Smith Family Human Rights Clinic

Two Semester Clinic - Next offering Fall 2024


Students join a community of advocates working to address the global power imbalances that drive economic and political inequality, exploitation, threats to physical security, poverty, and environmental injustice.


The Smith Family Human Rights Clinic trains students to be leaders in human rights advocacy. Students work on social justice advocacy around the world, in partnership with civil society, communities, and those directly affected by abuse.  

Clinic seminars provide a map of the terrain of international human rights advocacy, including the field’s dominant forms of action, strategies, methods, and critiques. In addition, the clinic serves as a laboratory for testing and modeling new and innovative modes of human rights work.

Instructor: Sarah Knuckey, Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein Clinical Professor of Human Rights
Experiential Credits: 7 credits (4 for seminar; 3 for fieldwork)
Available in: Fall 2024 (year long clinic)

Real-World Practice

Under the guidance of the clinic’s professors and supervisors, students develop the skills necessary to be strategic and creative human rights advocates, critically analyze human rights, and advance human rights methodologies. Skills include:

  • Project selection, design, and strategy.
  • Choice and sequence of advocacy tactics.
  • Fact-finding methodologies, evidence assessment, and interdisciplinary research methods.
  • Interviewing witnesses, experts, and perpetrators.
  • Digital and physical security.
  • Report and brief writing.
  • Using judicial and quasi-judicial processes.
  • Advocacy at the local, national, regional, and international levels.
  • Engaging the press and using social media.
  • Mitigating vicarious trauma and promoting resilience and well-being.
  • Ethical frameworks and the navigation of ethical dilemmas.
  • Accountability and project evaluation.
  • Engaging with critiques of human rights and transformative human rights advocacy.
  • Working with partners and engaging in rights-based human rights advocacy.
  • Teamwork and leadership.
  • Promoting inclusion and full participation, countering identity-based harms, and working as an effective ally.


Students work in teams on projects that are designed to pursue social justice in partnership with civil society and communities. Projects vary from year to year and span the globe. They have addressed urgent and complex human rights issues in the Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Yemen, Kashmir, and the United States. 

Recent topics include: 

  • Corporate accountability for human rights violations and environmental harms in the extractives industry.
  • Labor rights among immigrant communities.
  • Education rights and religious and ethnic discrimination.
  • The right to a fair trial.
  • Human rights and humanitarian law violations in counterterrorism operations and armed conflict.
  • The right to mental health during armed conflict and sexual violence.
  • The rights to water and sanitation.

Faculty Spotlight