International Rule of Law and Security

International Rule of Law and Security

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Rule of law and good governance are critical to countries’ political stability and economic development. Strengthening responsible, representative, and responsive legal and governmental systems where they are most vulnerable is essential to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, and is critical to resolving many of the great security, economic, and environmental challenges facing the world today.

The International Rule of Law and Security (IRLS) program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, developed in partnership with the McCain Institute for International Leadership, is an academic and experiential learning program designed to prepare students for jobs in the U.S. and overseas that promote justice and good governance, human rights, and national and international security. Based in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, AZ, the IRLS program teaches students about the development of the rule of law and good governance in fragile and post-conflict states, and on evolving national and international security issues, including the threats posed by terrorism. IRLS prepares them for a range of legal, policy, and international development jobs in these fields.


There are lawyers around the world working on international development and rule of law issues, but IRLS is the first comprehensive law school program focused on training students for this work. Through the IRLS program, future lawyers gain deep and practical knowledge of a growing field, international exposure and expertise, and a strong network of contacts. Students will graduate with a greater understanding of policy formulation, crisis management, and decision-making. Whether JDs entering the field on graduation or LLMs expanding on years of practice, 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 are not only for lawyers. However, 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 and helps in entering this competitive field.

To learn more visit our frequently asked questions page.


Real-world experience is a key component of the IRLS program. Washington, D.C., is home to many organizations offering a wide range of externship opportunities. ASU Law students have worked in law firms, government agencies, and institutions such as:

  • U.S. Departments of State, Justice, Interior, Treasury, Education, and Defense
  • U.S. government agencies such as USAID, DHHS, FDA, EPA, SEC, and IRS
  • Congressional House and Senate offices and subcommittees
  • NGOs and think tanks, including international development specialists and advocacy groups

International opportunities

The International Rule of Law and Security program’s operational component complements its academic program, offering students opportunities to do overseas internships during the summer, and participate in research projects during the semester. The IRLS program implements rule of law and governance projects around the world in countries such as Pakistan, Mexico, Albania, and Georgia.

Washington, D.C.

ASU’s presence in Washington provides opportunities and experiences that broaden students’ understanding of national and international issues. While spending a semester or full year in our nation’s capital, students have opportunities to extern and meet with government officials, lawyers specializing in government work, international development officials, and others who make and influence policy. For students contemplating a career in Washington or overseas, working and studying in Washington is a valuable complement to the experience they gain in Arizona.

Career and networking opportunities

Students who participate in this program will gain practical experience and knowledge in a field critical to global security and development, increased insight into rule of law work around the world, and a network of contacts both in the U.S. and abroad. IRLS is committed to creating connections for our students in their areas of interest, providing networking opportunities in D.C. and in Phoenix, and assisting students with finding the externships that will broaden their critical professional networks. Program alumni go on to serve in various U.S. government agencies, the NGO sector, and congressional offices, among other enriching and competitive careers.


Juris Doctor (JD) students may pursue an IRLS focus by taking relevant coursework and participating in a related externship. The IRLS focus signifies that students have immersed themselves in international rule of law, learned from practitioners with years of experience in the field, and have gained exposure to the domestic and international legal worlds.

Master of Laws (LLM) students who have earned a law degree from a U.S. or foreign university may pursue an emphasis in this area of law, gaining knowledge, contacts, and experience that will help them further their careers.

Master of Legal Studies (MLS) students may pursue a customized MLS in International Rule of Law and Security. This one-year program 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.

LLM and MLS students have the option to complete the IRLS degree completely in Washington, D.C., or to split their time between Phoenix, AZ and Washington.

In Washington, D.C.

  • International Human Rights Law
  • International Criminal Justice
  • Counterterrorism / National Security and Law
  • Building Justice Institutions
  • Foreign Policy Design

In Phoenix

  • International Institutions
  • (Public) International Law
  • International Law of Armed Conflict
  • International Environmental Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • International Trade Law

Student testimonials

Cristian Payan

Cristian Payan

MLS - Class of 2019

"The IRLS program allowed me to network with a variety of individuals and get an idea of the opportunities available for my career path. The opportunity to learn from distinguished professors who still practice what they teach, is such an invaluable experience."

Amanda Peterson

Amanda Peterson

JD - Class of 2018

"The ASU IRLS program provided an incredible opportunity to learn, live and work in DC. The relationships with professors and professionals through the program helped to refine my career goals, and ultimately opened doors to international fellowship opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I could not have imagined a better experience in law school."

Daniel Klingenberg

Daniel Klingenberg

JD - Class of 2017

"ASU law and the IRLS program has set the foundation for my young career. Through the help of Ambassador Williamson and the IRLS team, I was able to receive a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship research award on legal and democratic reforms in Albania. After Albania, I have been involved in election work in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I never could have done this so early in my career without ASU law and the IRLS program."


Courses are taught by a combination of faculty members and practitioner faculty associates who have years of experience in their fields and in Washington, D.C. Students will learn directly from professors who have led major initiatives with the United Nations, European Union, Department of State, and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Core program faculty include:

Ambassador Clint Williamson
Clint Williamson

Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues
Professor Williamson has served as a state and federal prosecutor, a White House policymaker, and a United Nations war crimes investigator and prosecutor.

Julia Fromholz
Julia Fromholz

Director, International Rule of Law and Security
Professor Fromholz brings experience in rule of law and international human rights work in both the U.S. Department of State and NGOs.

Nicholas Rasmussen
Nicholas Rasmussen

Senior Director for Counter-Terrorism at the McCain Institute
Professor Rasmussen joined these programs after serving as Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center and at the White House as Senior Director for Counter-Terrorism.

If you have questions, please contact the IRLS Program at or at +1-202-684-2411.


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