Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?
My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:
1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.
2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.
3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.
4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").
5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.
So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?