Research Scholar (Postdoc) Position

The Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law advances legal empowerment through participatory research, education, and advocacy. Legal Empowerment is a human rights-based methodology that centers people in their own fight for justice, and creates opportunities for people to “know, use, and shape” the laws that impact their lives.

The Institute is thrilled to announce a Research Scholar (Postdoc) position to deepen and expand the Institute’s legal empowerment learning and research initiatives. In particular, the Research Scholar (Postdoc) will be dedicated to the Institute’s efforts to drive grassroots engagement in research and learning and partner with grassroots organizations to co-design and co-lead participatory legal empowerment research. The initiatives aim to open up democratic forms of inquiry to explore what works, what matters, and what’s needed to achieve justice from the bottom-up.

The initial appointment will be for one year, with possibility of renewal for one year.

About the Position

The Research Scholar (Postdoc) will build upon the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights’ cutting-edge legal empowerment research and learning efforts, and play a central role in leading and coordinating the Institute’s research activities. These include the Legal Empowerment Learning Lab - a groundbreaking, immersive learning workshop for grassroots legal empowerment practitioners and academics on participatory research methods. Other initiatives include collaborating with grassroots partners to co-design, co-lead, and/or advise on the design and implementation of participatory research project(s) on legal empowerment. The Researcher will be expected to engage in scholarship and writing projects that contribute to the knowledge and evidence base on legal empowerment and participatory research.

We seek a dynamic individual with exceptional judgment, strong research, writing, and collaboration skills, and a demonstrated passion for grassroots justice.

Primary duties include:

  • Co-lead the Institute’s existing research and learning activities including the inaugural Legal Empowerment Learning Lab, engagement in a Shared Learning Agenda for the global legal empowerment field, and in-house participatory research projects.
  • Play a dynamic and leading role in the co-design and co-execution of at least one new participatory research project on legal empowerment, a role that involves strategic thinking, rigorous research, writing and analysis, and an ability to collaborate effectively across a wide range of partners including grassroots organizations, practitioners, and academics.
  • Engage in scholarship and writing projects that contribute to knowledge and evidence base on legal empowerment and participatory research.
  • Support the Institute’s role in advancing legal empowerment learning efforts, including the Legal Empowerment Leadership Course co-convened with international partners Namati and Open Society Justice Initiative, among others.
  • Supervise research assistants and interns.
  • Assist in communications efforts linked to research and learning.
  • Seek out and prepare proposals for funding to support the Institute’s participatory research work.


  • PhD in a social sciences area such as anthropology, sociology, education, political science, or public policy, ideally with research and publications focused on an area relevant to empowerment, access to justice, social justice, and/or human rights
  • Strong record for developing and implementing participatory research projects
  • Experience using participatory methodologies
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Demonstrated management, administrative, and organizational skills
  • Deep commitment to human rights and social justice
  • Experience working with–and being accountable to–grassroots communities advancing human rights

Evidence of the following will be especially helpful:

  • Knowledge of human rights law, mechanisms, or concepts
  • Strong initiative coupled with sound judgment
  • Experience puzzling through difficult strategic, ethical, and/or legal challenges related to human rights, access to justice, or inequality
  • Ability to conduct multifaceted work with multi-national and/or multi-lingual teams
  • Capacity to work in high-pressure, low-resource, time-stressed environments
  • Experience with or ability to effectively oversee and manage work with interns and administrative personnel

To apply:

Applicant should submit:

  1. a cover letter addressing the qualifications described above;
  2. a curriculum vitae, including relevant publications;
  3. the names and contact information for three referees.

Submit these materials to:, with subject “Research Scholar (Postdoc) Position” in the subject line of the email.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Position is for applicants who have work authorization in the United States.

Salary, Benefits, and Commitment to Diversity:

Salary is $70,000 plus excellent NYU benefits, which include medical, dental and vision.

NYU is an Equal Opportunity Employer and is committed to a policy of equal treatment and opportunity in every aspect of its recruitment and hiring process without regard to age, alienage, caregiver status, childbirth, citizenship status, color, creed, disability, domestic violence victim status, ethnicity, familial status, gender and/or gender identity or expression, marital status, military status, national origin, parental status, partnership status, predisposing genetic characteristics, pregnancy, race, religion, reproductive health decision making, sex, sexual orientation, unemployment status, veteran status, or any other legally protected basis. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.