Human rights law, which falls under the category called "public interest law," is a wide-ranging category. It includes work for the government and nonprofit organizations, can be done nationally or internationally and can cover issues ranging from refugees to disabled people to workers. Many top schools offer excellent programs for aspiring human rights lawyers; the best program for you depends on your personal interests and priorities.
If you want to work in human rights law, choose a school with excellent employment options. According to the Princeton Review, Columbia University in New York City has the best career prospects of any law school. Their law school also has a Human Rights Institute that hosts lectures and other events that cover a range of human rights concerns, including counterterrorism and the global economy.
Different law schools put emphasis on different things, so if you want to work in human rights law, you may want to go to a school with many like-minded students and faculty. In April 2013, "Business Insider" released a list of schools with the most students in public interest or government jobs. The College of William and Mary came in first, with "Business Insider" giving specific attention to its curriculum. It focuses on producing socially conscious lawyers who defend people's human rights.
If you want to work in human interest law, getting experience early can increase your chances of landing a good job at graduation. Some law schools offer clinics, which give students hands-on experience right away. According to "U.S. News and World Report," Georgetown University offers the best clinical training. Each year, Georgetown offers 25 clinical courses, including a domestic violence clinic, an international women's human rights clinic and a housing and community development clinic.
Most jobs in human rights law pay much less than private law jobs, and many law school graduates have more than $100,000 in debt. However, some top law schools offer loan-repayment assistance programs to help graduates manage what they owe. By many measures, Yale's program is the best: it gives out more than $3 million annually to its graduates, can cover part-time work and parental leave and may even help with some undergraduate debt.
"Education Portal" lists several other law schools as great choices for those who want to concentrate in human rights law. The University of Notre Dame offers a LL.M. in the field, which lawyers can earn after obtaining their J.D.s. Northwestern University is the only law school in the country to offer a joint J.D.-LL.M. in International Human Rights. Students can earn both degrees in just four years. "Education Portal" gives honorable mention to several other schools, including American University, Emory College and the University of Virginia.
- Princeton Review: Law School Rankings
- Columbia Law School: Human Rights Institute
- Yale Law School: Career Option Assistance Program (COAP)
- Business Insider: 5 Law Schools Where Students Want to Save The World
- Harvard Law School: What Is Public Interest Law?
- Georgetown Law: Our Clinics
- Education Portal: Top Schools for Human Rights Law Degree Programs
Anne Phillips graduated with highest honors from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in International Studies. She speaks Arabic and French fluently and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East. Anne has been writing for six years