Interested in Human Rights Law? Read This.
You’re interested in pursuing a law career in human rights. However, you aren’t sure which law program would be the best fit.
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently spoke to some experts on what types of programs applicants interested in human rights should look for.
While the law industry itself is competitive, experts say a career in human rights takes even more persistence than traditional legal fields.
“You have to keep trying, keep asking for informational interviews, keep taking every single branch offered and working hard,” human rights lawyer Kirsten Bowman tells US News. “Those that refuse to give up are those that usually succeed. But, just because you want to do something nice for the world does not mean that a job will fall into your lap. It’s hard work to get it, and lots of these jobs don’t pay particularly well.”
Human rights legal work has also grown in popularity in recent years.
In New Orleans, immigration arrests grew by more than 38% since President Trump’s election, the National Jurist reports. Neighboring Loyola University New Orleans College of Law reports seeing an increase in the number of students offering to assist immigration lawyers.
Other law schools around the nation, including New York Law School and Northeastern University School of Law, have announced clinics specifically designated to immigration issues.
Despite its competitiveness, experts say the field can be rewarding.
“I think that when a young human rights lawyer starts out, he or she will be very jealous of their friends who are not human rights lawyers,” William T. Worster, an assistant professor at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, tells US News. “They are better paid and seem to have quicker success. But for those who stick with human rights, the pay eventually becomes decent, and the bonus is that they get to experience a very special job satisfaction.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
When it comes to finding the right human rights law program, there are number of factors applicants should consider.
For one, experts say, applicants should seek out programs that offer a wide variety of human rights law courses.
Shelley Inglis, the executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton in Ohio, tells US News it’s important for a law program to not only have an introductory course to human rights law, but also classes on international criminal law, public interest law, and refugee law.
It’s also important to seek out a program with a strong human rights law faculty.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that they have to be the preeminent scholars in the human rights field, because those people may be a little less accessible than the average human rights practitioner-scholar, but I would make sure…that they have their finger on the pulse of the human rights field,” Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, a clinical assistant professor of law at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, tells US News.
A SCHOOL THAT BACKS YOU
One sign that a law school may have a strong human rights law program may be its scholarship and loan forgiveness.
Since human rights law isn’t typically a lucrative field, experts say, prospective applicants should seek out law schools that offer scholarships and loan forgiveness for human rights studies
“The school is really backing you and letting you have the opportunity not to take the firm track,” Kestenbaum tells US News.