Who We Are

The Bernstein Institute for Human Rights is a center at NYU Law committed to challenging legal systems that exclude, marginalize, and oppress.  We are a dynamic team of activists, students, researchers and lawyers who envision a world where the law is rooted in human rights, legal systems are equitable and accessible to all people, and lawyers work in partnership with communities to help them build power and advance justice. We are the only U.S. legal academic center dedicated to advancing research, education, and advocacy on legal empowerment in the United States and globally.

How We Work:

We believe that the practice of law can and should be rooted in dignity and care. This belief guides all the work we engage in and informs our approach to training the next generation of lawyers to be partners and allies, instead of  “experts.” We co-create research that respects the lived experience and expertise of affected communities, and bridge the gap between those with and without power in the current legal system by centering the voices and expertise of those seeking justice in all of our work. We are committed to supporting a global network of legal empowerment practitioners through convenings, courses, symposia, and research workshops.

Why Legal Empowerment?:

We believe that  communities and individuals seeking justice should lead their fight. Legal empowerment means that individuals and communities are able to know, use and shape the laws that affect their lives. Through this process, legal systems will be transformed into just systems which are responsive to the needs of communities. Legal empowerment takes many forms, including community paralegal programs, community driven campaigns, popular education efforts, and community-driven litigation.