Human Rights Fellowship Opportunities for LLMs

Fellowship programs can be a fantastic resource for students pursuing their LLM degrees in the U.S. They can be a great way to not only fund your study, but also to kick-start your career in your chosen field. While a full or partial tuition scholarship is often a major component of a fellowship, a fellowship differs from a scholarship in that it typically also funds an additional component to study, such as an internship or professional placement or research project. Some fellowships, in fact, are purely for postgraduate placements after a student has already received his or her degree. Fellowships also usually cover or contribute to additional expenses, such as living and travel costs. There are two major types of fellowships that LLM students can take advantage of. Many law schools offer school-specific fellowships to support foreign law graduates’ study in their particular LLM programs, while institutional fellowships are sponsored by a supporting organization to be directed toward research or study with a collaborating institution usually chosen and arranged by the student. The funds of a fellowship can also be directed in a more broad fashion, towards education, an internship or a professional placement, typically with a significant study or research component.


LLM Fellowships are offered in just about as many areas as there are LLM degrees and programs offered. This is the first of a multi-part series on fellowship opportunities for LLM students in various academic and professional fields. This post will focus on fellowships for LLM students pursuing study and careers in human rights. Stay tuned for our next post.

Law School LLM Human Rights Fellowships

The following law schools offer fellowships to LLM students in or applicants to their own programs. To learn more about the application procedures and deadlines for each fellowship program, please visit the individual school and program websites.

Columbia LLM Human Rights Fellowship

Columbia Law School offers a Human Rights LLM Fellowship for students in its LLM program who have a commitment to the field of human rights and plan to pursue a career in scholarship and advocacy in the field. The fellowship contributes to the costs of tuition, room, and board, and, though Columbia Law School does not have a specialized LLM in Human Rights program, fellows are highly encouraged to tailor their course of study to focus on human rights. Fellows also must participate in the Columbia Law Human Rights Workshop, which allows students to engage in intellectual debate, discussion, and collaborative problem-solving in human rights law theory and practice with their peers, and to pursue scholarly research and publication. Typically, successful applicants have two years of experience working or studying in the human rights field.

Columbia Law School also offers additional human rights fellowships to all of its law graduates, including the Landesa Women’s Land Rights Fellowship, which is a two-year placement with land rights organization Landesa Rural Development Institute in Seattle but including fieldwork in developing countries, and the David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship, which sponsors a one-year placement with a human rights organization in an academic, legal practice, governmental, intergovernmental, or nongovernmental capacity in the U.S. or abroad.

Harvard LLM Human Rights Fellowships

Harvard Law School offers the following fellowships for students pursuing its LLM Human Rights concentration.

  • Henigson Human Rights Fellowship: This fellowship sponsors a one-year internship placement and research project with an NGO in a developing country. A maximum of $22,000 is awarded based on the merit of the applicant and of the project proposal.
  • Satter Human Rights Fellowship: This fellowship awards a maximum amount of $22,000 to applicants who wish to work with human rights defense organizations (governmental, intergovernmental, or nongovernmental) in countries suffering from severe human rights violations that are classified “Not Free” by the Freedom House Index. The fellowships sponsor work in situations where mass atrocity, widespread human rights violations and crimes against humanity have occurred or are are occurring in cases of authoritarian and oppressive leaders and regimes, failed states, civil conflict, or transition out of severe cases of the prior two.
  • HRP Global Human Rights Fellowship: This fellowship allows LLM graduates to work with an NGO, intergovernmental, or governmental organization abroad for 12 months. Funding amounts depend on applicant proposals.
  • Visiting Fellows: This fellowship is for scholars or activists in human rights to spend one semester to a full academic year in residence at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program completing research and writing on a human rights topic. Fellows can also audit courses and participate in the Human Rights Program Fellows Colloquium. However, while the program provides Fellows with office space and library access free of charge, it does not typically provide financial support or help with living expenses, except in instances where a student from the developing world may not be able to afford to come to the program without financial aid.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship: This fellowship sponsors Visiting Fellows in the Human Rights program from countries with low or middle incomes.

NYU International Human Rights Fellowship

Since 2002, NYU Law School has offered the International Human Rights Fellowshipthrough its Center for Human Rights and Global Justice in conjunction with its Institute for International Law and Justice for its law students, including second-year LLM students. The Fellowship is made up of three parts: training, research, and fieldwork. Training includes international law seminars in relation to Fellows’ internships; for instance, students who intern with the International Law Commission take a 2-credit spring seminar on the ILC. For the research component, fellows come up with a topic relating to issues of transitional justice, human rights, or international law under the supervision of a faculty member and complete a research project on the chosen topic. Lastly, students must complete a ten- to twelve-week summer internship with a placement they have applied for and received. The internship must include significant fieldwork, ranging from drafting policy papers to conducting legal research and interacting with clients or carrying out a domestic campaign. Past internship placements for NYU International Law Fellows have included the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust in Dhaka, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel in Jerusalem, the United Nations International Law Commission in Geneva, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in Nairobi.

UCLA Sonke Health & Human Rights Fellowship

UCLA Law partners with the Sonke Gender Justice Network to offer the unique UCLA Sonke Health & Human Rights fellowship program for South African law school graduates whose career goals focus on the advancement of gender equality, health, human rights, and HIV prevention in South Africa. The program was founded in 2011 and sponsors tuition in full, as well as partial support for living and travel costs for South African students to study at the UCLA Law LLM program. The academic component of the Fellowship includes enrollment in courses at the UCLA David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, a , and the course Human Rights and Sexual Politics, in which students collaborate with medicine and public health students, pursue research and advocacy for Sonke, and write a significant research paper on issues of health, human rights, and gender inequality in South Africa. After completing the degree, students can apply for a one-year fellowship placement with Sonke in Cape Town or Johannesburg to undertake innovative research into how gender inequality dynamics play into HIV’s spread, and must certify that they will return to Africa to pursue public interest careers tackling the issues they have studied in relation to their degrees.

Institutional LLM Human Rights Fellowships

LLM students are eligible to apply for the following institutional fellowships for human rights. To learn more about the application procedures and deadlines for each fellowship, please click on the links provided below.

Arthur C. Helton Fellowship

The Arthur C. Helton Fellowship is offered by the American Society of International Law. The Fellowship was founded in 2004 to honor ASIL member Arthur C. Helton, who was killed in a Baghdad bombing in 2003, which also killed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello and 20 other people. The Helton Fellowship sponsors fieldwork and research by law students and young professionals in the areas of human rights, humanitarian affairs, and international law with “micro-grants.” Projects are undertaken in collaboration with an NGO, educational institution, or other international organization. Applicants for the Helton Fellowship are expected to find their own organizational sponsorship, while the micro-grant funds help with ancillary expenses such as housing, living, and logistical costs.

Jose Siderman Human Rights Fellowship for Argentine Lawyers

The Fulbright Commission in Argentina awards the Jose Siderman Human Rights Fellowship for Argentine Lawyers to a law graduate from Argentina to come to Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles to complete the LLM Civil Liberties and Human Rights or Advocacy. In addition, after nine months of study, the fellowship includes a three-month externship at a civil rights organization. Fellows are fully covered for full tuition, round-trip airfare to California and back to Argentina, and health insurance, and receive stipends for books and living expenses. They are expected to return to Argentina to dedicate their careers to improving the situation of human rights in the country. The fellowship is named after Jose Siderman, a businessman who was kidnapped, tortured, and exiled during the period of “dirty war” under a military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and 80s, and subsequently won a 16-year-long civil rights case in California with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Finberg Fellowship for International Human Rights

The Alan R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellowship allows law graduates to work full-time for one year at the Human Rights Watch in New York or Washington, DC. During the year, fellows will conduct intensive research and advocacy and will be paid a salary of $55,000, with benefits. Work done as part of the fellowship may include monitoring human rights situations in particular countries, strategizing advocacy and media outreach efforts to bring attention to human rights violations, writing reports on human rights conditions, and carrying out on-site investigations. This fellowship is unrestricted, which means that LLMs from any institution are eligible to apply.