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Where to start  

The range of organisations supporting access to justice, human rights and the application of law in the national and international public sector is extensive. Get some idea of which area would best match your skills, interests and values by reading the description of their mission and activities. They include law firms, legal aid, public sector organisations in the UK, public sector organisations internationally, intergovernmental organisations (including courts), NGOs, and research institutes.

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How to know if you’re suited to this sector

The pathways to practice in this area and the scope of additional qualifications is extensive. Finding examples from the real-life experience of others can act as a focal point to start your thinking.

Listen to the podcast of the experiences of the members of our Careers Panel Public Interest Law (including a solicitor, barrister and research fellow).

Follow recent developments using public law blogs. Public Law for Everyone and EJIL Blog are two examples, but find more for yourself and keep up to date.

How to get the experience to be credible

It would be useful to volunteer for one of the nationally recognised agencies such as Liberty or Amnesty.

If you are a student, there are many societies in which you could become active (Wilberforce Society, Cambridge University Amnesty International, Cambridge University Human Rights Law Society), and positions of responsibility within colleges (such as Welfare Officer) which demonstrate a set of values and interests that align with public interest legal careers.

Further study or certification required

Although an LLM (postgraduate law degree) or MPhil in areas such as human rights law or social policy is not required to qualify to practice, it may well be of interest and provide activities and experiences which will validate a career choice and strengthen an applicant’s profile. Many of these courses are listed on the Prospects website.

For roles in national and international organisations it is likely that a higher-level course of study or research will be the expectation and norm.

How to find employers or training courses

Research potentially interesting employers and search their websites for formal internship schemes and application deadlines. International roles can often be found advertised on the Idealist website.

If you are looking at courses in human rights and public international law to either inform or demonstrate an interest, the Coursera website hosts several free ones.

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Provide a motivational rationale balanced between having the appropriate skills and experience to match the role, evidence of interest in the work that is carried out, and a set of values that drive a vocational commitment. When writing cover letters or statements, bear in mind that it is easy come across as simply idealistic - you should also demonstrate some pragmatism.

The Allaboutlaw Academy has useful resources.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

You can draw on the support, guidance and career interests of an extensive spread of Cambridge alumni on LinkedIn. Once on the LinkedIn alumni pages, search either “Human Rights”, “Asylum” or “Public International Law” to see the contact details and complete career profiles of our graduates. This will be equally useful for identifying organisations to research and apply to.

If you find a relevant internship in this sector, the Careers Service Bursary scheme can offer some financial support.

Current vacancies, potential employers and relevant events can be found via Handshake.

You can also find Cambridge alumni to network with through Handshake's 'community' section.

Here are some resources on Handshake to help you get recruitment ready for legal careers.

Other things you should know

Follow key organisations such as the United Nations, UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee. You can do this within your LinkedIn profile, or by simply bookmarking the organisational websites.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: