International Rule of Law and Security FAQs

The meaning of the rule of law can differ by context, but in general it refers to the transparent and uniform application of laws to all citizens by an independent justice system not subject to the whim of those in power (which might be characterized as the rule of man). The rule of law is the foundation of any stable political system and thriving economy. Strengthening the rule of law wherever it is vulnerable is therefore essential to resolving today’s greatest security, environmental, and economic challenges. ASU Law’s program focuses on strengthening independent and fair legal systems in countries where citizens are not routinely able to protect their fundamental rights in courts, where economic development suffers from a lack of trust in the justice system, and where accountability for all citizens is not ensured.

The IRLS Program is an academic and experiential learning program that is designed to prepare students for jobs that promote justice, human rights, sustainable economic development, and equality under the law across the globe. Through coursework and externship placements, students who participate in this program will gain knowledge in the roles of governments, multilateral institutions, international financial institutions, and international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in advancing the rule of law to promote security, stability, and sustainable economic growth. Our expert faculty advise governments, multilateral institutions, universities, and leading NGOs on reforming laws, improving legal education systems, and training critical actors in the legal system to help develop transparent legal systems to which citizens from all backgrounds have equal access. IRLS is based in Washington, DC and was developed in partnership with the McCain Institute for International Leadership.

The IRLS Program is the only of its kind in Washington, DC. It offers unparalleled access to externships and experts in the field. The expertise and contacts of the program’s faculty ensure that students will gain a practical and theoretical foundation in rule of law matters, and that students will have access to rule of law and governance specialists who may be able to help them further their careers. The degree options, networking opportunities, and focus on experiential learning set this program apart. Finally, students selected for the program will graduate with a degree from ASU Law, ranked #32 in International Law and #30 in the country, and from ASU, the #1 university in the U.S. for innovation.

Degree and course information

ASU Law offers three distinct graduate degrees for prospective students:

  • Juris Doctor (JD): JD students can pursue a focus in International Rule of Law and Security by taking IRLS courses and doing relevant externship work. Courses are offered in both Phoenix and Washington, DC, but it is highly recommended that students spend at least one semester in Washington. The JD degree is the traditional law degree in the United States and is usually completed in three years. More information on ASU’s JD program may be found here.
  • Master of Legal Studies (MLS): A Master of Legal Studies in International Rule of Law and Security provides those not interested in practicing law with valuable legal skills, expertise, and tools to implement the legal structures critical to an impartial and functional judicial system. The MLS is a flexible 30-credit graduate program, and can be completed in Washington, DC, or in Phoenix. More information about ASU Law MLS degrees may be found here.
  • Master of Laws (LLM): The Master of Laws in International Rule of Law and Security affords lawyers—having earned a law degree from a U.S. or foreign university—the opportunity to specialize in this area of law, gaining knowledge, contacts, and experience that will help them further their careers. It is a 24-credit program and can qualify graduates for bar examination in some U.S. jurisdictions. More information about ASU Law LLM degrees may be found here.

Courses are offered in two locations – Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, D.C. The majority of IRLS coursework is offered in Washington.

This program is ideal for people with international interests who want to make a difference in the world through the application of law and policy, and for those who want to assist in the process of building foundations in rule of law and good governance for states or regions emerging from conflict or transitioning to democracy. It would also appeal to those with a national security interest who understand that instability in even the most distant countries can pose threats to the broader world as well. IRLS is specifically designed for students with an interest in these issues who are seeking both a solid theoretical base and a practical perspective from real-world international experience.

Core courses

  • International Law
  • Building Justice Institutions
  • Counterterrorism
  • Foreign Policy Design
  • International Criminal Justice
  • International Human Rights Law
  • International Law of Armed Conflict
  • (U.S. and International) Election Law
  • National Security Law
  • Anti-Corruption Law

Additional courses (non-exhaustive sample)

  • International Arbitration
  • International Business Transactions
  • International Contracts
  • Foreign Relations Law
  • International Environmental Law
  • Civil Rights Seminar
  • Foundations in Military Law
  • Legislative Advocacy & the Law

Prospective MLS students may apply here.

Prospective LLM students may apply here.

Prospective JD students may apply here.

Current JD students looking to transfer to or visit ASU Law may apply here.

All JD students at ASU Law are eligible to pursue the IRLS focus. JD students generally register to participate in Washington, DC programs in the spring semester before they plan to attend.

LLM and MLS students may apply to the IRLS Program during the application process for admission to ASU Law, and follow the standard degree application deadlines.

Program Benefits

The ability to practice law is a powerful tool for change, justice, and promoting human rights. Through earning a JD or LLM in International Rule of Law and Security, lawyers gain practical knowledge of a growing field, international exposure and expertise, and a strong network of contacts. Lawyers will graduate with an understanding of policy formulation, crisis management, and decision-making. This unique education expands job opportunities for lawyers interested in international legal work. Lawyers in these fields are passionate about their careers and the effect they can have around the world.

International development jobs in the areas of rule of law, governance, sustainability, and related fields do not always require a law degree, but knowledge of the law, legal structures, and the foundation for fair justice systems is critical. An MLS in International Rule of Law and Security expands job opportunities, helps in entering this competitive field, and allows graduates to start or improve a career with a broad network of contacts. It provides graduates with not only knowledge of concepts and practices they will deal with daily in their work, but also a deep understanding of policy formulation, crisis management, and decision-making.

International students in the JD, LLM, and MLS programs will gain a strong understanding of the U.S. legal system and government policy-making, while also gaining expertise in legal concepts and practical skills necessary for a career in rule of law and governance work. Like their American counterparts, international students will have the opportunity to meet with U.S. government officials and to learn from professors who have a deep knowledge of global rule of law and governance issues.

Students from the United States are able to work as externs in a range of U.S. government agencies, including but not limited to the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy; USAID; CIA; and FBI. They may also work at the White House, in the Senate and House of Representatives, or in federal courts.

Externships are also available with think tanks, non-governmental organizations, foreign missions, and many other entities focused on human rights, criminal justice, governance, trade, labor, and economic development such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States.

Yes, and some opportunities may be organized and subsidized by IRLS.

A focus in International Rule of Law and Security will prepare graduates for jobs in:

  • International development—U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development (DFID), other national development agencies, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Justice, American Bar Association, local and international NGOs.
  • International human rights—U.S. Department of State, foreign ministries of other governments, local and international NGOs
  • International criminal justice—international and hybrid tribunals and related NGOs
  • International Commerce and Trade—U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Trade Representative, local and international NGOs
  • Government—many sectors of national and state or provincial governments
  • International private sector positions—international law firms, companies working or seeking to invest in developing countries, corporate social responsibility divisions

Eligibility & Requirements

LLM and MLS students are chosen via the standard degree application processes. Students in these programs who do not apply directly to IRLS may also apply for approval to participate after their first semester at ASU Law.

All JD students are eligible to participate, but must register for the Washington, DC program.

As of Fall 2018, students are able to spend either the spring or fall semester of their 2L or 3L year, or a full year, in Washington, DC. Students may also extern in Washington, DC during the summer, but IRLS courses are not currently offered during this time.

Most LLM and MLS students will spend the entire academic year in Washington, DC. However, LLM and MLS students have the option to spend one semester in Arizona and one semester in Washington, DC.

No, although it is highly recommended.