By Ilan Fuchs, Ph.D.  |  01/31/2024

international business law


With the presence of the internet and e-commerce in a globalized market, more companies have become involved in international business and international trade. As a result, the need to know international business law has become more important for those students aspiring to become a lawyer.

What Is International Business Law?

It’s important to note that international business law is a colloquial term. In this area of the law, attorneys facilitate transactions between organizations in different countries and must deal with several domestic and foreign legal systems.

Private international law deals with determining which country's laws, procedures, and legal system should apply to a particular dispute when multiple jurisdictions are involved. Questions of jurisdiction and the choice of law need to be answered when there is a trade dispute involving an international transaction. A few decades ago, international business centered on this area.

Now, with the globalization of business, the field of international business law has grown exponentially. It focuses on designing legally sound transactions, rather than just determining where to adjudicate a case and by which law when it fails.

Currently, international business law involves several areas. The first one is international trade law, which focuses on trade agreements. Trade agreements can be either bilateral, involving two countries, or multilateral, involving more than two countries. Trade agreements are the center of international relations since they define the conditions by which nations trade with each other.

The second area of international business law concerns tariffs and customs. International business law regulates how tariffs and customs are imposed, as well as the legal obligations for imported and exported products.

A third area of international business law is intellectual property, which deals with the transfer of information and knowledge in international business. Dispute resolution in international business law is also of growing importance to lawyers and others working in legal practice.


The Daily Realities of International Business Law

If you are interested in the field of international business law, you must first acquire your Juris Doctor degree, or J.D., and take classes that build your knowledge of this topic.

An internship is also helpful. During an internship, you might help with domestic law issues, aiding corporate management with labor issues and corporate governance.

Over time, you might choose to work with a company that conducts business transactions overseas. You might handle cases involving international arbitration, tax issues, trade tariffs, and trade agreements between two or more nations.

In this area of the law, you will have to advise clients from different countries and different cultures. You’ll need the ability to smoothly navigate business cultures in different countries where people have different social expectations and norms.

Often, international business law also requires the management of teams of lawyers, who may come from multiple jurisdictions and could have different specialties.


What People Specializing in International Business Law Should Know

Today’s global economy means that law students must develop a deep understanding of the ways different nations conduct business. The legal landscape always changes, and certain laws are not universal in other business transactions.

Also, you’ll need to develop familiarity with the laws of different countries and multiple legal systems. For instance, some Muslim nations are governed by Islamic law, which is based on the legal and religious interpretation of sharia doctrine, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

Ultimately, the role of the attorney is to minimize risk for their clients. Law students need to learn how to engage experts to ensure that international business transactions are conducted properly with minimal risk.

Imagine, for example, that you’re involved in a case about intellectual property. The laws about intellectual property vary from one country to another and when multiple jurisdictions are involved, the situation can get murky.

In such a case, you’ll need to protect a client's rights in more than one jurisdiction. Consequently, you must find and work with experts who have deep knowledge of the law of their own country.

If you are working on a transaction that involves patents and assisting companies in another country, it will be necessary to create legal documents that will provide an organization with legal protection in multiple countries. Other businesses can be in countries where the law does not give easy recourse, and you will need to create documentation to protect a company.

No one will expect you to know all the laws of other countries. However, you will be expected to ask the right questions and find people who can answer questions about laws in those jurisdictions.

Also, it is important to develop a knowledge of a foreign language skill if you plan to be involved in international business law. In the global business arena, the ability to speak foreign languages can have a very positive impact.

While it’s true that English is an international language and translations have become much easier with the evolution of artificial intelligence, knowing a foreign language and cultural context will make you a much more powerful attorney when you’re negotiating a business deal. Whether the language is German, Japanese, Arabic, or Mandarin Chinese, you will have an edge if you can communicate in a foreign language.


How Do Lawyers Learn about the Law in Other Countries?

Some universities such as American Public University teach international law as a part of their bachelor’s degree in legal studies, which is a useful path to more advanced learning.

However, most lawyers do research every day and continue their education on a regular basis. For instance, you may need to learn about foreign investment law in China or study European Union regulations concerning privacy rights, trade law, and international transactions.


The Future of International Business Law

The world of business has changed dramatically since the 1980s. Our globalized marketplace means that companies routinely buy merchandise or parts in one part of the world and ship them to another for production purposes. For example, a purchase from Vietnam may be shipped to a European company for production and then to its destination in New York City or vice versa.

If you choose to become an attorney in the global business arena, a focus on international business law will most likely be part of your professional life. It’s important to prepare for that when you’re thinking about your skill building, program selection, and career planning.


Legal Studies Programs Offered at American Public University

At the University, there are two main programs: the bachelor's degree in legal studies and the master’s degree in legal studies. These academic programs that will allow you to begin exploring areas related to international realms, such as:

  • International law
  • Maritime law
  • Immigration law and policy
  • Space law

Through the classes you take, you can improve your knowledge and develop the skills necessary to pursue professional opportunities. International business law is one of the most exciting frontiers of the legal industry, and it is well worth investigating.

About the Author
Ilan Fuchs, Ph.D.
Dr. Ilan Fuchs is a scholar of international law and legal history. He holds a B.A. in Humanities and Social Science from The Open University of Israel and an M.A. in Jewish history from Bar-Ilan University. Ilan’s other degrees include an LL.B., an LL.M. and a Ph.D. In Law from Bar-Ilan University. He is the author of “Jewish Women’s Torah Study: Orthodox Education and Modernity,” and 18 articles in leading scholarly journals. At the University, Ilan teaches courses on international law while maintaining a law practice in several jurisdictions.

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