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International Law at the Department of Justice

November 27, 2023

headshot of Olivia Rosenzweig
Olivia Rosenzweig

As an extern with the Department of Justice, Olivia Rosenzweig L’23 worked on projects in the Office of Foreign Litigation and the Office of International Judicial Assistance.

Having previously completed my master’s degree in international relations, I entered law school already intending to explore the field of international law. During my three years at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, I pursued this interest by taking on student leadership roles in international law organizations, working at the Transnational Legal Clinic and completing an externship in my final semester of law school at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), specifically with the Office of Foreign Litigation (OFL) and the Office of International Judicial Assistance (OIJA) in Washington, D.C.

OFL is a unit within the civil division of the DOJ that is responsible for protecting U.S. interests in all litigation pending in foreign courts. Because OFL attorneys are not licensed to practice law in foreign jurisdictions, the office retains foreign counsel to represent U.S. interests in foreign disputes, including employment disputes brought by foreign nationals working in U.S. embassies abroad, litigation arising from U.S. military activities abroad, and affirmative litigation fighting cross-border fraud. The office also provides legal advice and assistance to other federal agencies regarding litigation risks outside the United States.

One of my main projects for OFL was researching Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act case law from the past year, which I analyzed and compiled. It was a hands-on way for me to learn about this interesting area of American international law and to see how the office applies new legal precedents to active case law involving sovereign immunity. In addition, I conducted a number of research projects on international reciprocity law, as well as on the General Data Protection Regulation and other transnational privacy regimes.

I also worked with the OIJA, which is a subsidiary office of OFL. OIJA serves as the central authority for incoming requests for international judicial assistance in civil or commercial matters involving service of process and evidence under several international treaties, including the Hague Evidence Convention.

Throughout my externship, various foreign countries, pursuant to international conventions, would send requests to the OIJA asking for the office’s assistance in gathering evidence via the U.S. court system as part of their work on civil litigation matters. I would help to review these requests, assessing whether they met the criteria under international treaties for the department to be able to provide assistance, and then would issue rejections, referrals, or acceptances to their requests. If the office accepted a request, I would help to draft the necessary documents to file with the relevant U.S. court or U.S. Attorney’s office.

It was interesting to see the inner workings of this reciprocal judicial assistance process. This work gave me insight into the differences between various domestic and foreign legal fields and taught me more about how other countries conduct investigations into civil issues such as child custody disputes and trademark infringement cases.

One of the highlights of my externship experience was meeting Attorney General Merrick Garland at a department-wide social event toward the end of the semester. In terms of my day-to-day work, though, I also had a great experience in general with the various attorneys at OFL/OIJA, learning about the interesting cases that they were working on as well as receiving advice regarding my own career path in international law.

International law is a field I want to continue to work in in the future, so making these important connections in Washington, D.C., and within the international legal community while exploring the possibilities for areas of focus within this specialty was important for me as I begin my career.

Pathways to the Profession highlights Penn Carey Law students and post-graduate fellows as they launch impactful legal careers. From summer internships in the private sector to public interest post-graduate fellowships and externships, these firsthand accounts of substantive legal work demonstrate the myriad opportunities available to Penn Carey Law students and graduates.

Our externship program supplements the Law School’s offerings by providing external opportunities for students to observe and participate meaningfully in lawyering at government agencies and nonprofit organizations as well as with judges.

Learn more about externship opportunities at Penn Carey Law.