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Human Rights Law: How to Become a Human Rights Lawyer

If you are the type of person who is interested in fighting for public justice, maybe you should consider a career in human rights law.

This page will provide you with all the information you need to know like how to become a human rights lawyer, what you’re likely to earn as a human rights lawyer and examples of firms in the UK which specialise or have departments dedicated to human rights law.

What is Human Rights Law?

Human Rights Law exists to help protect our rights as human beings. These human rights are the basic freedoms that every person should be entitled to from birth until death. They apply to everyone regardless of how individuals choose to live their lives. This means that they apply equally to criminals and to those who have never broken the law. However, in some cases, some human rights can be restricted.

Human rights law ensures that the law treats all citizens equally. Through this practice, parliament passes legislation such as the Human Rights Act 1998 which protects against discrimination and ensures freedom of speech. Legislation from this legal area gives people a voice, and it can act against powerful companies and even governments and regimes which are violating the rights of individuals within a society.

Human Rights Law is often taught as an optional module within the LLB or as part of the compulsory European Union law module required for the qualifying law degree. So it’s very likely that, as a law student, you’ll get a taste of this area of legal practice at some point during your studies.

How to Become a Human Rights Lawyer

If you are interested in becoming involved in human rights law, you should try to get some relevant legal work experience before applying for jobs. For example, you can get involved in the pro bono opportunities that many law schools at university provide. In addition to this, you can volunteer for organisations that specialise in human rights issues and seek out experience in law firms with human rights specialisms.

It’s also worth noting that you can be involved in human rights cases in a vast array of practice areas from housing and welfare, to the court of protection and immigration. You can also tackle human rights issues from a legal point of view within local government, government agencies and non-governmental organisations.

However, as with all other areas of law, to specialise in human rights law, you must first qualify as a solicitor or a barrister.

To become a human rights solicitor you must:

  1. Obtain a qualifying law degree OR another degree and convert via the GDL
  2. Complete the Legal Practice Course
  3. Complete a training contract

To become a human rights barrister you must:

  1. Obtain a qualifying law degree OR another degree and convert via the GDL
  2. Complete the Bar Professional Training Course
  3. Complete a pupillage.

Is human rights law the area most suited to you? Take our quiz to test your knowledge of the subject!

How much do you know about human rights?

Human Rights Lawyer Salary

A typical salary for human rights cases can vary depending on whether you work in a firm or another organisation, where you are based in the UK and of course what level you are at. As with any other field, you should expect salary increases during your career progression. Annual wages can reach as high as £100,000 per annum for human rights lawyers at the top of their game.

If you want to be a barrister specialising in human rights issues, you may find yourself on a less stable financial ground because barristers tend to work on a self-employed basis. However, when work does arise for barristers, human rights cases can be fairly high profile and offer higher salaries.

Human Rights Law Firms

Some UK firms which have departments specialising in human rights include:

Human Rights Law Books

There are plenty of human rights law books that will help you with your study of the topic. The ones provided are the most up to date publication. Older versions will be just as valuable but may lack some of the most up to date legislation/cases.

NameAuthorPrice (Approximate)
International Human Rights LawDaniel Moeckli, Sangeeta Shah, Sandesh Sivakumaran, David Harris£31
Human Rights LawMerris Amos£40
Law of the European Convention on Human RightsDavid Harris, Michael O’Boyle, Ed Bate, Carla Buckley – Harris, O’Boyle and Warbrick£36
Human Rights (Key Concepts)Michael Freeman£15

Words: Alicia Gibson

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