Human rights lawyers are the defenders of the rights of humanity. They champion the cause of the abused and oppressed and help fan the embers of social justice in a world dominated by abuse and oppression. Being a human rights lawyer means standing up for the down-trodden and giving others a voice where they don’t have one. It’s a challenging job description even for the brave among men since it is implicit you will be going against the high and mighty of society who are well-oiled, deep-pocketed and well connected. But that shouldn’t dent your aspirations of becoming a human rights lawyer in anyway. If for anything, you could be the Batman, championing the cause of the Gotham city of our time. It will also put you on the side of the good guys. So how then do you become one? It’s easy-peasy.
Step 1: Get a law degree
You need to get a formal law degree. In Nigeria that would mean getting an LLB degree from any of the approved law universities. In the US, that means getting a JD. Even as a human rights lawyer, you will still need to be knowledgeable about the law and the scope of human rights to be able to defend the oppressed effectively. A formal law training with impart you with the nitty-gritty of human rights.
Step 2: Take course with human rights flair
Take courses that have human rights flair while you are at school. As a human rights lawyer, some of the work you’ll be doing will go transnational. So it is also important you take electives in course that broaden your knowledge of international law.
Step 3: Join human rights societies
While you are in school join human rights groups and societies in your school. This will bring you in contact with other like-minded aspirants. As a member of these societies and groups you’ll no doubt come in contact with other lawyers in the field from whom you could learn the ins and outs of the field.
Step 4: Join an NGO
Upon the completion of your formal degree program, you should contact human rights organization in your area for employment opportunities. Join them and this will give you a chance to represent those whose rights are being violated. If you have the time, you can also research law firms that work in human rights and equally contact them. You may also want to contact other human rights organizations like the Amnesty International, the UN and other international organizations.
Step 5: Build relationships
As a would-be human rights lawyer, it is important you meet with affected persons in the field and know the peculiarities of their situations. You’ll need to develop a sense of compassion for the oppressed so you can better connect with their pain. This can fuel you immensely to keep pushing on in the face of intimidation.
Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Law Student Hub. He is an LL.B. Law graduate from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He’s a life enthusiast, a budding writer and internet entrepreneur. Patrick is deeply passionate about law and research and has inspired many with his thought-provoking articles. To get in touch, follow him on social media.