Principal Legal Officer, D1

Principal Legal Officer, D1

United Nations

New York, United States

Org. Setting and Reporting

This position is located in the General Legal Division, Office of Legal Affairs. The incumbent reports to the Director of the General Legal Division.


Under the direction of the Director of the General Legal Division, the Principal Legal Officer:

  • Leads, supervises and carries out the provision of general legal services for those clusters of lawyers and support staff under his/her responsibility. As requested by the Director, co-ordinates the work carried out by other clusters of lawyers and support staff in the Division; provides programmatic/substantive reviews of the drafts prepared by others.
  • Co-ordinates and oversees the preparation of legal advice, and opinions on complex legal questions, including questions involving international commercial law, private and public international law, and the law and practice of the Organization; counsels, acts for and, in major areas of a complex or novel nature, represents the Organization, including its subsidiary organs and separately administered funds and programmes and Offices in negotiations and before arbitral and administrative tribunals; deals with a wide range of multidisciplinary and complex legal matters, including contentious claims, that require application of law, legal analysis and marshalling of detailed technical, commercial and financial fact situations; provides assistance and advice in connection with the Organization’s accountability measures; formulates and negotiates solutions and alternatives to problems for which no precedents exist and which involve major questions of international commercial law, private and public international law, administrative law and domestic law, and which have a direct impact on the activities, programmes and policies of the Organization.
  • Co-ordinates and oversees the review of proposed administrative issuances, as well as and reports for presentation to intergovernmental bodies, such as the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budget Questions, the General Assembly and other policy-making organs, as appropriate.
  • Reports to intergovernmental bodies on budget/programme performance or on programmatic/ substantive issues, as appropriate, particularly those presented in biannual and/or annual reports.
  • Ensures that the legal services and advice produced by the Division maintain high-quality standards, that such services and advice are clear, objective and based on comprehensive facts and legal analysis. Ensures that all legal services and advice produced by the clusters of lawyers and support staff under his/her supervision meet required standards before completion to ensure that they comply with the applicable legal framework of the United Nations.
  • Assists the Director in preparing the work programme of the Division, determining priorities, and allocating resources for the completion of outputs and their timely delivery.
  • Undertakes or oversees the programmatic or administrative tasks necessary for the functioning of the Division, including preparation of budgets, reporting on budget and programme performance, evaluation of staff performance (PAS), interviews of candidates for job openings, evaluation of candidates and preparation of inputs for results-based budgeting.
  • Recruits staff, taking due account of geographical balance.
  • Manages, guides, develops and trains staff under his/her supervision.
  • Fosters teamwork and communication among staff in the Division and across the Organization, including its separately administered Funds, Programmes and Offices.
  • Leads and supervises the organization of meetings or other seminars, etc., on substantive issues being addressed by the Division. Manages the substantive preparation and organization of such meetings or seminars.
  • Participates in international, regional or national meetings and provides legal assistance or expertise on issue relating to the activities of the Organization, or holds programmatic/substantive and organizational discussions with representatives of other institutions, and represents the Division at international, regional or national meetings, as required.


  • Professionalism: Knowledge of the United Nations Charter and the law and practice of the Organization; international law, including international commercial law; the law relating to international arbitration, claims, international contracts and procurement, banking law, insurance law and other areas of commercial law; the law and legal regimes in relation to the activities and operations of the Organization and its subsidiary organs, including the separate funds and programmes, at Headquarters and in connection with field operations and peacekeeping and similar operations; and the internal administrative law of the Organization. Comprehensive knowledge of UN policies, procedures and operations, or that of a similar international organization. Ability to conduct comprehensive, independent legal research. Ability to draft quickly, to prepare written reports that are clear, concise and meaningful and to review the work of others. Ability to communicate complex concepts orally, to defend and explain difficult issues with respect to key decisions and positions to staff, senior officials and members of intergovernmental bodies.
  • Communication: Speaks and writes clearly and effectively; listens to others, correctly interprets messages from others and responds appropriately; asks questions to clarify, and exhibits interest in having two-way communication; tailors language, tone, style and format to match audience; demonstrates openness in sharing information and keeping people informed.
  • Client orientation: Considers all those to whom services are provided to be “clients” and seeks to see things from clients’ point of view; establishes and maintains productive partnerships with clients by gaining their trust and respect; identifies clients’ needs and matches them to appropriate solutions; monitors ongoing developments inside and outside the clients’ environment to keep informed and anticipate problems; keeps clients informed of progress or setbacks in projects; meets timeline for delivery of products or services to client.
  • Judgment/Decision-making: Identifies the key issues in a complex situation, and comes to the heart of the problem quickly; gathers relevant information before making a decision; considers positive and negative impacts of decisions prior to making them; takes decisions with an eye to the impact on others and on the Organization; proposes a course of action or makes a recommendation based on all available information; checks assumptions against facts; determines that the actions proposed will satisfy the expressed and underlying needs for the decision; makes tough decisions when necessary.
  • Leadership: Serves as a role model that other people want to follow: empowers others to translate vision into results; is proactive in developing strategies to accomplish objectives; establishes and maintains relationships with a broad range of people to understand needs and gain support; anticipates and resolves conflicts by pursuing mutually agreeable solutions; drives for change and improvements; does not accept the status quo; shows the courage to take unpopular stands. Provides leadership and takes responsibility for incorporating gender perspectives and ensuring the equal participation of women and men in all areas of work; demonstrates knowledge of strategies and commitment to the goal of gender balance in staffing.


Advanced university degree (Master’s degree or equivalent degree) in public or private international law and/or the law of international organizations is required. A first level university degree with a relevant combination of academic qualifications and experience in international law will be accepted in lieu of an advanced degree. Admittance to the Bar of a Member State of the Organization, or otherwise qualified to practice law is required.

Work Experience

At least 15 years of progressively responsible professional experience in public and private international law, including the law of international organizations and international commercial law or related areas is required. Experience providing comprehensive general legal services to an international organization is required. Experience supervising an office, unit or section is required. Experience overseeing programmatic/administrative tasks necessary to the functioning of a work unit, including the preparation of budgetary inputs, reports on budget/programme performance, evaluations of staff performance and input for results-based budgeting is desirable.


English and French are the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat. For this post advertised, fluency in English is required. Knowledge of another United Nations language is desirable.

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