Learning Goals

Women and girls around the world currently suffer from many explicitly discriminatory laws and state failures to protect them from all forms of violence. The Clinic’s mission is straightforward: to educate students on how to advocate effectively for women’s human rights and to empower them to use international human rights law to make systemic changes for women and girls around the world.

Students will examine the human rights that are guaranteed by relevant international and regional treaties and their implementation in a State Party’s domestic legal system. Specifically, students will learn about the context and scope of relevant treaty rights, the incorporation of such rights in a country’s domestic laws or the failure to do so, and the mechanisms for review and enforcement of a country’s compliance with its international human rights treaty obligations. Most importantly, students will learn how to use a country’s international law commitments to promote legal change where human rights violations occur.

Throughout this process, students will build upon the fundamentals of lawyering that they learned in the core law school curriculum. In particular, students will develop their skills in legal research and writing, formulating legal arguments, anticipating and rebutting counterarguments, zealous advocacy, client interviewing and interviewing for fact-finding, oral arguments and public speaking, and overall professionalism.

Partnership and collaboration are key components to success in the IWHR Clinic; they are also what makes the Clinic experience stand out during your time at Georgetown Law. In addition to the substantive and technical legal skills you will learn in the Clinic, the experience will also give you ample opportunity to collaborate with others and enjoy the benefits of working on a team. Long-lasting friendships have been forged through being part of a team in the IWHR Clinic, as well as continuing mentorship and career guidance from Clinic faculty.

Seminar and Work Product

In the IWHR Clinic’s twice-weekly two-hour seminars, students study the host country’s or comparative thematic laws and their context, present drafts of their work in progress, critique each other’s work, and develop interviewing, researching, and oral and writing advocacy skills. Outside the classroom, supervisors work with individual students and teams to provide in-depth guidance on a variety of skills, from setting agendas, holding professional conferences, and interviewing to developing policy and law and persuading an intended audience.

During the semester, each student completes a minimum of three complete drafts of his or her Clinic project, which typically includes:

  • litigation papers, including a petition or notice of appeal, along with a supporting legal brief and affidavits in the Fall semester;
  • a legislative bill and supporting human rights report in the Spring semester; or
  • submissions to human rights bodies applying the relevant law and policy.

Spring Clinic students travel during spring break to the host country to conduct human rights fact-finding interviews.

Time Commitment

The average weekly time commitment for the Clinic is 35 hours per week. Because this is a significant time commitment, Clinic faculty urge you to carefully consider and limit – to the extent possible – your other time commitments during the semester you are in the Clinic. We require students in both the Fall and Spring semesters to return to school one week before the beginning of classes for a pre-semester orientation.

Application Process

The Clinic is open to J.D. students only. Students must have completed 30 credits by the beginning of the semester in which they are enrolled in the Clinic. Interested students must select the IWHR Clinic on the online application and submit an IWHR Clinic-specific statement of interest. More details about the application process can be found on the Clinic Eligibility and Registration page.

Selection Criteria

We select students on the basis of their statement of interest in the IWHR Clinic and demonstrated experience and/or interest in women’s human rights. Students who have not had any academic or professional experience in the area of women’s human rights will still be strong candidates if they convey their interest and enthusiasm for the subject area. We also give preference to students entering their final year of law school and to Global Law Scholars.

Prerequisites

To enroll in the IWHR Clinic, students must have already taken or be concurrently taking International and Comparative Law on Women’s Human Rights, taught by Professor Ross. This course teaches Clinic students the international, regional, and comparative human rights law they need to know to complete their Clinic projects. The course is offered in the Fall semester only.

For More Information

To find out more about the IWHR Clinic, interested students are encouraged to reach out to Professor Ross (ross@law.georgetown.edu) or Supervising Attorney & Teaching Fellow Catherine Cooper (catherine.cooper@georgetown.edu). In addition, please visit the Clinic Eligibility and Registration page for a video introduction to the Clinic. The Law Center also hosts an annual Clinic Open House in April.