Career Definition for a Human Rights Lawyer
Human rights lawyers investigate, evaluate, and defend people in litigation cases involving torture and abuse. Human rights lawyers often spend numerous hours examining the facts of a case; studying human rights laws, both domestic and international; and interviewing clients and witnesses. In their efforts to defend a client, human rights lawyers may also solicit and use media attention to promote awareness of human rights laws and violations.
|Education||Completion of a law school program|
|Job Skills||Interviewing, speaking, and writing skills; advocacy and investigative ability; organization and management skills; ability to work as part of a team|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$115,820 for lawyers|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||6% for lawyers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Aspiring human rights lawyers must apply to law school programs, which typically take three years to complete. Individual schools may offer concentrations in social justice or human rights law, and courses may include studies in human rights theory and history, immigration law, and gender justice. Students may also pursue topics in homelessness, school desegregation, and world poverty. Many law schools run law clinics, through which students may actively take on relevant cases and projects. Affiliation with a professional human rights organization can also help to increase one's credibility and exposure in the field.
Human rights lawyers must interact with clients, witnesses, and media outlets, and as such, must have excellent interviewing, speaking, and writing skills. Advocacy and investigative abilities are also essential. Human rights lawyers must also have the ability to organize and manage a case, draft legal documents, and work as a member of a team.
Career and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment opportunities for lawyers nationwide would grow by 6% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that lawyers in general received a median annual wage of $115,820 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
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Alternate Career Options
Besides lawyers, there are other options in the field of human service careers:
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, like attorneys, rely upon the law to help disputing parties resolve conflicts and differences. The resolution process takes place outside of the courts, where an arbitrator's or mediator's activities can include conducting interviews and preparing settlement documents. While it is possible to enter the field with a bachelor's degree, some positions may require a law degree or graduate degree in business administration.
According to the BLS, 30% of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in 2014 worked for local and state government agencies. Nationwide, the BLS anticipated a 9%, or faster-than-average, job increase for these professionals for 2014-2024. As reported by the BLS, arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators received a median annual salary of $58,020 in May 2015.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
An associate degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for obtaining a job as a paralegal or legal assistant, who typically conducts research, maintains files, and prepares court documents. Alternative educational options include a bachelor's degree and completion of a certificate program in paralegal studies. According to the BLS, an average increase of 8% in jobs nationwide is expected for paralegals and legal assistants between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, professionals in this field earned a median annual wage of $48,810.