This page offers human rights lawyer careers advice for those looking to study in the UK.
What does a Human Rights Lawyer do?
Human rights isn’t a specific field of law but covers issues of individual and civil liberties across a range of legal areas. For example, a human rights lawyer, or civil liberties lawyer, may focus on one or more of the following:
- Mental health
- Environmental law
- Data protection
- EU or international law
These are just examples. Human right issues and matters relating to civil liberties could come into almost any legal area.
Human rights lawyers work with people who feel that their civil liberties have been illegally infringed upon. Human rights lawyers may also work for businesses, advising on how to avoid legal disputes or representing them during a legal dispute over civil liberties.
Since the introduction of the Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, there has been an increasing demand for lawyers with human rights experience and knowledge.
The types of tasks a UK-focused or international human rights lawyer might do on a daily basis include:
- Meeting clients and assessing their situation
- Providing legal information and advice
- Taking statements
- Creating court documents
- Liaising with other legal professionals
- Researching previous cases
Training and qualifications
To become a solicitor, there are two routes: you may study an undergraduate law degree or study any other degree followed by a law conversion course
You’ll then need to take a one-year legal practice course (LPC), followed by a two-year law firm training contract.
To become a barrister, there are three stages to complete:
Academic: A degree course at 2:2 level or above is needed. You can take a law degree or any other degree-level subject, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PgDL) or a Common Professional Examination (CPE).
Vocational: You then need to join one of the ‘Four Inns of Court’, all of which are based in London. There are 12 qualifying units to complete as well as the Bar Professional Training Course.
Pupillage: The final phase is pupillage. You’ll spend a year shadowing and training with a qualified barrister.
All lawyers, including human rights lawyers, need to undertake regular CPD (continuing professional development).
Important skills for a human rights lawyer are:
- Excellent analytical abilities
- The ability to think laterally
- Confidence to make decisions and give advice
- Empathy and compassion
- The ability to stay calm under pressure and help others to do the same.
As we have said, human rights issues exist in almost all areas of law so a lawyer may work for a law firm specialising in one area of law such as employment or family law, but within that they may also develop a specialism in the niche area of civil liberties.
Nowadays there are also a growing number of law firms which focus specifically on human rights issues. There are also opportunities to work for the government as a human rights lawyer.
Human Rights Lawyer Salary
A human rights lawyer salary can start around £25,000 once you’ve qualified, and this can rise to £100,000+ with experience. Some top barristers at private, high-end firms can earn over £1million per annum.