Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

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worldtraveler
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Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:47 pm

I've had a few similar PMs from people asking questions about how to get into this field lately. I'm a little tired of repeating myself so I'm making this thread.

However, I'm making a warning that this thread is meant to actually help people seriously interested in doing human rights litigation, refugee and immigration services, certain types of DOJ work, policy or advocacy with NGOs, UN work, and things of that sort. I realize there are a fair amount of people who think international human rights law or international law don't exist. They have a point. However, this is NOT the thread to point that out. This thread is meant for 1Ls, 2Ls, 3Ls, or graduates who actually got jobs or internships in the field to answer some questions. This thread is about what is actually possible in terms of job opportunities. There are a lot of misconceptions out there, but there are actually human rights related jobs. They are hard to get and not common, but possible, hence why people need questions answered.

I'm a 2L at Berkeley and I'm looking to do human rights impact litigation or direct client services work when I graduate. I'm mainly interested in issues of violence against women. After my 1L internship i interned with an NGO in another country doing refugee rights advocacy. I did a lot of research, lot of writing, and dealt with a lot of corruption. This summer I'm splitting between a women's rights NGO doing impact litigation internationally (I'm at a regional office in Africa), and a grassroots NGO doing direct services and some litigation, also in Africa.

If people have questions about school choice, finding internships, what to do before law school, clinic work, etc., then this is the thread to ask it. There are a few other TLS regulars who are also very knowledgeable about this kind of work and so hopefully they'll jump in as well.

Like I said above, if you want to declare international law doesn't exist, then go make your own thread to do that.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby RockyIII » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:03 pm

....Then why the hell are you posting in the "choosing a law school" forum?

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby TR Fan » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:18 pm

Thanks for starting the thread. My own career interests overlap somewhat: I would like to use law school (along with MA in Int'l Rel/Econ) as a foundation for work, e.g., in the State Department's Legal Advisor's Office (perhaps with a focus on consular/immigration/asylum) or alternatively with stabilization and reconstruction efforts, such as DOJ's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training. I'm also interested in NGO work however, and would love to hear more about your experiences.

In the meantime, I'm trying to decide between Cornell and Georgetown (part-time). GULC seems like the obvious choice, given the government connections, DC locale, and the extra work experience I could build up while going to school. However, I'm concerned that four years of full-time work plus evening/summer classes would mean forgoing the chances I'd have at Cornell to participate in clinics, internships abroad, etc. and what this would confer in terms of exposure to a wider breadth of careers/fields. Any thoughts?

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:29 pm

TR Fan wrote:Thanks for starting the thread. My own career interests overlap somewhat: I would like to use law school (along with MA in Int'l Rel/Econ) as a foundation for work, e.g., in the State Department's Legal Advisor's Office (perhaps with a focus on consular/immigration/asylum) or alternatively with stabilization and reconstruction efforts, such as DOJ's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training. I'm also interested in NGO work however, and would love to hear more about your experiences.

In the meantime, I'm trying to decide between Cornell and Georgetown (part-time). GULC seems like the obvious choice, given the government connections, DC locale, and the extra work experience I could build up while going to school. However, I'm concerned that four years of full-time work plus evening/summer classes would mean forgoing the chances I'd have at Cornell to participate in clinics, internships abroad, etc. and what this would confer in terms of exposure to a wider breadth of careers/fields. Any thoughts?


I'm not incredibly familiar with either school's clinic offerings. I do know, however, that Gtown's clinic has an excellent reputation. This isn't to say that Cornell's doesn't however-I just might not know. As for internships abroad, you have the opportunity to set up your own internships from either school. 99% of internships are not set up by the school. Either school has a well-known name and should get you in the door.

I see some big advantages to Gtown. You could intern/extern at a lot of places during the school year. They also have a huge faculty in international law and the chances of meeting someone who you could work well with is pretty high. They also have a large number of students interested in these kinds of things. That, however, is a double-edged sword. You'll have more competition to get into classes, especially clinics, which can be very competitive. Cornell's small size could be nicer this way, but it could also mean fewer course offerings.

I don't know if you can do a joint degree with Gtown's PT program. If you haven't, you should check on that. Also do a lot of research on the LRAP programs. When I applied I don't remember Gtown's as being all that spectacular.

Both of the offices you mentioned are incredibly competitive, which you probably know. I would really suggest developing a niche on a certain area of the world or a certain issue that makes you marketable to them. Of the people I know who have gotten internship offers or job offers with them, all of them had spectacular resumes and significant experience living and working abroad. Language skills are usually a prerequisite as well. For the DOJ office you mentioned, experience in criminal law in the US is also an asset so pursuing internships with DA's offices here is also very useful.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:31 pm

RockyIII wrote:....Then why the hell are you posting in the "choosing a law school" forum?


I was going to respond to this, then I realized that the post below yours basically answers your question.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby Hey-O » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:34 pm

Yay! Thanks for making this thread. Tag.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby mettasutta » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:37 pm

--ImageRemoved--

*tag*

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby sold123 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:31 am

Have you heard anything about the Northwestern JD/LLM in International Human Rights? Positive/Negative/Apathetic?

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby TR Fan » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:30 am

worldtraveler wrote: I'm not incredibly familiar with either school's clinic offerings. I do know, however, that Gtown's clinic has an excellent reputation. This isn't to say that Cornell's doesn't however-I just might not know. As for internships abroad, you have the opportunity to set up your own internships from either school. 99% of internships are not set up by the school. Either school has a well-known name and should get you in the door.

I see some big advantages to Gtown. You could intern/extern at a lot of places during the school year. They also have a huge faculty in international law and the chances of meeting someone who you could work well with is pretty high. They also have a large number of students interested in these kinds of things. That, however, is a double-edged sword. You'll have more competition to get into classes, especially clinics, which can be very competitive. Cornell's small size could be nicer this way, but it could also mean fewer course offerings.

I don't know if you can do a joint degree with Gtown's PT program. If you haven't, you should check on that. Also do a lot of research on the LRAP programs. When I applied I don't remember Gtown's as being all that spectacular.

Both of the offices you mentioned are incredibly competitive, which you probably know. I would really suggest developing a niche on a certain area of the world or a certain issue that makes you marketable to them. Of the people I know who have gotten internship offers or job offers with them, all of them had spectacular resumes and significant experience living and working abroad. Language skills are usually a prerequisite as well. For the DOJ office you mentioned, experience in criminal law in the US is also an asset so pursuing internships with DA's offices here is also very useful.


Thank you very much for the great advice! Along with the MA, which I'll be completing this spring, I have some other factors in my background (Peace Corps, Arabic, and some gov. internships) that I hope will help get my foot in the door at the offices I mentioned earlier. I'm also cognizant, in the case of DOJ, of the need to build a background in criminal law, so I'm trying to learn more about whether GULC or Cornell has better inroads to DA, AUSA, PD, etc.

Re: LRAP, I'm still crunching the numbers (I've got spreadsheets galore) but GULC seems to have an advantage over Cornell; in fact as long as my salary didn't stray too far above $75K and I stayed in public service, I'd pay little to nothing and have outstanding debt waived after a decade through PSLF.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby srvyorgeneral » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:06 pm

TR Fan - I'm in a similar boat. I'm still waiting to hear from Cornell (and a few others), but trying to decide between GULC PT and Michigan for similar reasons. One concern I have on GULC is that many of the int'l / comparative law classes meet during the day, which I suppose isn't a problem if you have a flexible job that lets you do that. My guess is that GULC will have far better options vis-a-vis international criminal law (of the DOJ/OPDAT/Interpol variety), and the CALS clinic is pretty sweet for asylum law as well. However, most of GULC's expertise internationally is in international law and international trade and economics, which is quite different from Cornell's expertise in comparative law. For instance, Georgetown's International Law Journal used to be the International Review of Law and Economics. I haven't done enough browsing of course offerings available right now, but I would presume they do skew towards international commercial transactions and international litigation related to human rights, as opposed to looking within a given country at how human rights issues can be more effectively tackled without looking to foreign or multilateral institutions. It's the difference between having your sights on the Hague, say, vs. imagining yourself working in a given foreign country, working within that system (as an example).

Separately, I'm pretty tied to DC (engaged, have a job, have lived here for 6 years) but I'm a little mortified about the prospects of 4 years of work & school, and being tied to both academic and occupational calendars. All the same, when I visited the PT program, I was very impressed with the average age, and how clued in most of the students seemed to be (despite a fair chunk surfing the web on class). When I walked around on the tour before class, I was accompanied by 2 other admits, both of whom were right out of undergrad and kind-of shocked me with their naivete and general lack of interest in things beyond where to live, what the gym facilities were like, and how cool the library looked. I exaggerate a bit for dramatic effect, of course, but that impression is not far from reality.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby japes » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:14 pm

Does Texas' status as a regional school preclude it from being particularly useful in IHR work? I'm in at Texas and Cornell and waiting on Michigan, and I'm thinking Cornell is clearly the better option here - is that the case?

How do salaries compare to other PI fields? Right now I have a particular interest in IHR but am set on PI even if that doesn't pan out.

If I were interested in IHR work as a 0L, should I brush up on a couple of foreign languages? I've got a basic understanding of Spanish but not much more.

Any other advice for a 0L interested in IHR?

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:27 pm

Thanks for making this thread. I know i'll be going into public interest and int'l human rights is one of many fields I've begun to consider. At this point I'm strongly considering Penn, Michigan and Berkeley. It looks like both Penn and Berkeley pride themselves on their int'l human rights opportunities. Thoughts from anyone on the differences between the two schools in that arena?

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby dpk711 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:38 pm

tagged

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby 99.9luft » Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:43 pm

mettasutta wrote:--ImageRemoved--

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+1

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:47 pm

srvyorgeneral wrote:TR Fan - I'm in a similar boat. I'm still waiting to hear from Cornell (and a few others), but trying to decide between GULC PT and Michigan for similar reasons. One concern I have on GULC is that many of the int'l / comparative law classes meet during the day, which I suppose isn't a problem if you have a flexible job that lets you do that. My guess is that GULC will have far better options vis-a-vis international criminal law (of the DOJ/OPDAT/Interpol variety), and the CALS clinic is pretty sweet for asylum law as well. However, most of GULC's expertise internationally is in international law and international trade and economics, which is quite different from Cornell's expertise in comparative law. For instance, Georgetown's International Law Journal used to be the International Review of Law and Economics. I haven't done enough browsing of course offerings available right now, but I would presume they do skew towards international commercial transactions and international litigation related to human rights, as opposed to looking within a given country at how human rights issues can be more effectively tackled without looking to foreign or multilateral institutions. It's the difference between having your sights on the Hague, say, vs. imagining yourself working in a given foreign country, working within that system (as an example).

Separately, I'm pretty tied to DC (engaged, have a job, have lived here for 6 years) but I'm a little mortified about the prospects of 4 years of work & school, and being tied to both academic and occupational calendars. All the same, when I visited the PT program, I was very impressed with the average age, and how clued in most of the students seemed to be (despite a fair chunk surfing the web on class). When I walked around on the tour before class, I was accompanied by 2 other admits, both of whom were right out of undergrad and kind-of shocked me with their naivete and general lack of interest in things beyond where to live, what the gym facilities were like, and how cool the library looked. I exaggerate a bit for dramatic effect, of course, but that impression is not far from reality.


A couple things:

1. Journals don't REALLY matter. I don't even do one. Public interest employers generally care far, far more about volunteer work, clinics, publications, and dedication to the field than being on a journal. I'm not on one and no one ever asks about it. If they ever do ask, I'm just going to say that I prefer to dedicate my time to asylum clinics or other legal volunteer work. So the bottom line is journals should have very little to do with where you choose to go to school.

2. Comparative law is not really the best route for what you're interested in. In order to work within a foreign legal system, you need to have a degree from within that country (usually), and be eligible for bar membership there. With an American JD, NGOs in other countries are going to hire you more as a consultant. They're going to want you more for knowledge of the UN system, regional human rights bodies, or ability to litigate in the USA under things like the alien tort claims statute. If you want to practice law in foreign courts, you need to go to law school there, period. If that's the kind of thing that interests you, consider doing an LLM or looking into law degrees in other countries, including joint degrees. Hopefully that makes sense.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:02 pm

japes wrote:Does Texas' status as a regional school preclude it from being particularly useful in IHR work? I'm in at Texas and Cornell and waiting on Michigan, and I'm thinking Cornell is clearly the better option here - is that the case?

How do salaries compare to other PI fields? Right now I have a particular interest in IHR but am set on PI even if that doesn't pan out.

If I were interested in IHR work as a 0L, should I brush up on a couple of foreign languages? I've got a basic understanding of Spanish but not much more.

Any other advice for a 0L interested in IHR?


1. What kind of work do you want to do? If you want to do immigration and asylum work, then Texas is a fine option. If you want to work at Human Rights Watch, it's probably not the best. I'm also not that familiar with what options Texas has for courses and clinics. This field is as much about who you know as about what you did and where you went. You want to go somewhere that will help you get good contacts. Also, look at Texas's LRAP and compare it with Cornell's.

2. Salaries completely depend on the kind of job. It's going to range from 30k at an NGO to well over six figures at the UN. It's not a field you go into for the money, but that doesn't mean you're always working for a pittance. It also depends on where you work.

3. YES. I'm probably more harsh than most in this, but I don't think this is a field you should try and enter without language skills. It will literally prevent you from getting jobs. If you don't speak other languages, now is the time to learn. French is one of the most useful, and many jobs at the Hague will require it. In terms of Spanish, it's obviously very useful. However, there is not exactly a shortage of Spanish speakers. I would say it's incredibly difficult to get a job in Latin America or on Latin American related work without it. However, even with fluent Spanish that doesn't exactly set you apart.
Be very prudent in choosing which languages to study. If you choose one that few lawyers know, you're probably going to do a lot of work related to that region. Having a niche is good, but make sure that's what you really want to do. For instance, people who know Pashto or Bengali or something of that sort would get priority in hiring for jobs related to human rights problems in those areas. It also means that they're probably going to be working there for a long time, and can be pigeonholed as an area expert. So long story short, choose a language not only on usefulness and the competitiveness that it will bring you, but also based on whether that's an area of the world you would be okay living in or working in.

4. Take time off before you go. Go abroad and intern, study, work, or do something. The more experience you have living and working in other places and the better your language skills, the better off you will be. To be blunt, I would not recommend that people try and go into human rights law straight out of undergrad. It's better to get some life experience first. Teach English abroad if you can't find anything else. Just do something. If you didn't do anything like that, there is nothing wrong with deferring. Once law school starts, it's hard to go back and make up for missing experience. Put in your dues before law school and you'll have an easier time getting internships and jobs.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:03 pm

Excellence = a Habit wrote:Thanks for making this thread. I know i'll be going into public interest and int'l human rights is one of many fields I've begun to consider. At this point I'm strongly considering Penn, Michigan and Berkeley. It looks like both Penn and Berkeley pride themselves on their int'l human rights opportunities. Thoughts from anyone on the differences between the two schools in that arena?


What kind of work interests you? I can't answer your question without more information.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby srvyorgeneral » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:04 pm

Worldtraveler--some valid points. I wasn't trying to say anything about journal participation being important in this field. I was merely giving my impression on the general focus and tenor of international work within GULC, using the journal as an example of their trending towards international commercial law. It's of slightly more prominence than their work in other fields of what I will categorize as the broad field of "international legal studies", to be as inclusive as possible.

As for the issue on Comparative law--I agree that NGOs, development firms, or multilaterals (W.Bank, UN etc.) will hire you more as a consultant, and not as a lawyer, but that's with good reason. If you look at the work that a large number of legal practitioners do within the field of international human rights and development, you'll find that a majority of them are not practicing law in foreign countries. Instead, many work with local attorneys, judges, court administrators, and civic advocates to identify more effective ways of providing protections, advocating for rights of disadvantaged populations, reforming institutional structures, or coming up with creative solutions to human rights problems. Public interest litigation is merely a small piece of the puzzle...much of the other work revolves around capacity building, building constituencies to reform legal structures, or identifying institutional changes that will make legal systems more accessible to those in need. So - a foreign law degree is really not necessary, unless you only want to work in a court. And having a JD, in my opinion, gives you a tremendous amount of credibility that you wouldn't have if you came without one.

Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby japes » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:48 pm

Thanks a ton, worldtraveler. Lots of great info ITT.

worldtraveler wrote:3. YES. I'm probably more harsh than most in this, but I don't think this is a field you should try and enter without language skills. It will literally prevent you from getting jobs. If you don't speak other languages, now is the time to learn. French is one of the most useful, and many jobs at the Hague will require it. In terms of Spanish, it's obviously very useful. However, there is not exactly a shortage of Spanish speakers. I would say it's incredibly difficult to get a job in Latin America or on Latin American related work without it. However, even with fluent Spanish that doesn't exactly set you apart.
Be very prudent in choosing which languages to study. If you choose one that few lawyers know, you're probably going to do a lot of work related to that region. Having a niche is good, but make sure that's what you really want to do. For instance, people who know Pashto or Bengali or something of that sort would get priority in hiring for jobs related to human rights problems in those areas. It also means that they're probably going to be working there for a long time, and can be pigeonholed as an area expert. So long story short, choose a language not only on usefulness and the competitiveness that it will bring you, but also based on whether that's an area of the world you would be okay living in or working in.


Wow, thanks. Any suggestions for retaining skill in a language you rarely use? I'd like to work in The Hague, and so learning French seems like a solid option, but I can see myself getting caught up in 1L and not practicing and losing whatever skill I'd gained. I was fairly fluent in Spanish until I stopped speaking it regularly and now I've got a basic understanding of the language, but not a lot more.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby TheFactor » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:14 pm

tag

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby worldtraveler » Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:22 pm

japes wrote:Thanks a ton, worldtraveler. Lots of great info ITT.

worldtraveler wrote:3. YES. I'm probably more harsh than most in this, but I don't think this is a field you should try and enter without language skills. It will literally prevent you from getting jobs. If you don't speak other languages, now is the time to learn. French is one of the most useful, and many jobs at the Hague will require it. In terms of Spanish, it's obviously very useful. However, there is not exactly a shortage of Spanish speakers. I would say it's incredibly difficult to get a job in Latin America or on Latin American related work without it. However, even with fluent Spanish that doesn't exactly set you apart.
Be very prudent in choosing which languages to study. If you choose one that few lawyers know, you're probably going to do a lot of work related to that region. Having a niche is good, but make sure that's what you really want to do. For instance, people who know Pashto or Bengali or something of that sort would get priority in hiring for jobs related to human rights problems in those areas. It also means that they're probably going to be working there for a long time, and can be pigeonholed as an area expert. So long story short, choose a language not only on usefulness and the competitiveness that it will bring you, but also based on whether that's an area of the world you would be okay living in or working in.


Wow, thanks. Any suggestions for retaining skill in a language you rarely use? I'd like to work in The Hague, and so learning French seems like a solid option, but I can see myself getting caught up in 1L and not practicing and losing whatever skill I'd gained. I was fairly fluent in Spanish until I stopped speaking it regularly and now I've got a basic understanding of the language, but not a lot more.


You probably can't do this 1L year, or at least first semester, but as a law student you should be able to enroll in undergrad language classes. At Berkeley you can get law credit for this as long as it's not a beginning class. Otherwise try and find out about language clubs or other opportunities at the university. For me, this was a big reason why I didn't choose Northwestern. The location of their law campus would make taking language classes difficult. Gtown may also be a bit more complicated that way.

Also, EVERYBODY should be applying for the FLAS fellowship for 2L and 3L year. If you don't know what that is, google it.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby bender18 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:20 pm

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby whitman » Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:02 pm

srvyorgeneral wrote:TR Fan - I'm in a similar boat. I'm still waiting to hear from Cornell (and a few others), but trying to decide between GULC PT and Michigan for similar reasons. One concern I have on GULC is that many of the int'l / comparative law classes meet during the day, which I suppose isn't a problem if you have a flexible job that lets you do that. My guess is that GULC will have far better options vis-a-vis international criminal law (of the DOJ/OPDAT/Interpol variety), and the CALS clinic is pretty sweet for asylum law as well. However, most of GULC's expertise internationally is in international law and international trade and economics, which is quite different from Cornell's expertise in comparative law. For instance, Georgetown's International Law Journal used to be the International Review of Law and Economics. I haven't done enough browsing of course offerings available right now, but I would presume they do skew towards international commercial transactions and international litigation related to human rights, as opposed to looking within a given country at how human rights issues can be more effectively tackled without looking to foreign or multilateral institutions. It's the difference between having your sights on the Hague, say, vs. imagining yourself working in a given foreign country, working within that system (as an example).

Separately, I'm pretty tied to DC (engaged, have a job, have lived here for 6 years) but I'm a little mortified about the prospects of 4 years of work & school, and being tied to both academic and occupational calendars. All the same, when I visited the PT program, I was very impressed with the average age, and how clued in most of the students seemed to be (despite a fair chunk surfing the web on class). When I walked around on the tour before class, I was accompanied by 2 other admits, both of whom were right out of undergrad and kind-of shocked me with their naivete and general lack of interest in things beyond where to live, what the gym facilities were like, and how cool the library looked. I exaggerate a bit for dramatic effect, of course, but that impression is not far from reality.


Maybe your impression was accurate, and I know you said this was exaggerated. However, keep in mind that it was a tour. When I took a tour, I asked questions about facilities and where to live and go out because it seemed the relevant place and time to ask those questions. A 1L tour guide isn't necessarily the best source of information for stuff beyond that. After the tour, I met with financial aid, career services, etc, and asked more specific questions.

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby ash8309 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:06 pm

Also interested in this field as a 0L. I'm currently based in DC and have been working here in the national/global security policy world for about 4 1/2 years, so have a pretty good network. I'm IN at American, which has a really good international human rights focus, and am waiting to hear from G-town. I'm IN at a couple more schools outside of DC, but none that offer a compelling reason to leave the city where this kind of stuff happens, at least domestically. Any other AU 0Ls out there? Thanks for starting the thread!

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Re: Thread for people wanting to do international human rights

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:48 am

worldtraveler wrote:
Excellence = a Habit wrote:Thanks for making this thread. I know i'll be going into public interest and int'l human rights is one of many fields I've begun to consider. At this point I'm strongly considering Penn, Michigan and Berkeley. It looks like both Penn and Berkeley pride themselves on their int'l human rights opportunities. Thoughts from anyone on the differences between the two schools in that arena?


What kind of work interests you? I can't answer your question without more information.


I think I'll need to do more research before I can begin to answer this question. Thank you!




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