The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute invites candidates for the position of Legal Fellow for the Institute’s human rights in the U.S. work.  This position will run from September 2017-May 2018, with the possibility of renewal.

The Legal Fellow will play an integral role in strengthening awareness and implementation of international human rights norms in the United States, with a particular focus on advancing racial and gender justice, equality, and accountability.

The Human Rights Institute’s Human Rights in the U.S. Project builds the capacity of domestic lawyers, policy makers, and advocates to incorporate a human rights framework into social justice advocacy efforts by building networks, facilitating trainings, conducting outreach, and promoting coordination among progressive public policy and advocacy groups to challenge all forms of discrimination and foster inclusion.  The Project also directly contributes to the development of legal theories and positive precedents based on international law through litigation, global and regional advocacy and policy initiatives, with a focus on the state and local levels.

With the Human Rights in the U.S. Project Director, and the Human Rights Institute’s Faculty Directors, the Legal Fellow will develop new and innovative strategies to hold the United States accountable to human rights principles, undertaking research, writing, and advocacy.  The Fellow will work in collaboration with a range of U.S. human rights lawyers and advocates, impacted communities, and government officials. To identify best practices in human rights advocacy, strengthen norms, and improve human rights monitoring, the Legal Fellow will also convene meetings of human rights experts, and contribute to global and regional reviews of United States human rights record providing relevant data on domestic law, policy, and practice.  The Fellow will also develop resources, reports, op-eds and blog posts on emerging issues and developments in human rights law and practice.

Specifically, the Fellow will:

  • Contribute to the Institute’s pursuit of redress for human rights violations related to juvenile justice through advocacy at the Inter-American Commission and domestic channels;
  • Research and document city and state efforts to “bring human rights home,” as well as related legal developments, and provide training and technical assistance to local governments engaged in this efforts, with a particular focus on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women;
  • Submit stakeholder reports to the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and experts.

The Fellow will also contribute to the overall work of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, including through event planning, mentoring of students, and engagement with the Institute’s other projects.  The Fellow may also have opportunities to supervise students in the Human Rights Clinic, at the discretion of the Director of the Clinic, and manage research assistants.


Applicants must be licensed to practice law in at least one U.S. state or foreign country, or have an application for license pending.

Preference will be given to candidates who demonstrate the following:

  • Commitment to the integration of human rights principles into law, policy and practice within the United States;
  • Two or more years of experience in the law and practice of human rights, including in legal research, writing, and advocacy;
  • Background in human rights advocacy at the national and/or state and city levels, and knowledge of the human rights field, particularly in the United States;
  • Demonstrated commitment to strategic, creative, and self-reflective social justice and human rights work, including through positive, empowering, and collaborative working relationships with community groups, nongovernmental organizations, and government actors;
  • Familiarity with state and local governments, including experience advocating with state and local agencies and officials;
  • Prior experience engaging with the UN and regional human rights systems;
  • Demonstrated ability to undertake independent research and analysis, as well to work in collaboration with others;
  • Demonstrated aptitude for public speaking, written and oral communication, and legal advocacy, and the ability to persuasively communicate to multiple different audiences;
  • Project development and management experience, ability to work in teams, time management skills, flexibility, and strong organizational and interpersonal skills;
  • Experience engaging with the general public and the media, writing press releases conducting interviews, drafting reports, blog posts, and legal memoranda, and designing convenings; and,
  • Experience in grant writing and engaging with donor organizations.

Applicants must also be willing to travel.  Spanish language fluency is a plus.

The Institute values diversity and inclusion and we strongly encourage applications from people of color, LGBTQI persons, women, and persons with disabilities.

Selection Process

In order to apply for this position, please visit Columbia University’s Recruitment of Academic Personnel System (RAPS) at:

On RAPS applicants will also be instructed to upload the following information in a single pdf: (a) a cover letter, describing the applicant’s qualifications and interest in the position; (b) a one page statement identifying one or two of the most critical contemporary human rights issues in the United States, and describing the relevant human rights standards, as well as strategies to leverage them to create change in the domestic laws, policies and practices that contribute to the problem; (c) a resume; (d) a law school transcript; (e) the names of three-five references; (d) a representative writing sample of no more than 10 pages.

Applicants selected for interviews will be contacted. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled, but are strongly encouraged to apply by July 29, 2017

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The ideal start time is early – mid September, 2017.

Competitive salary and benefits.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer –Race/Gender/Disability/Veteran.

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