Senior Legal Officer, P5

UN Office of Legal Affairs
  • Location
    New York, New York
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
  • Apply by
  • Posted
    May 22

Position description

Org. Setting and Reporting

This position is located in the Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC), Office of Legal Affairs (OLA). Under the overall authority of the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Senior Legal Officer reports to a Principal Legal Officer.


The Senior Legal Officer is responsible for the following duties:

  • Serves as a recognized expert in one or more areas of concentration, and independently handle a wide range of multi-disciplinary, highly complex, and often sensitive legal matters involving issues relating to public international law, including the interpretation and application of instruments in that area of concentration.
  • Leads, coordinates and direct teams of other legal officers; guides and supervises the work of junior officers; may assist the Assistant Secretary-General or the two Principal Legal Officers in general management and administration of the unit, organizing and prioritizing the workload and providing general coordination and supervision of assignments as regards legal work.
  • Makes various types of recommendations to senior officials of substantive units with respect to actions to take; recommendations are usually accepted as proposed.
  • Provides authoritative legal advice on a diverse range of highly complex or novel substantive and procedural questions of public international law, in particular in the field of the law and practice of the Organization regarding the United Nations Development system and the work of the Resident Coordinator system.
  • Organizes and supervises research studies and the preparation of legal opinions; conducts extensive legal research and analysis on highly complex or novel legal issues and prepares legal opinions, studies, briefs, reports and correspondence.
  • Prepares draft host country agreements required for the conduct of the operational activities of the United Nations Development system; advises on and supervises the review, negotiation and drafting of complex agreements, institutional and operational modalities and other legal documents; develops new legal modalities to meet unique needs/circumstances.
  • Services diplomatic conferences, commissions, committees, task forces, expert groups and other bodies, including preparation of background materials, summaries of issues and views of delegations, meeting reports, etc.
  • Serves on various standing boards, committees, ad hoc working groups and task forces, as required; promotes the work of the United Nations and represents the Organization at meetings, conferences, seminars, etc.
  • Contributes to the review and design of new, or new applications of, legal instruments, policies, guidelines, systems, etc.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.


  • Professionalism: Knowledge of public international law, in particular in the field of the law of international organizations. Ability to apply legal expertise to analyzing a diverse range of complex and unusual legal issues and problems and in developing innovative and creative solutions. Strong analytical skills and ability to conduct comprehensive legal research on a range of issues, including those of a unique and/or complex nature; proficiency in legal writing and expression and ability to prepare legal opinions and a variety of legal instruments and other, related documents. Ability to explain complex issues and defend principled positions in meetings, including meetings of political bodies and senior managers. Discretion and sound judgment in applying legal expertise to sensitive, complex legal issues. Strong negotiating skills and ability to influence others to reach agreement. Ability to work to tight deadlines and handle multiple concurrent projects/cases. Knowledge of the UN system, its organizations and their interrelationships. 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.
  • Creativity: Actively seeks to improve programmes or services; offers new and different options to solve problems or meet client needs; promotes and persuades others to consider new ideas; takes calculated risks on new and unusual ideas; thinks “outside the box”; takes an interest in new ideas and new ways of doing things; is not bound by current thinking or traditional approaches.
  • 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.

Managerial Competencies:

  • Empowering Others: Delegates responsibility, clarifies expectations, and gives staff autonomy in important areas of their work; encourages others to set challenging goals; holds others accountable for achieving results related to their area of responsibility; genuinely values all staff members’ input and expertise; shows appreciation and rewards achievement and effort; involves others when making decisions that affect them.
  • 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.


  • Advanced university degree (Master’s degree or equivalent) in public international law. A first-level university degree in law in combination with an additional two years of qualifying work experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.

Work Experience

  • A minimum of ten years of progressively responsible professional experience in law, including legal analysis, research and writing, is required.
  • At least two years of professional legal experience working in the legal office of a Government department or ministry or of the secretariat of an international organization are required.
  • Professional legal experience advising on questions of international law regarding privileges and immunities is desirable.
  • Professional legal experience advising on legal issues relating to the United Nations Development system and the work of the UN Resident Coordinator system is desirable.
  • At least two years of professional experience working with the UN, a specialized agency of the UN or a related intergovernmental organization are desirable.


  • 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 UN official language is an advantage.

Application instructions

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