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by Travis Whitsitt | May 13, 2024


There is not truly one area of practice that would be encapsulated by the term “international law.” American lawyers who practice internationally can practice in myriad and varied areas. International trade lawyers help facilitate the movement of goods across borders and import-export laws, international treaties, and the litigation before the International Court of Trade. Project finance lawyers often focus on funding projects in one or more international markets, including Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Oil and gas attorneys are often involved in deals with or in oil-producing countries. Litigators who want to practice international law can focus on the growing area of international arbitration. An M&A attorney may have significant expertise in international transactions, an IP attorney may deal with protecting intellectual property assets in other territories, a bankruptcy attorney may deal with the various national laws that touch on the insolvency of a multinational corporation. What ties these disparate areas together is that they are often practices in the largest international firms, involve lawyers of various nationalities, and attract lawyers who like to travel and have expertise in geographic regions or languages. Some firms also have practices focused on specific regions outside of the U.S. Those following a nonprofit path may find legal positions with organizations that address global issues.

The five top-ranked International law firms based on Vault’s 2024 International Law prestige rankings are White & CaseFreshfields; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cleary; and King & Spalding. Below are a few relevant highlights about each of these firms.

White & Case

Ranked at #1 in Vault’s 2024 International Law prestige rankings, White & Case sits at #16 in the overall Vault Law 100, #35 overall in our Best Law Firms to Work For rankings, #15 overall in our Law Firm Diversity rankings, and hosts the #33 overall Best Summer Program. The firm employs over 2,500 attorneys out of eight U.S. and 36 international offices. Associates describe the culture as social & extroverted, and while the firm requires a lot of hours and availability from its attorneys, there is some flexibility as to where work takes place. Partnership is realistic for those willing to put in the work, and exit opportunities are also very strong.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

Freshfields operates three U.S. and 27 international offices which employ over 2,500 attorneys. In addition to being the #2 International law firm, they are #59 in the overall Vault Law 100, the #28 overall Best Law Firm to Work For, and host the #20 overall Best Summer Program. The culture is laid-back and pleasant, and the firm has no billable hour requirement. The partnership track is achievable and transparent, and the firm also provides great exit opportunities.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

In addition to its #3 ranking in our 2024 International Law prestige category, Debevoise is #19 in the 2024 Vault Law 100, the #31 Best Law Firm to Work For overall, and the #10 most prestigious law firm in New York. Debevoise operates three U.S. and six international offices, including its New York headquarters. The firm employs over 750 attorneys, and associates here describe the culture as nice and collegial. The firm has no billable hour requirement, and attorneys work a hybrid three-days-in-office schedule. Partnership here is somewhat opaque and viewed as unrealistic, but exit opportunities are unparalleled.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Cleary operates four U.S. and 12 international offices, and employs over 1,000 attorneys. In addition to being the #4 International law firm, Cleary is the best Antitrust law firm in the country, #14 in the overall Vault Law 100, and #30 overall in our Best Law Firms to Work For rankings. Associates here describe the culture as friendly and welcoming, with a billable hour requirement of 1,950. Partnership here is transparent but acknowledged as unrealistic for most associates, although non-partner roles and exit opportunities are both strong.

King & Spalding LLP

Ranked at #5 in Vault’s 2024 International prestige rankings, King & Spalding is #39 in the overall Vault Law 100, the #5 for Health Care, and the best law firm in Atlanta. They employ over 1,000 attorneys out of 13 U.S. and 10 international offices. Associates describe the culture as warm and collaborative, and the firm has a standard billable hour requirement of 1,950. Partnership is realistic with a transparent but difficult path, and exit opportunities are very strong.


International law covers a broad range of more specific practice areas, so there's no surprise in the category's overlap with the overall Vault Law 100. If you are interested in doing the work at a bigger firm with a wider variety of practice areas, you truly can't go wrong with any of these firms. If you want to maximize your quality of life, at the risk of sounding repetitive, all of these firms rank highly there as well. For these and all of the other firms with ranked International Law practices, we encourage you to check out their Vault Law profiles to help yourself differentiate on metrics other than prestige.

Best of luck from all of us at Vault Law on your legal job search!