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Spring 2025 Seminar

Human Rights Lawyering in Action: Skills, Strategies, and Challenges

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Required Clinic Component: International Human Rights Clinic (3-5 spring clinical credits). Students enrolled in the spring clinic must enroll in this seminar.  

Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.

By Permission: No.

Add/Drop Deadline: 

LLM Students: LLM students may enroll in this clinic through Helios.

Exam Type: No Exam

Course Description: 

What does it mean to be a human rights lawyer? How do advocates around the world translate human rights legal frameworks into tools for meaningful change? And what are the strategic, ethical, and tactical considerations that arise in different human rights contexts?

This seminar provides a map of the human rights field, including its dominant strategies and methods. It offers students a reflective, contextualized, and participatory exploration of what it means to work in human rights, whether one’s advocacy focuses on local or international issues. Through case studies, simulations, and interactions with practitioners, the course explores tools use by human rights practitioners such as litigation, media engagement, documentation of abuses, and advocacy to strengthen international law. It considers the parameters of various approaches, analyzing not only the rationales behind selection of tactics but also the opportunities and limitations of the methods chosen to influence governments and other actors.

Combining discussion-based modules with experiential exercises, students develop skills that they can utilize in multiple settings. Students learn to assess where they and human rights projects are positioned, the available routes for action, and how to pragmatically and responsibly choose which steps to take toward which ends. Students engage with the practical dilemmas that advocates face in a variety of scenarios and evaluate the ethical and strategic implications of different options. A workshop on collaboration familiarizes students with the complexities of joint human rights advocacy, addressing questions of power, representation, identity, and legitimacy. Students also facilitate rounds of project-based workshops and self-reflection focused on their experiences as advocates in the International Human Rights Clinic.

At the completion of the course, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate multiple practice settings in which human rights advocates operate. Students will be able to confidently evaluate and deploy range of methods to achieve their goals in a broad and dynamic human rights field.