2019 International Postgraduate Fellowships

Lara Wallis ’19 LL.M. Awarded Global Public Service Fellowship at EarthRights International (Myanmar)


Lara Wallis ’19 LL.M.

Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees: LL.B. from the University of Cape Town and LL.M. in human rights law from the University of Cape Town

Experience: University of Cape Town Refugee Rights Clinic, volunteer; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, intern; Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, research assistant; Judge Dennis Davis of the High Court of Cape Town, research assistant; Global Vision International, volunteer; Legal Resources Centre, candidate attorney and Bertha Fellow; Centre for Environmental Rights, Corporate Accountability and Transparency Program, legal researcher; Constitutional Court of South Africa, law researcher to Justice Nonkosi Mhlantla and Acting Justice Azhar Cachalia; Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, member; Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, research intern; Constitutional Court Trust Ismail Mohamed Fellow; Columbia Lawrence Wien Corporate Social Responsibility Fellow; Columbia Human Rights Fellow

Motivation: “South Africa’s history has made me acutely aware of the impact of remaining passive and inactive in the face of injustice. This awareness in light of our history was my motivation for studying law with the sole intent of practicing human rights law, since creative lawyering played an important role in challenging the apartheid system. My love for the law lies in its potential to be leveraged to further the rights of marginalized individuals in cases where there is a major imbalance of power, and one area where this is the case is in the context of the power that governments and corporations wield over communities living in resource-rich areas. My work in advocating for industry-affected communities as a human rights lawyer at the Legal Resources Center and the Center for Environmental Rights in South Africa, and most recently at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, has strengthened my conviction to develop ways in which communities can use the law to defend their rights when their land, livelihood, and dignity are under threat due to industrial development.”

Goals: “The EarthRights International (ERI) values and approach to centering the agency of industry-affected communities in all of its work by equipping community members with the resources to make their own advocacy choices align directly with my own. My work at ERI in Myanmar will be dedicated to developing resources for industry-affected communities and civil society to use in challenging industrial development that threatens their livelihood, and to address the acute gender-specific ways that women are affected in the context of environmentally destructive development. My year working as a member of ERI’s legal team in Myanmar’s unique context will provide me with critical insight and perspective to allow me to grow into a more effective human rights lawyer.”

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The office of Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) guides Columbia Law School students who want to pursue public interest work throughout their academic careers and after graduation. SJI also assists in the process of applying to prestigious postgraduate fellowships. Read about other 2019 international public interest postgraduate fellows.

Published on April 26, 2019