Hi Alexandra, I also researched human rights law in Law School. It is great to hear you are interested. As for an undergraduate major, I tend to agree with the other individuals that you really need to focus on a major that helps hone your logic skills, such as philosophy, English, political science or history. If you are interested in international human rights law, then I might pursue an international relations degree provided that it is offered by your school. I would also strongly encourage you to learn French if you are interested in international human rights. The litigation taking place in the international criminal tribunals (such as the ICTR) and the ICC all have two primary languages--French and English. I would also recommend learning another language to supplement your language skills. Finally, if you are interested in international human rights, I would recommend taking a few internships during law school at a local prosecutor's office or public defender's office. Finally, many of the practicing human rights lawyers I have met were involved in JAG or an equivalent. Therefore, this is a path you might want to consider as well. I hope this helped!
That is a great question and there is no single, easy answer to be honest. I have a lot of friends that are lawyers and they majored in a lot of different things before law school. Ideally something related to what you want to do when you graduate law school would be best but there it is also good to be more well rounded and have something to fall back on in case you change your mind. For Human rights law, anything related to political science, sociology, social sciences would be a good undergraduate major. Also be sure to check with the schools you are planning to apply for for law school and their requirements for your undergraduate degree.
Below is a paste in from a link I found online regarding best undergraduate majors for law school:
There are no restrictions for which bachelor's degrees are acceptable for law school. There are, however, degrees that will better prepare the student. History is one good choice for the pre-law student.
The legal system in the United States has developed over a period of centuries, growing out of an established English legal system during the early colonizing years in the United States. As a history major, a student will have the opportunity to learn how those early years affected society and the governing laws of each period.
Students will study developing political systems, famous trials, treaties, and international history. All of these subjects will afford the student the opportunity to understand how the law affects the rules of society. Knowing these things will help the student have a solid grasp on precedents that established our laws. It will also help the student become a more persuasive litigator by knowing the history behind the law. View pre-law history programs...
Two of the most fundamental activities for lawyers is reading and writing. It is critical that an attorney possess strong reading and writing skills. Each argument presented in court is first well researched, thought out, and written down. Strong reading skills will help a student learn how to absorb large amounts of information at a fast pace. Strong writing skills will help to formulate persuasive arguments.
The English major will develop excellent critical thinking skills as well. A good attorney must analyze each case in order to determine the best way to approach a resolution. English majors are required to read critically. They will have to analyze, compare, and contrast a wide variety of literature. These activities will develop a student's ability to think critically which will translate into invaluable skills for law school. View pre-law english programs...
A pre-law degree in philosophy prepares the student to enter law school by teaching students how to understand and analyze situations and flesh out details. They will learn how to define and interpret complicated situations. They are also taught how to examine evidence and create compelling arguments that are cohesive and logical. Arguing a case in court also requires the ability to see all sides of the argument.
They will discover how humans think and be exposed to a variety of worldviews. By understanding how others think and believe, the student is able to prepare for opposing arguments in advance. The philosophy student will also have ample opportunity to unravel complex situations and speak with a strong degree of confidence. View pre-law philosophy programs...
Political science is one of the more popular degrees for the pre-law student. It prepares the student by exposing them to all the intricacies of our complicated judicial system. Politics and law go hand in hand. Political science students will learn how the law is structured and carried out. It will also inform the student on foreign policy, historical cases, treaties, and foreign legal systems.
As a political science major, the pre-law student will learn how to speak in public. They will also be required to read and write well. Students will learn about the Constitution and how it developed the foundations for our legal system. The political science student will learn how different courts operate. Along with understanding politics and law, the student will also have opportunity to speak in public, and write comparative papers on a variety of political issues. View pre-law political science programs...
If a student is considering law school, it is important to plan and prepare during the undergraduate phase of their education. There are several undergraduate degrees that will lay a solid foundation for law school. One of the degrees that will prepare the pre-law student is economics. Much of what drives our country, at its foundation, is the economical system. It is important for the pre-law student to understanding how money affects society. This knowledge will give the pre-law student a basis for many of the issues brought to court.
Another important facet of law is critical thinking. The economics major will be exposed to a great deal of logical thinking, as well as interpreting and analyzing complex data. They will learn how to apply solutions to many different problems.
The economics major will be exposed to how our country developed from an economic standpoint. Through studying historical phenomenon such as recessions and boom years, the pre-law student will learn what impacts our society and how these situations affect law. View pre-law economics programs...
An undergraduate degree in business will serve the pre-law student well because it prepares the student in many facets of the legal system. The business major will have a strong understanding of issues such as contracts, negotiations, and corporate structure. A business major will be required to think critically and come up with solutions to intricate problems.
The breadth of training for the business major covers many subjects a student will encounter in law school. Courses include reading, writing, contracts, and speaking. Each of these courses will lay the foundation for the student seeking a law degree
Human rights is a very broad area, so it will depend on your particular interest. If you would like to work in international human rights, you should consider international development, political science, and/or policy-related classes. In addition, most international legal positions will require that you speak English plus a language recognized by the UN. The languages most in demand are French and Spanish, although fluency in any UN language will likely be an asset. When you get into law school, make sure to became involved in the JESSUP (moot court) team and international law committee/group, as well as the International Law Student Association (ILSA). For domestic human rights issues, consider taking policy and poli-sci classes. Also, talk with your current professors or career services offices; they would be able to steer you in the right direction.
Another great way to get an idea of the type of education needed is to visit NGO sites or other websites showing jobs in human rights law. Best of Luck!!!
Law school is about logical reasoning, and interest in how societies regulate themselves. It is a specialised professional degree, and you need good grades to get into a good school. Other subjects don't really 'prepare' you for law school in terms of the subject matter- only in a general sense if they develop your reasoning and writing skills. So, I would think about three things when choosing for undergraduate:
1. Something you are good at so you can do well at your first degree, thus getting you into a better school and probably helping you to get any available funding;
2. Something that you are really interested in and which inspires you and helps you grow as a person, so that by the time you go to law school you've developed your ideas about why you want to be a lawyer, and what kind of lawyer.
3. Something that develops reasoning and writing skills.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
There is not one specific major required with law school. With that said, international human rights law is a very specific and competitive field and I would encourage you to learn another language (if you are not already bilingual). As Michael mentioned, French is used primarily for international criminal tribunals. I think if you know what area of the world you're interested in, a degree in Asian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Latin America etc. would be usefully. A degree in a foreign language seems appropriate as well. Try to get involved with organizations as an undergrad that have an international breadth and focus. I've had some friends get internships abroad that eventually led to full positions. Best of Luck!
Hi Alexandra, I did human rights law in law school, so I'm excited to see you're interested in this! You can do your undergraduate degree in most fields and still apply and get into law school, but you should pick an undergrad degree that sort of helps you towards your law degree - something that makes you do research, writing and a lot of reading. Degrees in English, Political Science, Psychology or Economics are some examples. Since you're passionate about human rights law, I'd recommend a degree in Political Science or International Relations. Are you more passionate about domestic or international human rights? If international, I recommend looking for schools that have a good international relations degree.