Future of Human Rights Practicum

LW.12794 / LW.12661
Professor César Rodríguez-Garavito
Professor Arpitha Kodiveri
Open to 3L, 2L and LL.M. students
Maximum of 8 students
Not offered 2023-24
6 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.

Course Description


The traditional human rights paradigm is ill-equipped to deal with the simultaneity, speed, and depth of existential challenges to human rights, like climate change, technological disruption, geopolitical instability, polarization and deepening social inequalities. Against the despair of critics who announce that these challenges spell the “endtimes” of human rights and the defensiveness of traditional advocates who double down on conventional tactics, this course proposes new ideas and strategies for the next generation of human rights lawyers.

This course will examine the ongoing debates about the future of the field and delve into promising innovations that address the aforementioned challenges. Drawing on the instructor’s research and advocacy experience around the world, we will analyze case studies on various topics and regions, including: human rights-based litigation for climate action before national and international courts; new efforts to regulate global digital corporations and hold them accountable for human rights violations taking place in their platforms; innovative Indigenous and socioeconomic rights advocacy in the Global South; creative responses to anti-rights populist authoritarian narratives in Europe and the United States; and the emerging trend towards the recognition of non-human beings as rights holders.

The course highlights, among other themes, the need for human rights actors to learn from other disciplines, such as journalism, and how they have adapted to and seized new opportunities in an increasingly complex world. Furthermore, course readings and discussions will reflect the need to incorporate insights from other fields that have traditionally received scant attention in human rights, including: ecology, social psychology, systems thinking, and innovation studies.


An additional three-credit clinical option will be available for up to eight students in the seminar to develop cutting-edge professional skills and apply them to advocacy and litigation projects with human rights organizations around the world. Ongoing projects include: rights-based climate litigation in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia; research and advocacy with leading organizations advocating within the United Nations to promote international human rights as a means to counter the erosion of democracies around the world; advocacy and litigation against corporate actors driving the climate and biodiversity crises; and environmental justice and Indigenous rights advocacy and litigation in the Amazon and Caribbean regions. New projects on other topics of the seminar will emerge in response to requests from partner organizations and new opportunities for impact. In line with the approach of the seminar, students in the practicum will be involved in a range of activities that will prepare them to practice international human rights in a rapidly changing context, from collaborative fieldwork with impacted communities to strategic litigation to new forms of data gathering and communications enabled by digital technologies.

Clinical Credit Structure and Time Commitment Expected

Altogether, the clinic's seminar and fieldwork components amount to a total of six credits. This clinic is time-intensive. Students applying to the clinic should ensure that they are able to make a time commitment commensurate with the full credit load for the course.

Application Procedure

Students interested in applying for the Practicum should submit the standard application, resume, and transcript online through CAMS. Selected students may be contacted for an interview by the clinic assistant Isha Rodriguez. If you have questions about the course, please contact César Rodriguez-Garavito.

There is a separate application form for LL.M. students. Please use that form and submit it along with a resume and unofficial transcript to CAMS. The deadline is different than for JDs, and is posted on the Clinic Application Timelines page. Selected LL.M. students will be contacted for interviews in the summer as part of the selection process.

Student Contacts

Shruti Kannan (JD)
Jacob Metz-Lerman (JD)
Diana Roldan-McGinley (LL.M.)
Emily Stewart (JD)

* 6 credits include 3 clinical credits and 3 academic seminar credits.