International Business Law

Become a world-class business lawyer

International commercial transactions – Cross-border sales – Transfer of technology – Mergers and acquisitions of companies – Investment in complex construction projects abroad – International registration of trademarks 

These are just a few examples of legal work that business lawyers managing their international clients’ portfolio are faced with in their everyday practice. The increasing level of globalization and interconnectedness requires a flexible and open approach to the legal problems which accompany the international trade of products and services. Predominantly, it entails the knowledge of legal rules that apply to such transactions.

Students who successfully completed the International Business Law (IBL) Master's programme have a wide range of career choices. IBL alumni opt for a career as professional business lawyers, in-house legal counsels for companies, government officials, corporate executives, legal professionals for an international (intergovernmental) organization, etcetera. Our alumni have jobs at, e.g., multinational companies, international law firms, banks and international accounting companies in their home countries or in the Netherlands. Others pusue a career as a legal counsel in government institutions or international organizations. 

Together with a Dutch academic Bachelor of Laws degree, the IBL Master's degree provides for the so-called effectus civilis. A Dutch IBL Master graduate may thus opt for a career at a law firm in the Netherlands and can become a member of the Dutch Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten).

The IBL Master’s programme of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was evaluated as the best business law related master programme in the Netherlands (Master Guide 2016 and National Student Survey 2018).

Specialization
Find more information on the specialization International Business Law: Finance and Behavior.

Study and understand the implications of law in the international arena

The IBL Master’s programme was launched in 1999. Since then, it offers a comprehensive graduate programme to students who aim at a career in the field of international commercial and trade law. The IBL Master’s programme is designed to cover a wide range of legal aspects relating to international commercial transactions. The courses are structured and coordinated to complement each other in order to give you the broadest possible view of issues that appear in international legal practice. Because the courses are taught by academics who are often also practicing lawyers, you will learn how to anticipate the problems with which you will be confronted in your future work.
 
The curriculum of the IBL Master’s programme includes the following courses: 

  • International Company Law (6 EC, compulsory)
  • International Contract Law (12 EC, compulsory)
  • Research Seminar (6 EC, compulsory)
  • Competition Law (6 EC)
  • EU Internal Market Law (6 EC)
  • International Business and Internet Law: Privacy, Security and Contracting (6 EC)
  • International Arbitration (6 EC)
  • International Intellectual Property Law (6 EC)
  • International Tax Law (6 EC)
  • International Trade and Investment Law (6 EC)
  • Private International Law (6 EC)
  • Master thesis (12 EC)

The International Business Law (IBL) Master's degree programme focuses on rules and practices that are relevant for international business transactions and relations. You will study the main legal areas and the interaction between the actors involved in business transactions. In addition, you will develop skills to anticipate, analyze and address legal problems that may arise in practice. You will write several papers and prepare oral presentations during the academic year. The IBL Master's programme includes a mandatory Research Seminar and a mandatory Master's thesis which you must defend in June (see below).

IBL is a full-time, one-year graduate programme in law (LLM). It is taught in English and consists of several compulsory courses and optional courses that explore different fields of international business law (for instance International Contract Law, International Tax Law, International Company Law and International Intellectual Property Law). In addition, it includes a compulsory Master's thesis. International students participating in student exchange programmes are also admitted to some of these courses.

The programme consists of:

  • Three mandatory courses (24 EC)
  • Choice of Regulatory or Transactions profile (24 EC)
  • Master's thesis (12 EC)


More details:

  • The Transactions profile focuses on the relations between companies. The courses relate to private international law, international intellectual property law, international tax law and international arbitration as a way to solve disputes between contracting parties.
  • The Regulatory profile, on the other hand, focuses on the interactions between (inter)governmental institutions and international business. You will explore national and international legislation and the way governments and institutions regulate and supervise companies. The courses relate to international trade and investment law, EU internal market law, competition law, internet law and international business.
  • The optional course (outside the chosen profile) must be selected from the courses of the other profile.
  • Between March and mid-June, you will work on your Master's thesis under the supervision of a lecturer.


The courses are taught by both legal practitioners and academics. Many lecturers at the Law School of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam also work in practice as lawyers or as business counsels. The curriculum is structured to form a comprehensive programme. The initial mandatory courses provide you with a general legal foundation, and the following courses develop your knowledge in more specific areas of law.

Master of Laws (LL.M.) 
The Master of Laws degree (LL.M./Legum Magister) is conferred upon students who satisfactorily achieve a minimum of 60 ECTS credits. This includes writing a Master's thesis that you will defend at the conclusion of the IBL Master’s programme. The IBL programme board will monitor your performance during the IBL Master’s programme. The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam hosts the graduation ceremony of the IBL Master’s programme in July during which ceremony you receive your Master's diploma. Families and friends are warmly invited to join this special event.

Credits 
Credits are listed according to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). This system is based on student workload, which includes hours spent in class and hours spent on individual study, writing papers and completing assignments. A full academic year is equivalent to 60 ECTS credits (two semesters).

Schedule 
The regular academic year in the Netherlands runs from 1 September through the end of June, followed by the graduation ceremony in July. Please notice that all schedules are subject to change.

Internship
Some students opt for a student internship at an international company or law firm located in the Netherlands. Such internship is extracurricular. Although you must arrange such internships themselves, companies sometimes offer such internships directly to us. In such cases, relevant information will be published on Blackboard Learn. Moreover, the board of the IBL programme can provide advice to you with respect to an internship.

Master's thesis
You will complete the IBL Master's programme by writing and defending a Master's thesis. You will select the topic of the Master's thesis in cooperation with a supervisor who is a lecturer at the Law School. The topic of the Master's thesis must relate to one of the subjects taught during the academic year. A Master's thesis requires between eight and ten weeks of research and writing, and should count approximately 12.000-20.000 words.

All thesis supervisors will encourage the students to choose an appropriate topic, and the student will learn how to write an academic Master's thesis according to the accepted standards of legal research. During the research and writing process the supervisor will provide you with guidance and feedback on how to modify and improve the research. You will defend your Master thesis during seminar sessions attended by academic staff and other students. The Master's thesis will be reviewed by a second assessor who is a lecturer at the Law School of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The supervisor and the second assessor will decide jointly upon the final grade.

Academic calendars
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International Business Law courses in the study guide

Students who successfully completed the IBL Master's programme have a wide range of career choices. They can work as professional business lawyers, in-house legal counsels for companies, government officials, corporate executives, legal professionals for an international (intergovernmental) organization, etcetera. Our alumni have jobs at, e.g., multinational companies, international law firms, banks and international accounting companies in their home countries or in the Netherlands. Others pursue a career as a legal counsel in government institutions or international organizations. Some alumni choose to further develop their academic legal research skills by enrolling into a PhD programme at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam or elsewhere.

LinkedIn Alumni Group
Former students of the IBL Master's programme are linked to each other by means of a LinkedIn Alumni Group. They exchange news, experiences and professional opportunities there.

See where alumni are working now

International classroom  
The IBL Master’s programme is designed as an international and dynamic graduate programme. The relatively small number of international students in the class guarantees a highly interactive character of the courses. Students as well as lecturers coming from different countries and different legal cultures strongly contribute to a special and a truly global character of the IBL Master’s programme. It all offers a unique intellectual atmosphere for group discussions, presentation of views on legal matters and exchange of ideas that are enriched by diverse national perspectives.

Although the IBL Master’s programme is an internationally oriented programme which attracts students from all over the world, this programme is also very attractive to Dutch students. First of all, together with a Dutch bachelor in law degree the IBL Master’s degree provides for the so called civiel effect. Moreover, seen the far-reaching internationalization of businesses nowadays, it is crucial for a lawyer or an in-house legal counsel to draft various legal documents in English, as well as to understand the legal systems of other countries and other international developments in (European) law.

Connect with legal practitioners  
Academic training is a key to understanding the theoretical and legal framework of (international) business law. The complexity of modern business transactions requires the development of analytical skills that allow you to identify and comprehend the relationships between different fields of law. However, learning how this knowledge can be applied in practice constitutes an important part of legal training. The IBL Master’s programme is designed to offer you the opportunity to acquire both theoretical and practical legal skills. Lecturers in the IBL Master’s programme are legal academics as well as legal practitioners. Practicing lawyers from leading law firms, judges and legal advisors participate in the IBL Master's programme either as regular lecturers or as guest lecturers. Lecturers also work as students’ tutors, helping you to write papers or to make presentations. Under their supervision you will improve your study methods and legal skills.

Located in the business district of Amsterdam  
The Law School of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam benefits from its unique location, right in the heart of Amsterdam’s business district, where many international law firms and companies are situated. Moreover, Amsterdam is the gateway to other important capitals in Europe, and you can easily travel by fast train to, for example, Brussels, Paris, London or Berlin. This offers a unique experience of studying in the neighborhood of a real international business environment. In addition to this, a limited number of high-achieving students may have the opportunity to pursue an internship at one of the firms or companies located in the Netherlands. This depends on available projects and openings. Internships must be arranged by students themselves. Completed internships will be awarded with 6 ECTS credits (additional to (i.e., on top of) the madatory 60 ECTS credits curriculum of the IBL Master’s programme).

Training skills  
The improvement of legal academic skills constitutes an important goal of the IBL Master’s programme. The courses require writing several papers and preparing oral presentations, which will improve your performance and will help you to communicate effectively in (international) business relations. You will also publicly defend your Master's thesis in June before a committee composed of academic staff at the Law School.

IBL at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Zuidas

Overview International Business Law

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

1 year

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 April for students from non-EU/EEA countries. 15 July for EU students and Dutch degree holders.

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Economics, Business and Law

Alumni of the IBL Master's programme are united in a LinkedIn group in order to exchange news, experiences and professional opportunites.

See where alumni are working now

A limited number of high-achieving students may be able to go on an internship at an international law firm. By working alongside experienced practitioners, you will learn how theoretical concepts are adapted and used to suit practical purposes. The IBL programme board cannot guarantee each student an internship, since opportunities are subject to interviews and the projects available.


Ann_Fromont"I was looking for a programme which could offer me a better understanding of the issues of international trade and the International Business Law programme totally met my expectations. The huge mix of nationalities within the group makes the programme even more special. You’ll meet people from all around the world, with different cultures, religions, history, political preferences... The result of this nationality mix is simply beyond all expectations! Also, assignments have to be submitted regularly and are taken into account for the final mark. This forces you to work on a regular basis, which in my opinion is a much better approach than putting all the pressure on one final exam."
Ann Fromont (Belgium), student of International Business Law


Lubabalo Ntsonkota"I have always been fascinated by commercial law. Companies are increasingly operating on a global market and this requires commercial lawyers to be equipped with the necessary skills. With VU Amsterdam offering a programme of this magnitude, I didn’t hesitate to choose this Master's programme. The group is diversified with students from different legal backgrounds, which is excellent. This has helped me immensely to gain an insight into civil law. I admire the open door policy used by lecturers. At all times they are willing to go an extra mile in teaching students. Their personalities are inviting to such an extent that I feel comfortable participating in class activities without the fear of being embarrassed when raising a point that I am not sure of. To be successful in this programme you have to take initiative and be able to think out of the box. After completion of this programme I intend  joining one of the top commercial law firms in South Africa. I very much want to make use of the skills and knowledge that I have acquired during the programme."
Lubabalo Ntsonkota (South Africa), student of International Business Law


Nail Hassanov"The Master's programme International Business Law attracted me because of its challenging curriculum. Another reason for choosing this programme is its international character. This is not only shown by the curriculum, but also by the lecturers and students, who are from various countries and have various educational backgrounds. The Faculty of Law of VU Amsterdam is very professional and attentive to the individual needs of every student. The atmosphere at the university is very friendly and exciting. Students can choose from a variety of events, both academic and social, to enrich the time of their stay in the Netherlands. I always feel at home here."
Nail Hassanov (Uzbekistan), student of International Business Law


Lei Tong"I wanted to come to Europe to study law. Chinese law has more of a civil law approach, so I think it’s valuable to come to a civil law country. I also prefer an international environment and Amsterdam is a very good choice in this aspect. Most of the people here speak English, which makes it easy to communicate. The programme is well organized and the classes are small scale. Although the curriculum is quite intensive, I like almost everything about it. The international atmosphere I think is the highlight of this programme and I very much enjoyed the study trip to the European institutions in Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Brussels. The facilities at the university are also great, I can find nearly everything I need for my study in the main building, so I usually spend the whole day in there. As for the atmosphere in the university, it is friendly, open-minded and busy. Students always get together to discuss assignments or go out and have fun. Some of us have even become close friends. We do not only help each other with our studies, but also in our daily life."
Lei Tong (China), student of International Business Law

Admission with a Dutch degree

This Master is selective and open to a limited number of students only. The Admission Board selects on merit.

Factors which will be taken into account are:

  • GPA at least 3.25 or an overall grade point average at least B+ or 7.8
  • talent and motivation
  • proficiency in research methods and techniques
  • relevant extra-curricular academic and/or work experience
  • sufficiently proficient in the English language (see language requirements for details)

Applicants with a Bachelor's degree in Law (LL.B) can apply.

Applicants who do not have such a degree, but who have considerable experience in the field of law, are also invited to apply, provided that they have a sound academic background.

You can apply with a Bachelor's degree other than Law, only if you have considerable experience in the field of law and can demonstrate this with documentary evidence.

You cannot apply with an HBO degree. The faculty does not offer a pre-master for the IBL Master.

For the master International Business Law a minimum C1 proficiency in English is required. This requirement is met if no longer than two years before the start of the programme, the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with at least the scores indicated:

  • IELTS: minimum total score ≥ 7.0, minimum score per test section: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 600
  • Revised TOEFL PBT: minimum total score 68, minimum score per test section: 22
  • TOEFL iBT (internet based test): minimum total score ≥ 100, minimum score per test section: 22
  • Cambridge Advanced English: minimum score B
  • C2 Proficiency (formerly Cambridge English: Proficiency): minimum score C

Exemption is granted to students who :

  • have completed their secondary education or an academic degree in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia; or
  • have an English-language ‘international baccalaureate’ diploma.

The proof of English proficiency can be submitted after the application deadline, but must have been received by the faculty before the start of the programme. Without an English proficiency test score which meets the specifications mentioned above or a waiver, you cannot start the programme.

Application is possible from 11 October. The application deadline is 15 July.

Application steps

  1. Register via Studielink.
  2. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  3. Upload the following application documents via VUnet (preferably PDF format):
    1. certified copy of academic degree or if not yet graduated: declaration from your home university with an expected graduation date;
    2. certified transcript in English of grades obtained so far;
    3. curriculum vitae;
    4. letter of motivation, explaining your reasons for wishing to participate in the programme;
    5. proof of academic writing in English:
      • final paper or thesis for your academic degree (excerpt, maximum 3 pages);
      • if no thesis in English available: any other 3-5 page piece of academic writing as an alternative;
      • if no academic writing in English available: write 3-5 pages abstract of an academic paper, including bibliography, in English.
        Please note we check application documents for plagiarism.
    6. 2 letters of recommendation from academic referees (if possible including the ranking position of the applicant); we prefer digital copies uploaded in VUnet, but referees may also mail their references directly to admission.law@vu.nl
    7. copy of passport and copy of residence permit (if applicable);
    8. optional: course descriptions of relevant courses completed;
    9. optional: literature list or bibliography of relevant books and articles used during your studies).

      The admission board may ask for additional documentation at a later stage if this is deemed necessary for reviewing your application.
  4. Send proof of English proficiency to admission.law@vu.nl. This may be sent at a later stage (see Language requirements for details).
  5. As soon as all required application documents have been received, your dossier is submitted to the Admission board. Please note that your dossier must be complete on the application deadline! Incomplete dossiers cannot be taken into consideration.
  6. The Admission Board decides monthly on applications.
  7. If you have been admitted: finalize your application

More information on the application process + documents.

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Admission / Applicationadmission.law@vu.nl (Rianne van Empelen/Anneke de Laaf)
Details programmecontact@vu.nl
Tuition, Studielink, VUnetStudent Desk
Information days, general questionscontact@vu.nl


Information days
Visit our VU Master's event and get acquainted with our Master's degree programmes. Our students and staff are available to help you with all your questions during the information sessions and at the information market.

Admission with an international degree

This Master is selective and open to a limited number of students only. The Admission Board selects on merit.

Factors which will be taken into account are:

  • GPA at least 3.25 or an overall grade point average at least B+ or 7.8
  • talent and motivation
  • proficiency in research methods and techniques
  • relevant extra-curricular academic and/or work experience
  • sufficiently proficient in the English language (see language requirements for details)

Applicants with a Bachelor's or equivalent degree in Law (LLB) can apply.

Applicants who do not have such a degree, but who have considerable experience in the field of law, are also encouraged to apply, provided that they have a sound academic background.

Your bachelor education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes. Especially students from non-EU countries should factor in the possibility that a relevant Bachelor’s degree could not be sufficient to enter into this Master in Law programme and their application could result in a rejection.

You can apply with an academic Bachelor's degree other than Law, only if you have considerable experience in the field of law and can demonstrate this with documentary evidence.

Your previous education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes.

Admission on the basis of a degree from a University of Applied Sciences in not possible. The faculty does not offer a pre-master for the IBL Master.

For the master International Business Law a minimum C1 proficiency in English is required. This requirement is met if no longer than two years before the start of the programme, the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with at least the scores indicated:

  • IELTS: minimum total score ≥ 7.0, minimum score per test section: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 600
  • Revised TOEFL PBT: minimum total score 68, minimum score per test section: 22
  • TOEFL iBT (internet based test): minimum total score ≥ 100, minimum score per test section: 22
  • Cambridge Advanced English: minimum score B
  • C2 Proficiency (formerly Cambridge English: Proficiency): minimum score C

Exemption is granted to students who:

  • have completed their secondary education or an academic degree in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia; or
  • have an English-language ‘international baccalaureate’ diploma.

The proof of English proficiency can be submitted after the application deadline, but must have been received by the faculty before the start of the programme. Without an English proficiency test score which meets the specifications mentioned above or a waiver, you cannot start the programme.

Application with an international diploma is possible from 1 October. The application deadline is:

1 February for international students who wish to apply for one of the VU scholarships.
1 April for students from outside the EU/EEA
1 April for EU/EEA students not residing in the Netherland who wish to apply for housing
15 July for EU/EEA students

Application steps

  1. Register via Studielink.
  2. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  3. Upload the following application documents via VUnet (preferably PDF format):
    1. certified copy of academic degree or if not yet graduated: declaration from your home university with an expected graduation date;
    2. certified transcript in English of grades obtained so far;
    3. curriculum vitae;
    4. letter of motivation, explaining your reasons for wishing to participate in the programme;
    5. proof of academic writing in English:
      • final paper or thesis for your academic degree (excerpt, maximum 3 pages);
      • if no thesis in English available: any other 3-5 page piece of academic writing as an alternative;
      • if no academic writing in English available: write 3-5 pages abstract of an academic paper, including bibliography, in English.
        Please note we check application documents for plagiarism.
    6. 2 letters of recommendation from academic referees (if possible including the ranking position of the applicant); we prefer digital copies uploaded in VUnet, but referees may also mail their references directly to masters.law@vu.nl
    7. copy of passport and copy of residence permit (if applicable);
    8. optional: course descriptions of relevant courses completed;
    9. optional: literature list or bibliography of relevant books and articles used during your studies).

      The admission board may ask for additional documentation at a later stage if this is deemed necessary for reviewing your application.
  4. Send proof of English proficiency to masters.law@vu.nl. This may be sent at a later stage (see Language requirements for details).
  5. As soon as all required application documents have been received, your dossier is submitted to the Admission board. Please note that your dossier must be complete on the application deadline! Incomplete dossiers cannot be taken into consideration.
  6. The Admission Board decides monthly on applications.
  7. If you have been admitted: finalize your application

More information on the application process + documents.

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Admission / Application (@ international degree)masters.law@vu.nl (Laura Smit)
Details programmecontact@vu.nl
Tuition, Studielink, VUnetStudent Desk
Information days, general questionscontact@vu.nl


Information days
Visit our VU Master's event and get acquainted with our Master's degree programmes. Our students and staff are available to help you with all your questions during the information sessions and at the information market.