Post Date: September 20, 2004

A recent surge in student demand for human rights clinical work has led to a major expansion of the HLS Human Rights Program’s Clinical Advocacy Project. Beginning this year, students will have greater opportunities to do hands-on, advocacy work in the human rights field.

“There’s been a tremendous upsurge of student engagement in clinical work,” said James Cavallaro, associate director of the Human Rights Program, who will become the full-time human rights clinical director in January. “It’s become increasingly clear that, despite how hard we’ve been working to help every student, we couldn’t keep pace. There had to be some structural change.”

Cavallaro has been supervising an ever-growing number of students in clinical work, alongside Binaifer Nowrojee LL.M. ’93, a part-time clinical supervisor who also serves as the full-time counsel to the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. This year, they will be joined by two new advocacy fellows.

According to Cavallaro, the number of students engaged in human rights clinical work at HLS has grown from about 25 in 2001 to more than 100 last year. Students have even been willing to work for no credit, and they have formed HLS Advocates, a clinical advocacy group with subgroups focused on different areas of the globe.

“My sense is that not only will student interest and engagement continue, but I think interest will grow because students respond positively to good feedback and supervision and engagement in interesting projects,” he said. “We’ll be able to do that a lot better because there’s more capacity to supervise them close-up. When students feel they are being taken seriously, their numbers grow. If every student in the law school wanted to work in human rights, I would consider that a good thing, and I would want to create a structure that allowed them to do that.”

In addition to Cavallaro, Professor Henry Steiner ’55, faculty director of the Human Rights Program, will play a key role in the expanded clinical project. The two new advocacy fellows are Tyler Giannini and Jamie O’Connell.

Giannini is a co-founder and co-director of EarthRights International, a human rights and environmental advocacy group based in Thailand. He earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School in 1995.

O’Connell most recently clerked for Judge James R. Browning in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to that, he worked on human rights projects in Sierra Leone, East Timor, Argentina and Thailand. He is a 2002 graduate of Yale Law School.