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Public International Law and Human Rights

The Practice

At the UN and within the U.S. government at places like the U.S. Agency for International Development, lawyers serve a variety of roles, from ensuring compliance with organizational rules and regulations on employment and contracting, to implementing programs to ensure member states comply with their obligations under the United Nations Charter, international human rights treaties or peace agreements. Lawyers at advocacy organizations lobby for legal reform and represent clients before domestic and international courts. NGO advocates often engage in educational programs as well as litigation on behalf of underrepresented and disadvantaged groups who seek redress for human rights or environmental harms. Here in New York, attorneys representing asylum seekers litigate claims that their clients suffered persecution in their home countries and are entitled to resettlement in the U.S. Students can prepare for all these roles by studying public international law and international human rights, and adding electives to round out their expertise in areas like environmental or immigration and asylum law.

The Course of Study

Foundational Courses

  • International Human Rights Law (3 credits)
  • International Law (3 credits)

Further Electives

  • Comparative Law (2 credits)
  • Immigration Law (3 credits)
  • International Legal Research (2 credits)
  • International Art & Cultural Heritage Law (2 credits)
  • International Business Transactions (3 credits)
  • International Criminal Law (3 credits)
  • International Environmental Law (2 credits)
  • International and Foreign Legal Research (2 credits)
  • International Litigation & Dispute Resolution (3 credits)
  • Law & Religion Seminar – International and Comparative Perspectives (2 credits)
  • National Security & the Law (3 credits)
  • Refugee and Asylum Clinic (3 credits)
  • Transactions in Emerging Markets (3 credits)


Suggested Path

Part-time students should spread out the suggested path below to account for their expected date of graduation.

Year Fall Spring Summer
  • Required courses
  • Pro bono
  • Internship (JAG, Federal Judge, US Attorney’s office, Homeland Security)
  • Study Abroad (take 6 credits in international courses including Professional Responsibility)
  • Evidence, Business Organizations, or  Administrative Law
  • International Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Immigration or Consumer Justice Clinic or externship
  • Apply for 2L summer internship with NGO, ICC, etc.
  • Evidence, Business Organizations, or Administrative Law
  • Professional Responsibility
  • APWR course
  • Electives:
    Comparative Law
    International Criminal Law
    International Human Rights
    Immigration Law
    International & Foreign Legal Research
    International Environmental Law
    Law & Religion Seminar
    International Commercial Arbitration
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Clinic or externship
  • Internship (JAG, Federal Judge, US Attorney’s office, Homeland Security)
  • Internship with International Organization (ICC)
  • Electives
  • Complete SWR paper on international human rights law
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Clinic or externship
  • Graduation
  • Bar Exam

Course Descriptions

Alumni Spotlight: Public International Law and Human Rights

Jennifer Ismat, J.D. 2009
Ms. Ismat is currently a Legal Consultant at the United Nations Mine Action Office in Sudan. Before assuming her current position, she served as a Policy and Program Intern for the United Nations Mine Action Services and as a legal advisor for Africa & Middle East Refugee Assistance. She has received numerous awards, including the 2008 Arthur C. Helton Fellowship from The American Society of International Law and the New York City Bar Association’s C. Bainbridge Smith Scholarship. She is a member of the New York City Bar Association and the American Bar Association. She received her B.A. from Syracuse University in 2003.

Lisa Kurbiel, J.D. 1992
Ms. Kurbiel is currently a Senior Social Policy Specialist at the United Nations’ Children’s Fund in Mozambique. She has worked for the UN system for over fifteen years, specializing in the development of human rights policies, programming and advocacy. She has expertise in the area of children’s rights and human trafficking. Before taking up her current position, she was a child protection officer responsible for child labor at UNICEF’s headquarters in New York. In this position, she handled support to the UNICEF Global Child Labor Program, focusing on UNICEF’s two regional offices in Africa. She is an active member of the National Association of Council for Children and serves on the board of Girls Education and Mentoring Service.

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