The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute (HRI) affords researchers, students, and employees the opportunity to engage with a rich professional and academic environment while contributing their specific skills and talents to the mission of the Institute. Engagement opportunities range from fellowships, residencies, and management vacancies, to symposia and internships:
HRI strongly encourage applications from persons living and/or educated outside the United States, people of color, women, LGBTQI persons, and persons with disabilities. It is part of Columbia University, which is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action employer – Race/ Gender/ Disability/ Veteran.
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Columbia Law School offers a Human Rights LL.M. Fellowship for individuals with extraordinary potential in the field of international human rights. The Fellowship is designed to support students pursuing an LL.M. degree at Columbia who show exceptional commitment and potential to use their education to become innovators and leaders in human rights practice and/or academia.
The Human Rights LL.M. Fellowship is jointly coordinated by the Human Rights Institute and the Office of Graduate Legal Studies, which manages the School’s LL.M. and J.S.D. programs. Fellowships offer partial to full waivers of tuition, and in some cases, a living stipend, depending on the applicant’s demonstrated level of financial need.
LL.M. Human Rights Fellows receive tailored skills and career mentoring in both practice and academic scholarship from Human Rights Institute faculty, staff, and advisors; are invited to special events with leading human rights advocates and scholars; and are afforded the opportunity to participate in the Human Rights Institute’s cutting-edge research projects. Fellows are also given special consideration for admission to Columbia’s Human Rights Clinic, an innovative course where students learn to be strategic, creative, and critical human rights advocates while pursuing social justice in partnership with civil society and communities, and while advancing human rights methodologies and scholarship. Fellows are expected to devote a significant part of their studies while at Columbia to human rights, and to take an active part in the law school’s vibrant human rights community.
Applicants must demonstrate experience in international human rights and a commitment to a career in the field, whether in academia and/or human rights practice. Candidates from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and candidates who face impediments to education and leadership because of their race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background, gender, or sexual orientation, are strongly encouraged to apply.
The Human Rights Institute curates a human rights program for first year law students interested in pursuing a career in human rights law: The Human Rights Institute 1L Advocates Program. The program works, in partnership with the Social Justice Institute (SJI) and Rightslink, to create a space for students who would like a career in human rights. This program is a cornerstone of the SJI Public Interest/Public Service Fellows program, which will be rolled out in 2019. The 1L Advocates Program will provide the structure, support, and skills necessary to work toward preparing students for a career in human rights during their 1L year.
Post Graduate Fellowships
David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship
The David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship enables a Columbia Law School graduate to spend one year working with a host organization on a human rights project of the graduate’s choice anywhere in the world.
Human Rights Watch, a leading international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization, has created the Sandler Fellowship for a Columbia Law graduate from the J.D. program in honor of Judge Leonard Sandler ’50. The fellow will spend one year in either the New York City or Washington, D.C. office monitoring human rights developments in various countries, conducting on-site investigations, drafting reports on human rights conditions, and engaging in advocacy aimed at publicizing and curtailing human rights violations.
Herbert & Nell Singer Social Justice Fellowship
This Fellowship honors class of 1928 graduate Herbert Singer and his commitment to providing support to meaningful learning experiences in public interest law. This annual Fellowship will help launch the social justice career of a J.D. Columbia Law graduate who demonstrates substantial commitment, ability and preparation for making a difference as a public interest lawyer by providing a stipend to be a staff attorney or do your own project at a not-for-profit organization in the United States. The Fellow must begin work within five months after graduation or completion of a clerkship. Please visit the Social Justice Initiatives website for more information.
Visiting Scholars and Practitioners
The Practitioner-in-Residence program is designed for human rights practitioners from non-governmental organizations, government, the United Nations, and other inter-governmental and international bodies who seek an environment in which they can engage in research, writing, and scholarly discussion connected to their human rights practice. The program is intended to promote human rights scholarship grounded in practice, as well as practice informed by scholarship and critique.
Applications are particularly encouraged from the global south, and from those working on issues related to the Human Rights Institute’s areas of focus and Human Rights Clinic’s cases, including: business and human rights and the global economy; counter-terrorism and armed conflict; the domestic utilization of human rights norms; human rights fact-finding methods and practice; interdisciplinary methods; and critiques of human rights theory and practice.
Practitioners may be in residence for a flexible period of between one month and one year. While in residence at the Human Rights Institute, Practitioners-in-Residence are expected to work on their own scholarly, advocacy, or policy-oriented papers, human rights reports, or books for publication, or develop workshops and new research agendas, or prepare for conferences or new human rights projects. Some practitioners may wish to conduct advocacy at the United Nations or elsewhere.
For those interested, mentoring about academic scholarship and human rights work product is available, as are opportunities for presenting and obtaining feedback on draft work. Interested practitioners will also have the opportunity to participate in the broader intellectual life of the law school, and may deliver guest lectures in the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and other human rights course offerings, participate in the mentoring of Columbia Law School students, advise on ongoing projects of the Human Rights Institute and Clinic, and design workshops or other events with experts from the field.
Practitioners-in-Residence will be provided access to Columbia University libraries, student research assistants, invitations to law school and university events and workshops, administrative support for event design and planning, and the opportunity to be integrated into the Human Rights Institute.
The Practitioners-in Residence program does not provide a salary or cover travel or living expenses. Each year, however, one or more applicants from the global south are selected to receive a “Global Advocate Award” to offset expenses associated with travel to New York and expenses during the residency in New York. Depending on the length of the residency, the award may not cover all expenses.
Annual Columbia Law School Human Rights Student Paper Symposium
The Human Rights Institute, Human Rights Clinic, Human Rights Law Review, Rightslink, and the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law hold the annual ‘Columbia Law School Human Rights Student Paper Symposium’ every year to foster the development of student scholarship and stimulate debate on human rights challenges and opportunities. The Symposium welcomes submissions that critically engage with and advance knowledge and debate about any human rights issue, whether related to the law, policy, advocacy, theory, methods, and/or practice of human rights. The student authors of papers selected for the Symposium are invited to briefly present their work to a panel of faculty, practitioners, and students for feedback and commentary. The feedback is designed to assist students to further develop their paper for publication. Following student presentations, the floor is open to the audience for continued collaborative discussion.
The next call for papers will be open in Spring 2019.
Research Assistantships and Internships
All Columbia Law School students, including 1Ls and LLMs are encouraged to apply to research assistantships at the Human Rights Institute, where they will collaborate with one or more of the Institute's Faculty Co-Directors and Project Directors on issues ranging from health, labor, and gender-based rights internationally and in the U.S., to international law, counter-terrorism, and armed conflict, and business and human rights in the global economy. Learn about Fall 2018 opportunities .
Internships for Columbia Law School Students
Through the Columbia Law School, students are able to access internships that provide experience and the opportunity to advocate for human rights. Students are given the chance to choose from internships around the world, all dealing with significant human rights topics, from helping establish the International Criminal Tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, to researching prison conditions in Sri Lanka, to assisting in the writing of a Freedom of Information Act for Guatemala. Training is available prior to internships, allowing students more substantive assignments.
Columbia Law School guarantees summer funding for human rights internships at a broad range of organization both in the U.S. and abroad. For more information on the Human Rights Internships Summer Program for Columbia Law School students, please visit the Social Justice Initiatives website.