referendaires. The stagiaire takes part in the research and writing of the advocate general’s opinions, an experience similar to a traditional U.S. judicial clerking experience. Because advocates general prepare their opinions in their native language, the stagiaire must have the language skills appropriate to the advocate general who selects them. A reading knowledge of French is required.
  • With a judge of the Court of First Instance. Work in the chambers of a judge of the Court of First Instance (CFI), assisting them in connection with cases before the CFI. Candidates for this stage should have a strong background in antitrust/competition law, plus a reading knowledge of French.

There are two possible stage periods each year:

  • Fall term (mid-September to mid-December)
  • Spring term (mid-February to mid-May)

Some flexibility regarding dates may be possible at the discretion of the judge or advocate general to whom the Dean Acheson stagiaire is attached. Exact dates will be determined by the calendar of the court. The maximum stage period is three months due to Luxembourg visa requirements for non-E.U. citizens.

Applying

The application deadline each year is February 15 for positions during the following academic year.

  1. Download and complete the Dean Acheson Legal Stage application form. The form must be signed by hand (a PDF scan is acceptable).
  2. Upload the following documents using CLS Passport:
    1. Completed application form
    2. Curriculum vitae
    3. Graduate and undergraduate transcripts
    4. Recommendation letter from a Columbia Law School faculty member

A committee led by the European Legal Studies Center reviews the applications and forwards Columbia’s nominations (a maximum of three) to the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg. 

After their review, the Embassy forwards approved application materials to the Court of Justice for review and circulation among the judges and advocates general (according to the applicant’s stated preferences). Individual judges and advocates general select Dean Acheson stagiaires from the lists submitted; the European Court of Justice notifies the Embassy and the applicants of their selection.

Eligibility

The program is open to American citizens and legal permanent residents only. Priority will be given to applicants who have completed three years of law school and who have a strong knowledge of community law. Knowledge of French is required and level of fluency varies with the type of stage. Knowledge of an EU language other than French and English is an advantage and generally necessary for a stage with an advocate general.

Financial Assistance

No U.S. government funds are available to assist applicants chosen for the program. Stages are unpaid, and the European Court of Justice does not make any funds available to support Dean Acheson stagiaires. Additionally, no academic credit is given for the stage.

More Information

Contact: Office of Public Affairs

U.S. Embassy Luxembourg

Tel. +352 46 01 23 27 (new number)

https://lu.usembassy.gov

[email protected] 

This guide is an initial reference for Columbia Law School students exploring options for a temporary, post-graduate clerkship or similar position with a foreign court, international tribunal, or international organization. It is not meant to be exhaustive, either with regard to a particular position or the organizations where such positions may be available. Content is drawn from the listed entities’ websites and is periodically revised as new information becomes available.

Download the PDF guide.