The international human rights field is extremely diverse and includes many sectors of legal practice, from prosecuting individuals accused of human rights violations, to developing policy to improve legal mechanisms holding global financial institutions accountable, to conducting field research.
Students interested in this area of practice must first define more specifically what kind of human rights work they want to do, and what types of law practice (e.g. field research, direct services, litigation, policy, etc.) most interest them. If you need help making this determination, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a CDO counselor. Below you will find a FAQ covering many common questions students have about careers in this field.
International Public Interest & Public Sector Career FAQ
Berkeley Law maintains a robust catalog of courses offered every semester in international human rights law and related fields, including:
- International Human Rights
- Refugee Law
- Business, Social Responsibility, and Human Rights
- Transnational Justice
- International Environmental Law
- Compartive Law
- Additional courses and electives (vary by semester)
Students should also strongly consider participating in the International Human Rights Law Clinic, one of the premiere clinical offerings at Berkeley Law, taught by leading practitioners and scholars in the field. Students may also elect to pursue the International Law certification of specialization. For a complete list of international law classes offered each semester, visit the Schedule of Classes and click “International and Comparative Law” form the Browse by Category column on the left.
Developing relationships with faculty and staff with international public interest or public sector experience is key to obtaining summer and post-graduate positions in these fields.
You can find a list of faculty with international law teaching and research interests at the International and Comparative Law webpage, as well as the professors and clinic instructors at the International Human Rights Law Clinic. You can read their in-depth biographies by browsing the Faculty Profiles.
First-year students may not be able to take classes with these faculty members, but you should feel free to contact faculty and staff with similar research or teaching interests to your own.
International public interest & public sector employers fall roughly into three categories:
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that can range in size from small regional all-volunteer organizations to international organizations with offices all over the world;
- International governmental organizations (IGOs) created by international treaties, and can include courts, tribunals, banks, etc.; and
- Research centers, usually affiliated with universities.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Attorneys at NGOs perform a wide variety of work, ranging from human rights documentation and reporting to representing victims of state-sanctioned torture in court to hold governments accountable. NGOs can be located in the US as well as abroad. NGOs that have hired Berkeley Law students recently include: Human Rights Watch (New York, NY) Justice Now (Oakland, CA) Center for Justice and Accountability (Berkeley, CA) Accountability Counsel (San Francisco, CA) Open Society Institute Justice Initiative (New York, NY) Timap for Justice (Sierra Leone) UC Berkeley’s Main Library offers online research tools to facilitate exploring the wide diversity of NGOs and their work.
International Governmental Organizations (IGOs, including tribunals)
IGOs that have hired Berkeley Law students recently include: United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees World Health Organization Inter-American Court of Human Rights UC Berkeley’s Main Library maintains a large database of IGOs and related subject matter research guides. United Nations Internships The UN is a large, complex IGO, and offers internships at the Secretariat at its headquarters in New York, within various UN funds and programs, and at individual field offices. Students interested in interning for the United Nations must first determine what areas of law are of most interest, and if applicable, what country setting in which to work. If you would like help making these determinations, please make an appointment with a CDO counselor. For UN internship job postings, visit UN Careers. A comprehensive listing of IGOs and NGOs with internship programs & current vacancies can also be found at the US State Department. For help navigating the UN system, visit the UN System Directory.
Internships with International Courts and Tribunals
International courts and tribunals are popular placements for Berkeley Law students. For a comprehensive list of international courts and tribunals with links to internship opportunities, visit Legally Global (see navigation column on the right).
International human rights research centers that have hired Berkeley Law students include: War Crimes Studies Center (UC Berkeley) Human Rights Center (Berkeley Law) Honorable G. William and Ariadna Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law (Berkeley Law) Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (UC Hastings) Many other universities host human rights law research centers, including universities outside the US, such as the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. To see a comprehensive list of human rights research centers (based in universities and independent NGOs), click here.
Students interested in international public interest or public sector careers can learn more about internships and job opportunities through coursework, job boards, international human rights centers and clinic, and student groups.
In addition to our own International Human Rights Law Clinic, Berkeley has two dynamic and distinguished human rights related centers, the Human Rights Center and the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law. UC Berkeley also hosts the War Crimes Studies Center at the undergraduate campus.
Berkeley Law has a very active student human rights group, the Human Rights Law Student Association (HRLSA) (see Student Organizations webpage for more details). Students may also participate in the publication of the Berkeley Journal of International Law, which focuses on current issues in international law. Students, including 1Ls, may also volunteer for the International Human Rights Workshop, a Student-Initiated Legal Service Project (SLP). Each year, Berkeley Law sends a team of students to participate in the prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court. Berkeley Law offers summer fellowships to support student’s summer placements with international organizations and non-governmental organizations.
Also, be sure to check b-Line for updated openings from international public interest employers seeking to recruit Berkeley Law students and alumni. Finding and Funding International Public Service Opportunities offers application tips as well as detailed information regarding application processes for a wide range of international opportunities. For example, students have used the Fulbright Fellowship to fund post-graduate fellowships of their own design to work abroad in human rights.
PSJD.org’s International Resources Page also provides listings for international public interest/public sector internships and jobs, as well as important resources and information on how to apply. Berkeley Law students may also register for free (using their @berkeley.edu email address) to access the American Society of International Law’s Jobs Board. Students should also consider joining social and professional groups to meet like-minded students and practitioners, such as the Young Professionals’ Committee for Human Rights (hosted by the Center for Justice & Accountability), and the International Development Exchange’s Young Professionals Group–both meet in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students can also join the International Law sections of the American Bar Association and the California Bar Association to gain access to large networks of international human rights law practitioners and opportunities, including job postings.
Contact the CDO for help in finding and approaching alumni and other international public interest or public sector practitioners. For tips on approaching alumni and maximizing your relationships with them, please see the CDO’s guide to Connecting to the Berkeley Law Alumni Network.
Video Interview with Chris Klemm, US State Department CDO counselors sit down with Mr. Chris Klemm from the State Department as he discusses career opportunities in International Organizations (IOs), such as the United Nations and other associated NGOs. Mr. Klemm is available for individual consultations with students; email Alex or Melanie to request his contact information.
Video Interview with Jessica Vapnek (’91) of DPK Consulting In this video interview, Jessica talks about her career in international development, including a long stint in the United Nations World Food Programme, and provides concrete tips for students and alums on how to break into this exciting area.
American Society for International Law (ASIL) –a large portal site with comprehensive listings of internships/job opportunities. Berkeley Law is a member of ASIL, entitling students to free or reduced registration to ASIL conferences and other activities. Berkeley Law students may also register for free (using their @berkeley.edu email address) to ASIL’s Jobs Board. Please contact Alex Lee at the CDO if you need assistance accessing this resource.
Legally Global–a blog featuring international public interest internships and jobs, created by a international law professor. Note: content may be out-dated.
Foreign Policy Association Job Page HumanRightsJobs.com is a subscription-based website listing a variety of human rights-related opportunities, both legal and non-legal. (username: BerkeleyLaw; password: BerkeleyLaw)