Civil and Human Rights Law Clinic

Students in the Civil and Human Rights Law (CHRL) Clinic are introduced to the professional practice of law in the cross-cultural context of international human rights advocacy. They bridge theory and practice by working on live case projects that address a range of contemporary issues in the human rights field. Many clinic students engage in research and advocacy on leading international human rights issues. Other student-attorneys partner with experienced lawyers engaged in human rights-based litigation or advocacy to provide pro bono legal services to victims of such abuses in the United States and abroad. In some cases, students may represent clients directly in litigation or related advocacy matters.

The CHRL Clinic students are immersed in the practice of international human rights law and advocacy. They are responsible for carrying out a wide range of professional activities under close faculty supervision. Most student-attorneys engage in research and advocacy projects designed to promote human rights through innovative engagement with cutting-edge issues in international law. A perfect example is the Clinic’s collaboration with Global Action on Gun Violence (GAGV), a non-profit seeking to improve international responses to gun violence and trafficking. Another area of primary focus is digital rights in the United States and abroad. Students work at the intersection of information and communication technologies (ICT) and international law on human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) issues, where they explore the legal implications of the operations of internet and telecommunication companies, including in conflict settings and other high-risk areas. At the same time, Clinic students represent clients locally in civil rights cases brought under the DC Human Rights Act for various forms of discrimination. Finally, students get the opportunity to further participate and hone their professional profiles through a series of client representation simulations designed to develop interviewing and counseling skills.

Contact Us

The George Washington University Law School
Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics
Civil and Human Rights Law Clinic
2000 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20052


Arturo J. Carrillo

Information for Students

Why should I take this Clinic?

The CHRL Clinic teaches students professional skills as they contribute to the advancement of civil and human rights in the United States and abroad. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the practice of law in the context of international and domestic human and civil rights advocacy. It focuses on developing basic lawyering skills like client interviewing and counseling that are transferable to practice in any field of law. At the same time, students get the opportunity to further hone their legal research, writing and advocacy capabilities. They learn to be highly competent, reflective legal practitioners through their work in the classroom and on simulations, as well as through their role in live cases and projects. Students collaborate with experienced civil and human rights activists engaged in ongoing litigation, advocacy, and research.

What does the CHRL Clinic Docket look like?

The Docket is composed of live cases and projects involving research, advocacy and/or litigation to advance human rights. We often partner with domestic and international non-governmental organizations to address vanguard issues arising under international law. One such partner is Article 19, a U.K.-based NGO dedicated to promoting freedom of expression online, to whom Clinic students provide research and advocacy support at the intersection of technology and human rights. Another project involves partnering with Global Action on Gun Violence, an NGO created to use international law and relations to combat gun trafficking and violence in and outside the United States. The clinic's domestic agenda is dedicated to promoting civil rights in the District of Columbia in partnership with local counsel. In this respect, current and future clinic activities include fact-finding and reporting on human rights abuses in the District, as well legal representation of pro se litigants before the D.C. Office and Commission of Human Rights, and in Superior Court. Never a dull moment!

How do I apply and how can I improve my chances of being accepted?

If this Clinic sounds like your thing and you meet the admission criteria described herein (i.e. you are a 2L or 3L who has taken International Law and are not signed up for more than 14 credits next semester or outside placement or work), just fill out and submit the Uniform Clinic Application on the Law School's student portal website (it’s under “Clinics”). If this Clinic is your preference, make sure to rank it first (otherwise the chances of being admitted decrease significantly). Make sure you take the time to answer the essay questions carefully to help us learn more about you. Of course, preference must be given to 3Ls but qualified 2Ls are encouraged to apply for the spring semester. If space permits, we may admit qualified LLM students as well. Feel free to contact the Clinic Director, Arturo Carrillo, at any time should you have any questions. Professor Carrillo can be reached at [email protected].

Seminar & Faculty Supervision

All Clinic students are required to attend at least one weekly two-hour seminar. The weekly seminars are generally made up of interactive lectures and/or student case round presentations coupled with challenging exercises. Student-driven learning is an important part of the classroom dynamic: you will be asked to lead discussions as part of in-class exercises, problem sets and case project rounds. The in-class exercises will focus on the legal content and strategies needed to build a civil/human rights case, as well as on the specialized methodologies developed for lawyers conducting client interviews and counseling sessions. The seminar component of the course is designed to provide you with the frameworks necessary to carry out the assigned exercises and simulations, as well as to support your work on the live case projects assigned. Occasional supplementary seminars will cover more specialized subjects, such as advanced legal writing.

Time Commitment

You can only sign up for 6 credits, so make sure you leave room in your schedule! You will not want to overcommit with other classes and activities during the semester you take the Clinic. (See next question.) As a rule, you will be required to work an average of 20 hours a week, at a minimum. Keep in mind that, as in private practice, you may be required to keep track of your hours. Your time for the Clinic will be divided among a range of activities centered on the weekly seminar classes and the Docket work, which is more or less constant, and the simulations. Aside from seminars, there is some flexibility in the scheduling of the simulations and Docket-related meetings.

Clinic is a big commitment of your time and energy. You want to make sure you leave plenty of space in your schedule to accommodate it: experience has shown that students tend to underestimate what Clinic participation requires, and overestimate their own time-management abilities, which makes it more difficult than necessary for everyone. You don’t want that!

Accordingly, we require that you not take more than 13-14 credits total while participating in this course, and strongly recommend that you not hold any Law School or outside work position at the same time, especially for-credit outside placements. If you are interested in the Clinic but plan to take 14 or more credits, or plan on carrying substantial work responsibilities at or outside the Law School at the same time, please contact Prof. Carrillo to determine whether it makes sense for you to apply.

Arturo Carrillo

About Professor Arturo J. Carrillo

Professor Arturo J. Carrillo, Clinical Professor of Law and founding Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, now the Civil and Human Rights Law Clinic. Before joining GW Law School in 2003, Professor Carrillo served as the acting director of the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, where he was also a Lecturer-in-Law and the Henkin Senior Fellow with Columbia’s Human Rights Institute. Prior to entering the academy, Professor Carrillo worked as a legal advisor on human rights for the United Nations, as well as for nongovernmental organizations in his native Colombia. Professor Carrillo's research and advocacy focus on the intersection of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and international law, especially human rights, with an emphasis on the promotion of Internet freedom principles worldwide. His current academic work centers on the protection of digital rights in the context of armed conflict.