Principal Legal Officer
Principal Legal Officer

Job description

Organization:Other International Organizations
Category:Law & Legal services
Deadline: 24 February 2017


Staff members are subject to the authority of the Secretary-General and to assignment by him or her. In this context, all staff are expected to move periodically to new functions in their careers in accordance with established rules and procedures. The successful candidate will be required to submit a financial disclosure statement upon appointment and annually thereafter.

Org. Setting and Reporting
This position is located within the International Trade Law Division (ITLD), Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), which serves as the substantive Secretariat to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and is based in Vienna. The incumbent reports to the Director of ITLD. For more information, please visit the website

Duties and Responsibilities

Within delegated authority, the incumbent is heading the Legislative Unit which provides the bulk of substantive secretariat services to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and its subsidiary bodies.

The incumbent will be responsible for the following duties:

• Provide expert advice and support to the Director in the formulation of policies, priorities and strategies for submission to UNCITRAL and advise the Commission as regards work it should undertake as the core legal body in the field of international trade law.

• Manage the implementation of the decisions of UNCITRAL and the General Assembly by: (a) managing the work programme of the Legislative Unit; supervising the staff of the Division supporting the legislative activity of the Commission; overseeing the activities undertaken by secretaries of Working Groups, ensuring the quality of programmed activities and ensuring that they are carried out in a timely fashion; supervise and participate in research and studies needed to prepare documents for the legislative programme of the Commission and its Working Groups at a high level of quality; and (b) acting as Secretary of subsidiary organs of the Commission (Working Group or Committee of a Diplomatic Conference) as and when required; coordinate the support of the Legislative Unit to the technical assistance programme and the programme of coordination of the work of international organizations active in the field of international trade law, and in that regard, interact regularly with the Head of the Coordination and Technical Assistance Unit for the purpose of sharing staff and other resources to implement the legislative programme, the technical assistance programme of the Commission and the coordination of the work of international organizations to avoid lacunae, inconsistencies or duplication in the work of other rule-formulating organizations; represent the Division as appropriate at meetings of inter-governmental bodies within and outside the United Nations.

• Consult with Permanent Missions, Government entities, other international organizations, the private sector and other interested parties on matters relating to UNCITRAL, the development of its future work programme and the interpretation and use of UNCITRAL texts.

• Assist the Director with the establishment of general guidelines attaining the objectives of the Division, with the review of the work of the Division to ensure conformity with these general guidelines, and with the supervision of the administration of the Division's activities including matters of personnel, results-based budgeting, staff travel and programme planning as assigned.

• Perform other work related duties as assigned.


Advanced university degree (Master’s degree or equivalent degree) in law, with specialization in commercial, comparative or private international law is required. A first-level university degree in similar fields like commercial, comparative or private international law in combination with two additional years of qualifying work experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.

Work Experiance

A minimum of fifteen years of progressively responsible experience in commercial law, comparative law, international trade law or a related field, including several years at the international level is required. Additional experience in providing policy-making and other substantive support to governmental or intergovernmental bodies would be an asset. Experience with United Nations policies, procedures and operations is desirable.


Has expert knowledge of international trade law; is able to produce reports and papers on all issues relating thereto. Is able to review and edit the work of others. Has diplomatic skills to lecture to expert audiences and ability to manage international meetings. Has knowledge of the substantive field of work in general and of specific areas being supervised. Is able to produce reports and papers on technical issues and to review and edit the work of others. Is able to apply UN rules, regulations, policies and guidelines in work situations. Shows pride in work and in achievements; demonstrates professional competence and mastery of subject matter; is conscientious and efficient in meeting commitments, observing deadlines and achieving results; is motivated by professional rather than personal concerns; shows persistence when faced with difficult problems or challenges; remains calm in stressful situations. Takes responsibility for incorporating gender perspectives and ensuring the equal participation of women and men in all areas of work.

Takes ownership of all responsibilities and honours commitments; delivers outputs for which one has responsibility within prescribed time, cost and quality standards; operates in compliance with organizational regulations and rules; supports subordinates, provides oversight and takes responsibility for delegated assignments; takes personal responsibility for his/her own shortcomings and those of the work unit, where applicable.

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.

Managing Performance:
Delegates the appropriate responsibility, accountability and decision-making authority; makes sure that roles, responsibilities and reporting lines are clear to each staff member; accurately judges the amount of time and resources needed to accomplish a task and matches task to skills; monitors progress against milestones and deadlines; regularly discusses performance and provides feedback and coaching to staff; encourages risk-taking and supports creativity and initiative; actively supports the development and career aspirations of staff; appraises performance fairly.

Judgement/ 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.


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

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