Learn about our cases and projects, the International Human Rights Clinic Seminar, and how Clinic students gain valuable lawyering knowledge and advocacy skills.
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Cases and Projects
The Clinic’s cases and projects vary from year to year. The Clinic is not limited in terms of the human rights issues it is prepared to work on; however, the docket is informed by four overarching goals:
- First, the Clinic seeks to engage in high impact work confronting some of the most serious human rights violations such as persecution, torture, slavery, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
- Second, the Clinic is committed to taking on human rights cases and projects both at home and abroad.
- Third, the Clinic seeks to get involved in work where students learn how to apply international law as a tool for social justice. The Clinic offers not only international human rights law expertise, but also advice on the applicability of related areas of international law such as international criminal law, humanitarian law and refugee law.
- Finally, the Clinic endeavors to expose students to a multi-faceted approach to human rights advocacy. As such, it may engage in work involving advocacy in a variety of legal proceedings: civil, criminal and administrative.
Beyond litigation, students may take on work that involves non-litigation strategies such as drafting strategic press releases; investigative fact-finding reports; policy impact papers informed by qualitative research; training manuals or legislative proposals. Furthermore, students may get involved in work that involves direct client interaction—representing individual survivors of human rights abuses directly in their claims for justice.
The Clinic is open to partnering with a wide variety of individuals and organizations such as: international and regional organizations; international courts and tribunals; non-governmental organizations or non-profit groups; academic institutions; think tanks; and law firms. For the Clinic, the most important goal is to make a substantial contribution where there is clear need. As such, Clinic students may travel to collaborate on-site with partners abroad.
Examples of the type of work in which Clinic students may engage include:
- collaborating with legal aid clinics in the global south to represent people forcibly displaced due to persecution or situations of mass violence;
- working on cases before international courts and tribunals involving accountability for serious human rights abuses such as torture, crimes against humanity and genocide;
- partnering with local activists on Alien Tort Statute litigation involving human rights claims;
- representing individuals detained indefinitely without due process and tortured as a result of counterterrorism policies; and
- advocating on behalf of victims of human trafficking and slavery.
Students in the Clinic work in teams under the supervision of Professor Hannah Garry and are asked, at the beginning of the academic year, to indicate their preferred cases/projects in the Clinic’s docket. While Professor Garry endeavors to place students according to their preference, this is not always guaranteed.
Students are requested to devote, on average, 20 hours per week to cases/project work. This time commitment includes weekly team meetings and supervision meetings with Professor Garry throughout the semester.
In addition to case/project work, Clinic students attend weekly seminars. The seminar component meets once a week for two hours to learn the substantive law, skills and rules of ethics and professional responsibility for engaging in the Clinic’s work. In the seminar, students: are exposed more broadly to the various litigation and non-litigation strategies for conducting human rights advocacy (monitoring/fact-finding; press releases; legislative proposals; report-writing, etc.); examine critically the strengths and weakness of the global human rights movement; lead class discussions on their cases/projects for group problem-solving and feedback; and reflect on their human rights lawyering experience in a structured context.
Knowledge and Skills
By participating in the Clinic, students obtain knowledge and skills applicable for international lawyering more generally in addition to human rights advocacy. These include how to effectively:
- understand and apply the theory of international law as it translates into practice;
- engage in persuasive legal advocacy before differing types of decision-makers in international and domestic fora;
- conduct efficient, rigorous international legal research and drafting;
- interact with a wide variety of actors involved in the enforcement of international law;
- communicate and work with lawyers and clients from diverse cultures, languages and legal systems; and
- address the ethical and logistical challenges of working across borders.
The Clinic is open to 2nd year, 3rd year and LLM law students, who must commit to participating in the clinic for a full academic year. Students are enrolled in the Clinic in the fall semester of each year following an application and interview process. This process is conducted during the spring semester of the previous academic year. There are no pre-requisites or co-requisites to the Clinic; however, prior or concurrent enrollment in a related International Law course (Public International Law, International Human Rights Law, etc.) is strongly encouraged. The Clinic fulfills the practical skills requirement and may fulfill the writing requirement subject to approval by Professor Garry. Students earn 5 credit units per semester.
If you are considering applying to the Clinic, be aware of the possibility of a scheduling conflict (course, employment, or externship). Because of case and project work demands, Clinic students who have significant or inflexible employment, externship or other USC Law clinic commitments will find it difficult to perform well in the Clinic. As such, students planning on engaging in these commitments while working in the Clinic probably should not apply to the Clinic. If this is an issue, please discuss this with Professor Garry.
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