The Office of the Legal Adviser (OLA) is an independent office which acts as the custodian of the rules governing the activities of NATO and provides legal advice to the Secretary General, the Private Office, the International Staff and the Committees on legal issues relating to NATO activities, procedures, operations, rules and provisions.
Legal advice is given on the legal status of the Organisation and the Secretary General; North Atlantic Council (NAC) approved Operations, cooperation activities (such as PfP, MD, ICI etc.), the enlargement process, relations with third States and other international organisations, personnel issues in the different Divisions, and the like.
OLA also represents the Organisation before its Administrative Tribunal (the NATO Appeals Board) and is an observer at the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law of the Council of Europe (CAHDI) and at the meeting of the Legal Advisers of the Co-ordinated Organisations. It works closely with the Legal Offices of the two Supreme Military Headquarters as well as subordinate Military Headquarters and NATO civilian agencies.
As appropriate, OLA works through Allied delegations or directly with foreign ministry, defense ministry and other legal offices in Allied nations.
What is it like to work as an intern for the Office of the Legal Adviser (OLA)?
The NATO Office of the Legal Adviser is an independent and dynamic office which is daily involved in a broad range of issues. Its work includes all issues arising at NATO Headquarters, from negotiation of international agreements to representing management in personnel matters. It consists of several legal advisers from different nationalities with general and specific legal expertise.
As an intern, you will get the opportunity to work closely with every one of them and learn from their expertise and gathered experience in and outside the organization.
In general, throughout the course of the internship, you will be assigned with very diverse projects, depending on the needs of the office. More specifically, next to doing relevant research related to past, pending and upcoming issues, you will be asked to provide (ad hoc) legal input on - for example - (draft) agreements and current (news) issues, write memos and background papers, attend meetings (with occasional minute taking / direct reporting…) and sporadically attend a seminar, mainly related to the general or specific needs of the office at that time.
Next to direct contact with project-related relevant authorities within the organization, as it is not the only legal office within NATO as a whole, you might also collaborate closely with legal advisers from the IMS, SHAPE, ACT SEE etc.
If you show initiative and a proactive attitude, you will get the opportunity and freedom to work on projects which are closely related to your personal field of interest, or which catch your attention ‘while in the field’.
As an intern with a legal background (LL.M.), I found the experience in this office a great way to get a better understanding of the operating of NATO as a political as well as military alliance consisting of 28 Member States and many partners, as an international actor and as a full-fledged international institution.