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Human Rights Law Careers
How to become a Human Rights lawyer
There is no one clear path to your career as a human rights lawyer. Some of our graduates below show how they came to work in human rights law and policy, and the experiences which helped them to achieve fulfilling careers in this area. For many, the skills they gained through specific International Human Rights Law courses at UCC were key to their journey. Many obtained valuable experience working for Irish and international non-governmental organisations. Read their stories and learn what worked for them to achieve a career in human hights law and policy.
Paul Bradfield - Irish Centre for Human Rights
Previously: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Human Rights Officer United Nations; Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
Enrolling at UCC was the perfect outlet for me to study in detail a range of modules on Human Rights, Criminal Justice, International Criminal Law. The LLM course allowed me to cultivate my deep interest in human rights and international law. On an intellectual level, the staff thoroughly enabled and excellently prepared me for my career path ahead. Since graduating from UCC, I was called to Bar of Ireland (Kings Inns) and have worked as a Defence Lawyer at the ICTY in the Hague as a member of the Karadzic Defence Team, and at the ICTR in Arusha on the Nizeyimana Defence Team.
Paul graduated from the LLM in UCC's School of Law.
Fiona Finn - CEO Nasc: Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre
I focused on the Human Rights modules throughout my legal education and in particular through the LLM programme in UCC. Following graduation, I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to apply both the legal theory and practice gained to my work at Nasc, the migrant and refugee rights centre. I started work as a Legal Information Officer and subsequently became CEO of the organisation. Working in the human rights field and in particular in the area of asylum and immigration law is hugely challenging but, ultimately very rewarding. This is a very dynamic area of law which offers an opportunity to effectively engage with and influence national policy and to make a profound difference to the lives of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Ireland and internationally.
Fiona graduated from the LLM in UCC's School of Law.
Saorlaith Ni Bhroin - UNHCR
Over the past four years I have worked at national, supranational and international levels. I have largely concentrated my focus on the field of migration, starting as a policy intern at UNHCR and ECRE and later becoming Assistant Migration Officer at Caritas Europa (Brussels). My current position as PA to the CEO at the Immigrant Council of Ireland allows me to extend my expertise to issues such as human trafficking and racism.
My work experience has included participation in cosmopolitan, stimulating environments, with colleagues who share my interests and idealism. Evolving challenges and political considerations have largely shaped my creative, analytical and strategic skills.
The field of Human Rights Law has become increasingly professionalised, affording diverse career possibilities as well as the opportunity for meaningful, realistic engagement in some of the most significant issues of the 21st century.
Saorlaith has graduated from the BCL (Law and French) in UCC's School of Law and is currently working in EU Communications and Advocacy at UNHCR, Brussels.
Aengus Carroll - Author, Consultant for Human Rights Law and LGBTQ Rights
Having worked for 15 years at a grassroots level in LGBT human rights advocacy, it seemed like a logical step to get a deeper understanding of the legal contexts in which rights are attained. It is hugely fulfilling to return to an educational setting with the benefit of ‘real world’ experience and to find that experience can at times feed directly in. The energy and rigour of the lecturers on the fulltime 1-year LL.M in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy are challenging to keep up with, and the work is undeniably hard, but it is very worthwhile. The excellent reputation of the Law Faculty at Cork precedes it and is well deserved.
Aengus graduated from the LL.M in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy in UCC's School of Law.
Pia Janning - Filmmaker
Previously: Irish Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International
I completed my BCL degree at UCC in 2009 and subsequently decided to pursue an LLM in International Human Rights Law at the University of Essex. During my LLM studies I completed an internship with the Children’s Legal Centre UK and also had an opportunity to work on two projects dealing with the right to health. Having received my masters degree in 2010, I came back to Ireland and have since then been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to gain a range of experience in the field of human rights. I spent some time working with the Irish Family Planning Association, the Irish Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International before working for two years in the Human Rights Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Having worked with both non-governmental organisations and Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution my time in the Department was a unique opportunity to gain an insight into how the state approaches its obligations under international human rights law and how Ireland engages on human rights issues in international fora, such as the UN Human Rights Council.
I recently re-joined Amnesty International and am now working as Legal Officer in the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Team. In particular, our work revolves around building political and public understanding of and support for economic, social and cultural rights and finding avenues to strengthen the protection of these rights in Ireland.
Pia graduated from the BCL in UCC's School of Law.
Nick Sore - UNHCR
I am currently working as the Child Protection Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Cairo Regional Office, Egypt. I am working in this role on a six month contract as a member of the Irish Aid Rapid Response Initiative. The LLM in Human Rights Law and Public Policy I completed at UCC certainly provided me with much of the legal and human rights background I need to fulfil my current role.
Nick graduated from the LLM International Human Rights and Public Policy in UCC's School of Law and is currently working at the UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva as Senior Refugee Sports Coordinator.
Yvonne O’Sullivan - Inclusion Ireland
The LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy provided me with a strong practical understanding of human rights instruments and how civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGO) and governments implement these instruments. The LLM allows you to choose your particular focus with a wide range of optional modules to suit your particular interests. I felt the use of guest speakers was important for students to get a real sense of how the law is applied in areas such as international criminal law, immigration and refugee law and human rights law, to mention just a few. Before applying for this LLM I had been volunteering and interning in NGO’s mainly working on refugees and asylum issues, I also have an academic background in international peace studies. I believed the LLM in Human Rights Law would provide me with a greater edge for employment in the NGO sector.
Yvonne graduated from the LLM International Human Rights and Public Policy in UCC's School of Law.
Silvia Maria Crowley – Legal practice
I took some basic international law modules as an undergrad. They really appealed to me and sparked my interest in the LLM in Human Rights and Public Policy. As a graduate from another discipline, I didn’t want to enrol in a programme that
concentrated on the semantics of the law, I was interested in how the law engaged with and influenced policy. The transition was a little difficult on a practical level. I needed to become accustomed to the way law students think and learn. Once I mastered those skills, I got a whole new perspective on human rights. I began to really appreciate the minutia, and became clinical in my thought process. It’s pretty incredible really, and once I combined those skills with what I learned as a Social Science student, I developed a completely different way of writing. The techniques you develop are amazing. They have helped me in so many ways. Simple things like writing a CV or cover letter became far easier. People really value the ability to think and write succinctly. The LLM is a great programme. It’s relevant and hugely topical. I got to meet a justice from the International Criminal Court and attended some really interesting lectures. It also opened my eyes to how the legal system works, and that’s what I want learn about now.
Silvia graduated from the LLM International Human Rights and Public Policy in UCC's School of Law, and is currently completing her LLB with the intention of entering legal practice.
Michael Prendergast – UNHCR
Michael Prendergast is the Associate External Relations Officer with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Jordan. Michael’s role demands that he and his colleagues at the UNHCR constantly “convey the importance of maintaining asylum space in host countries”. To learn more about Michael's role, read his account of the experiences of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.
Michael graduated from the LL.M in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy in UCC's School of Law.