How to Become a Human Rights Lawyer

Updated April 17, 2017

The practice of law can be fascinating and rewarding. Fighting for justice or for the rights of others is both commendable and challenging. Becoming a lawyer is very difficult, and it takes years of education and requires a tremendous amount of dedication. Many lawyers, upon beginning to practice law, choose to specialise in a particular area of law, such as human rights law. Here is a brief guide to get you started on your new career.

Take the LSAT exam. Also known as the Law School Admission Test, the LSAT is a standardised test that measures an applicant's ability to think logically, which is a skill that you'll need in law school. While in your final year of school, you may also consider volunteering for various volunteer organisations, such as Amnesty International, to give you an idea of what the practice of human rights law entails.

Attend a law school based upon your undergraduate grades and the results of your LSAT. You may wish to consider attending a law school in New York, such as Columbia or NYU, as they are close to where the United Nations is located and they have outstanding law schools. Because of the competitive nature of human rights law, it is advisable that you attend a top-fifteen law school.

Pass the Bar examination in your state. You may wish to take a bar prep course, such as Bar/Bri or a BarBusters course. These courses will help prepare you for the bar exam in your states. Contact the bar in the state where you plan to take the examination and inquire if they require any additional courses for those lawyers planning on practicing human rights law.

Start networking with your peers. This is probably the most important step since networking is critical to developing your career as an human rights lawyer. organisation will help you gain the necessary contacts to build your practice. Look for a job at a firm or agency that focuses on human rights law. There are many online resources to help you with this step, such as Westlaw Career Resources. Alternatively, contact human rights organisations such as Human Rights First or Human Rights Watch and volunteer your legal services.


As a human rights attorney, you may be expected to travel abroad. Therefore, it is advisable to take language classes in an effort to further develop your language skills.


Passing the bar exam can be difficult and many law school graduates fail on the first try. If you don't pass the first time, don't be discouraged. It can sometimes take two or three times to pass.

Things You'll Need

  • BA degree
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About the Author

Eliana Kalsky is a freelance writer currently living in Manhattan. After earning her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in London, England, she began writing as a career after moving to Miami in 2001. She has published a number of travel articles for both American and British publications.