For the idealist who wants to leave the world a better place than he found it, a career as a civil rights and/or human rights advocate is extremely rewarding. Today there is a wide variety of opportunity to practice civil rights and human rights law, both within the United States and internationally. Civil rights and human rights lawyers may work in private practice, for non-profit institutions, for advocacy organizations, for government agencies, international bodies, or in other specialized environments. They may become involved in problems of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual preference, age, or disability, police misconduct, freedom of expression, issues of genocide or "ethnic cleansing," children's rights, slavery, international trafficking that exploits vulnerable populations, war crimes, and a myriad of other issues addressed by the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Civil rights and human rights litigation is often highly stressful and frequently enormously frustrating. It seldom leads to great material rewards. It is, however, extremely rewarding. Significant civil rights and human rights cases demand consideration of a complex matrix of political, policy, humanitarian and legal factors. Not only persistence and passion, but also creativity and imagination are required. This work provides an unparalleled opportunity to be of service and to employ one's talents and skills on behalf of clients whose legal needs are not met in the marketplace.
Students who intend to seek employment in the civil rights and human rights arena are strongly advised to seek opportunities while in law school for part-time employment or volunteer work in this area. Employers generally place a high premium on a demonstrated commitment to civil rights and human rights in hiring.
Because civil rights and human rights involve such a broad range of problems, there is no standard menu of courses to prepare for a career in this area. Everyone headed toward a career in civil rights and human rights should probably take one or more upper level constitutional law courses, one or more survey courses in human rights and a course in international law. Beyond that, one's interests will determine which specialized courses to take. Suffolk offers the following courses relevant to civil rights and human rights litigation:
There are also many opportunities to participate in summer programs and externships, both in the United States and abroad, that provide valuable experience in this area. Students should seek out professors who teach civil rights and human rights courses, or who teach international law, for advice with respect to such programs. In addition, there are a number of moot court teams that participate in constitutional law and international law problems that provide extracurricular opportunities to gain experience in this area.