Best human rights schools for a career in development

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ChriLa425
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Best human rights schools for a career in development

Postby ChriLa425 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:05 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum, so sorry if this has been asked a million times. I'm looking for programs in international/human rights law. I'm interested in working with non-governmental organizations or possibly the United Nations after graduation. The UN is competitive, obviously, so I believe I'd be better off going to a school with a strong overall reputation as well as a strong concentration or program. My GPA is a touch below average, it's a 3.65, but it's also from a school that's known for being stingy with A's. I got a 174 on LSAT, so between the two I think I should be able to aim pretty high. Any suggestions on what kind of schools I should apply to given my goals and my applicant profile? Thanks in advance for the help!

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rayiner
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Re: Best human rights schools for a career in development

Postby rayiner » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:24 pm

ChriLa425 wrote:Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum, so sorry if this has been asked a million times. I'm looking for programs in international/human rights law. I'm interested in working with non-governmental organizations or possibly the United Nations after graduation. The UN is competitive, obviously, so I believe I'd be better off going to a school with a strong overall reputation as well as a strong concentration or program. My GPA is a touch below average, it's a 3.65, but it's also from a school that's known for being stingy with A's. I got a 174 on LSAT, so between the two I think I should be able to aim pretty high. Any suggestions on what kind of schools I should apply to given my goals and my applicant profile? Thanks in advance for the help!


Concentration reputation is more of a tie-breaker between schools with similar overall reputation.

You should apply to all of Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, and Chicago. Spend a lot of time on your NYU app because they have a strong public interest and international reputation, and you have a great shot there.

Realize that human rights is extremely competitive, but development in general is probably in reach. You can do a lot of good working in public health, infrastructure development, etc. It's not as "sexy" as human rights, but every bit as important.

A good trajectory might be NYU -> big firm in DC for a couple of years -> NGO in DC working in an area you find interesting.

Note that the middle step is something I'd recommend strongly. The sort of work you want to do is as much about who you know as what you know. Working at a big DC firm (preferably in litigation) will build your skills as a lawyer, put an impressive name on your resume, and allow you to spend some time to build your network of contacts in your area of interest.

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worldtraveler
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Re: Best human rights schools for a career in development

Postby worldtraveler » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:22 pm

rayiner wrote:
ChriLa425 wrote:Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum, so sorry if this has been asked a million times. I'm looking for programs in international/human rights law. I'm interested in working with non-governmental organizations or possibly the United Nations after graduation. The UN is competitive, obviously, so I believe I'd be better off going to a school with a strong overall reputation as well as a strong concentration or program. My GPA is a touch below average, it's a 3.65, but it's also from a school that's known for being stingy with A's. I got a 174 on LSAT, so between the two I think I should be able to aim pretty high. Any suggestions on what kind of schools I should apply to given my goals and my applicant profile? Thanks in advance for the help!


Concentration reputation is more of a tie-breaker between schools with similar overall reputation.

You should apply to all of Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, and Chicago. Spend a lot of time on your NYU app because they have a strong public interest and international reputation, and you have a great shot there.

Realize that human rights is extremely competitive, but development in general is probably in reach. You can do a lot of good working in public health, infrastructure development, etc. It's not as "sexy" as human rights, but every bit as important.

A good trajectory might be NYU -> big firm in DC for a couple of years -> NGO in DC working in an area you find interesting.

Note that the middle step is something I'd recommend strongly. The sort of work you want to do is as much about who you know as what you know. Working at a big DC firm (preferably in litigation) will build your skills as a lawyer, put an impressive name on your resume, and allow you to spend some time to build your network of contacts in your area of interest.


I rarely do this, but I really, really disagree with rayiner. I did this kind of work this summer, and have an offer for my 2L summer based on a contact from that job. Contacts are key, and you get those through internships. If you spend your 2L summer working for a firm (which is the way you get to work for a firm after graduation), you miss a huge opportunity in the field you want. The UN might be different, and they might care about firm experience a bit more.

Also, I don't know if you plan on doing field work or being someone based at something like Amnesty's headquarters, but a big thing NGOs look for is experience in developing countries, language ability, ability to handle shitty conditions, and willingness to travel a lot in less than ideal circumstances. I mainly have experience in Africa, but most human rights attorneys I know have been arrested or had some pretty shitty stuff happen to them, and you won't get hired if you're not prepared for stuff like that.

I've done a lot of NGO work, and I don't think I know anyone with firm experience. Maybe a select few, but the primary things NGOs want are experience, dedication, and school pedigree. You need a crazy amount of experience to break into this field. I've bluntly asked a lot of NGO attorneys what they think of firm work, and no one cared about it. The things you do in an NGO are very, very different from a firm. You'll do a lot of research and writing reports, mainly, and not so much memos and briefs.

This also isn't a field that the career development office is going to help you with. You have to do it on your own and a lot of the conventional "how you get a job" or "what to do in law school" doesn't apply so much to you.

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nealric
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Re: Best human rights schools for a career in development

Postby nealric » Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:40 pm

Kennedy school or SAIS - not law school.

Renzo
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Re: Best human rights schools for a career in development

Postby Renzo » Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:43 pm

nealric wrote:Kennedy school or SAIS - not law school.

My thoughts exactly. Why law school if you want to do development work?

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ChriLa425
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Re: Best human rights schools for a career in development

Postby ChriLa425 » Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:20 am

Hi everyone, thanks for the tips so far.

I think I should clarify why I want to do the law school thing. Those who said that law and development sounds weird are right, but I'm looking at a joint degree, law and a master's in sustainable development or international relations (I'm still working that one out). I don't just want to do economic development-focused work after graduation. There are already a lot of people doing the economic approach, and quite honestly at the graduate level I'd get my ass kicked in economics. But for economic changes to really be able to take effect, there's a consensus among development professionals now that you need to take a holistic approach, and I think a really important and often overlooked part of that is using the legal system to protect marginalized people.

Anyway, those are my main reasons. They sound good to me, but I may be way off :P

As far as the lifestyle being rough, I can handle that. I lived in India for a year, and I'm in Mexico now, which is not the most secure place at the moment :/. I also speak French, Spanish and Portuguese, so I'm hoping that will help me out.

Thanks for all the input, keep it coming!




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