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If you are a Human Rights Lawyer, how frequently can/will you travel internationally?

Hello! I am a high school senior and I am considering being a Human Rights Lawyer. I understand with this interest, I have the opportunity to represent inequalities all over the world. I really wanted to know an estimate amount of times one will travel internationally in the career. #lawyer #careers #human-rights

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Mackenzie’s Answer

The frequency of international travel for a Human Rights Lawyer can vary widely depending on several factors, including the nature of their work, the organizations they are affiliated with, and their specific responsibilities. Here are some considerations:

1. **Type of Organization**: If you work for a large international human rights organization or an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with a global focus, you may have more opportunities for international travel. These organizations often have offices and projects in various countries, and staff may be required to travel regularly for research, advocacy, or fieldwork.

2. **Nature of Cases**: The nature of the human rights cases you handle can also influence your travel frequency. For example, if you're involved in cases that require on-the-ground investigations, you may travel more frequently to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and assess the human rights situation in specific regions.

3. **Advocacy and Conferences**: Human Rights Lawyers often participate in international conferences, seminars, and advocacy campaigns to promote human rights awareness and policy changes. This can involve periodic international travel to attend events and collaborate with other organizations and activists.

4. **Client Representation**: If you represent clients seeking asylum or refugee status in another country, you may need to travel to meet with clients, attend hearings, or work on their cases abroad.

5. **Fieldwork**: Some Human Rights Lawyers specialize in fieldwork, where they work directly in conflict zones, areas of crisis, or regions with severe human rights violations. This type of work may require frequent international travel.

6. **Government or Diplomatic Roles**: Human Rights Lawyers who work in government or diplomatic positions, such as diplomats specializing in human rights, may also travel internationally for official duties and negotiations.

7. **Research and Reporting**: Lawyers involved in human rights research and reporting may travel to conduct interviews, document human rights abuses, and compile reports for publication.

8. **Humanitarian Work**: Human Rights Lawyers engaged in humanitarian efforts may travel to provide legal assistance to refugees, displaced persons, or vulnerable populations in different parts of the world.

9. **Proximity to Global Issues**: Your proximity to global human rights issues and the specific focus of your practice can influence your international travel. For example, lawyers in regions directly affected by conflicts or human rights crises may travel more frequently.

It's important to note that while international travel can be a significant aspect of the work for some Human Rights Lawyers, it's not the case for all. Many human rights legal activities, such as advocacy, research, litigation, and policy work, can be conducted from a home base or through remote communication channels.

If you're interested in becoming a Human Rights Lawyer and are concerned about the frequency of international travel, it's advisable to research organizations and roles carefully to align your career goals with the level of travel that suits your preferences and circumstances.
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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Kayla,

There are some tips to consider if you want a career in human rights:

  • Is a career in international human rights for you?

Getting into international human rights can be a challenge; it is a difficult field to enter and can be especially competitive, particularly in today’s economy. In addition, there are many things to consider: how willing are you to travel abroad, live away from your family and friends, acclimate to a completely new and unfamiliar environment, and sometimes live in rough environments? The more flexible you are, and the more passionate you are about living abroad and learning from poor communities, the better chance you’ll have to breaking into this field.

  • Volunteer and intern as much as possible

Unpaid internships are essentially a requirement to get into the development and human rights field. Check out a start-up social enterprise’s website and email them offering to contribute something: a social media presence, website development, event planning or grant writing. These things can go a long way for a small NGO! In fact, small organizations can actually be more receptive to your help, and more willing to give you a significant role than large NGOs. At the same time, internships with well-established NGOs can be vital in giving you credibility and valuable experience. Try everything you can to gain experience, skills, references, and a strong sense of what work setting you thrive in.

  • Learn and think critically about development and human rights.

If you’re just starting out in international human rights work, educate yourself! Even if you’re not majoring in international relations, development studies, human rights, or a related subject, you can still learn by reading relevant books (check out works by Bill Easterly, Paul Collier, Dambisa Moyo, and Amartya Sen – among many others) and useful development and human rights blogs (such as A View From the Cave, Chris Blattman, and How Matters). More than anything, I think it’s valuable to think critically about your involvement in international human rights, and about how you can realistically contribute and best make an impact as an outsider in this work.

  • Study or intern abroad as an undergraduate, and learn other languages.

Studying and interning abroad can give you critical “field” or in-country experience that can help you get your first international human rights job. Studying or working abroad can give you a much better sense of the issues facing the country or region you live in, and can also impart valuable language skills. Knowing another language and having the ability to speak thoughtfully about the politics and economics of a region can be a real asset. Spending time abroad will also give you key contacts; maintaining these contacts can help you find a job down the road, or perhaps even apply for programs such as the Fulbright, which allow you to devise your own research project.

  • Learn concrete skills relevant to NGO management.

Most NGOs appreciate skills such as grant writing, fundraising, research and writing, communications, program implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. If you can develop concrete skills in writing grants, hosting fundraising events, researching and writing human rights reports, or marketing organizations effectively through web design and social media, you will be able to contribute concretely to the needs of most non-profit organizations. Learning valuable skills in school – such as strong writing, research, and economic analysis – can also be very useful.

  • Blog, write, and engage in social media.

Personal branding can be useful in the development and human rights field. Starting a blog and contributing your thoughts on human rights and social justice work can be a useful exercise in honing your knowledge, increasing your awareness and understanding of key issues facing your field, and also getting your voice heard. Combining blogging with social media such as Twitter can be extremely useful in making connections that can eventually lead to a job, considering the importance of networking.

  • Have a specific goal if possible, but also be flexible.

Focusing on a specific subject matter area – such as women’s rights, environmental justice, refugee rights, economic development, or post-conflict reconstruction – can be helpful, although it is not necessary. Having an area of focus, however, can allow you to develop particular expertise and knowledge in one area. At the same time, flexibility can go a long way. If you’re willing to take on a lower salary or relocate to a new country or city, for instance, you’ll have a lot more opportunities available to you.

  • Ultimately, a career in international human rights can be incredible; it is deeply inspiring and energizing to see grassroots movements, the positive impact of aid and development, and small victories that add up to broader social change and justice. At the same time, it can be truly frustrating and challenging, with constant international travel, time away from family and friends, and the seemingly slow pace of change you want to see happen. Following these tips will help you break into the field – but it’s up to you to decide whether this is the right path for you, and the right way to make an impact!

Author Bio: Akhila Kolisetty is a first year student at Harvard Law School and a graduate of Northwestern University. She has worked with human rights and legal non-profits in Washington D.C., Chicago, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

Have a good choice!