Human Rights Lawyer – A human rights lawyer specializes in human equality, dignity, and civil rights matters. In addition, human rights lawyers work to frame the law, question oppressive conduct, and guarantee that every individual has access to the fundamental rights of safety, privacy, and health.

Human Rights Lawyer
Human Rights Lawyer

Human Rights Lawyer

They generally work with marginalized or vulnerable groups, bargaining to provide them with the required resources, remove them from dangerous circumstances, or get justice from the crime perpetrators.

What Do We Mean by Human Rights?

There are countless definitions of human rights, from the simple definition of “a right which is supposed to belong to every individual” to the more detailed description from the United Nations as “privileges inherent to all individuals, regardless of sex, race, nationality, language, ethnicity, religion, or any other status,” Furthermore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was the primary ‘worldwide’ record of human rights that wasn’t intended to be compulsory.

However, it has achieved the status of conventional international law over time.

What is a Human Rights Lawyer?

A human rights lawyer refers to any lawyer who provides legal counsel to victims of human rights violations, regardless of membership in a professional association. These lawyers carry out a professional defense of human rights. Their functions deserve protection, as the right to legal assistance is a key principle of the right to a fair trial.

To guarantee fair rights, governments must avoid interfering with the rights of lawyers to represent the clients of their choice and to work on the issues they choose. They must ensure human rights lawyers have the same level of access and possibility to communicate in confidence with their clients as any other lawyer.

What do Human Rights Lawyers do?

Human rights lawyers engage in a multitude of important legal activities, including performing research on legal cases, negotiating difficult settlements, and arguing human rights cases in court. Below is a list of tasks human rights lawyers may perform in their careers.

. Legal Advice and Counselling

They provide legal advice and counseling to individuals and communities facing human rights challenges. This could involve explaining their legal rights, offering guidance on available remedies, and assisting in navigating legal processes.

. Documentation and Reporting

Human rights lawyers often document and report human rights violations, collecting evidence and preparing reports for national and international bodies such as human rights commissions, courts, or United Nations mechanisms. This contributes to accountability and helps bring attention to ongoing violations.

. Advocacy and campaigning

Human rights lawyers engage in advocacy and campaigning activities to raise awareness about human rights violations and promote positive change. This may involve working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), participating in public speaking events, writing articles, or using social media platforms to draw attention to human rights issues.

. Legal Representation

Human rights lawyers provide legal representation to individuals and groups whose rights have been violated. They may represent clients in courts, tribunals, or other legal proceedings, seeking justice and redress for human rights abuses.

. Capacity Building and training

Human rights lawyers may engage in capacity-building initiatives by conducting training programs and workshops to empower individuals, communities, and organizations in human rights law and advocacy. They aim to enhance knowledge and skills to better protect and promote human rights.

. International Human Rights Mechanisms

Human rights lawyers may engage with international bodies and mechanisms, such as the United Nations or regional human rights courts, to file complaints, seek redress for victims, and contribute to the development of human rights jurisprudence at the global level.

. Research and Analysis

These lawyers conduct extensive research and analysis on human rights issues, including examining relevant laws, regulations, and international treaties. They use this knowledge to build strong legal arguments and strategies to address human rights violations.

. Policy Development and Law Reform

Human rights lawyers engage in policy development and law reform initiatives to strengthen legal frameworks and protect human rights. They may provide input and expertise to policymakers, draft legislation, and work with government bodies or civil society organizations to improve human rights standards.

How to Become a Human Rights Lawyer

To become a human rights lawyer, you first need to gain extensive legal education to ensure you have all the tools to help your clients. Explore the path to becoming a human rights lawyer by browsing these important steps:

. Earn your undergraduate degree.

The first step you’ll need to take on your legal journey is obtaining an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree is a required prerequisite for any law school! The exact degree you choose doesn’t matter.

You don’t have to major in human rights and should instead choose a subject you know you will do well in. Your GPA matters far more to law school committees than your major.

With that being said, during your major, it can be helpful to begin learning more about human rights to expand your knowledge and confirm your interests. For instance, you might want to take different diversity courses to learn about past discriminatory laws, how they impacted people, and how they were changed.

Indigenous studies, women’s studies, and race theory courses are a few popular options that can begin teaching you about current and past human rights violations and their existing or non-existent rectification.

. Sign up for humanitarian and legal internships.

Positions as human rights lawyers are highly competitive, so it’s critical to volunteer, intern, and gain as much relevant experience as possible. Apply for internships working with humanitarian groups and charities to learn more about the types of direct legal aid your future clients might need. You can also look for opportunities to work as an intern in a law office or shadow an experienced human rights lawyer.

. Study for the LSAT.

Most law schools require candidates to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to apply. The LSAT determines your preparedness to study law by testing your reading comprehension, logical thinking, and writing skills.

The LSAT is a challenging test, and many aspiring lawyers start studying years before they apply to law school. Regularly take practice tests and analyze which types of questions you frequently get incorrect so you can improve your study techniques.

. Choose a Law School with a strong human rights program.

While this step isn’t necessary, it can be very helpful for you to choose a law school that has a strong human rights program. This may involve the law school having things such as human rights law journals available, clinics and internship opportunities in the human rights fields, and a strong curriculum of classes that deal with the issues involved in human rights laws.

. Participate in Legal Clinics

Legal clinics are programs where law students have the opportunity to work on real court cases. Experienced professors and lawyers oversee law students and allow them to conduct research, write legal documents, communicate with clients, and prepare arguments for the court.

While working at a legal clinic, law students can learn the technical details of how the court process works and begin preparing for full-time work as a human rights lawyer.

Most law clinics are pro bono, which means the lawyers provide free legal support to clients in need. To get the most out of your experience, look for law clinic opportunities where you can work specifically on human rights issues.

. Pass the Bar Exam

After you have graduated from law school and have extensive experience with human rights activities and coursework, you will need to take the bar exam. The bar exam is required if you want to legally practice as an attorney in any jurisdiction and will likely require a few months of studying before you take it.

You can read more about preparing for the bar exam here. As soon as you pass the bar exam, you will be admitted to the bar in that jurisdiction and eligible to find work as a human rights lawyer.

. Apply for Law Jobs

As a licensed lawyer, you can start applying for jobs where you can work on human rights cases. You can look for jobs at law offices that specialize in human rights issues or apply for positions at international organizations.

Because human rights law is a competitive field, you might also consider taking a general position as a lawyer and then building your qualifications by taking pro bono cases related to the type of human rights law that you want to pursue.

Skills for Human Rights Lawyers

Human rights lawyers use a range of professional skills when advocating for their clients. Some of the top skills for human rights lawyers are:

. Public Speaking

Human rights lawyers should be excellent public speakers who can eloquently convey complex ideas, argue for their clients in court, and persuade an audience with their presentations.

. Dedication

The legal process is tedious and time-consuming, so human rights lawyers need to have the dedication to follow up on complex cases for months or even years.

. Time Management

Most human rights lawyers are extremely busy, balancing multiple cases at once. They need to have time management skills to balance all priorities and give their full attention to each case.

. Research

Preparing for legal cases requires human rights lawyers to have expert investigation and research skills. This allows them to find all of the details they need to argue their case.

. Strategic Thinking

Human rights lawyers need to be able to think strategically and plan based on the effects of their actions. When working on a case, human rights lawyers use strategic thinking to plan for the best outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

. What Is the Importance of Human Rights?

Human rights are essential for two principal reasons: they protect people and allow them to build prosperous, safe, and generally desirable communities. Human rights entitle people to speak up and share their views with everyone else, especially those in control. They guard individuals from damage or undue burden and give them the ability to participate, whether through association, protest, or voting, to shape the world.

They also provide people with individual liberty to do the things they want: to be a part of the institutions they want to associate with, to practice the religion of their choice, and to acquire an education.

Collectively, all of these aspects also indicate that human rights allow people to hold governments to account. Not just in electoral processes, but when a government perpetuates atrocities against its own or foreign individuals, human rights regulations provide the legal ground to hold them accountable.

. Where do human rights lawyers work?

Human rights lawyers may work in:

. Private or public law firms

. Non-profit organisations

. Internationally, especially if they’re working with large organizations

. Education institutions


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