Passionate about fighting for social justice and educating people about their civil rights? Browse through our list of top-rated civil rights law jobs.
Throughout the history of fighting for civil rights in this country, the related laws have evolved and now protect individuals at the federal, state, and even local level.
Civil rights laws proclaim that all individuals should receive the same rights and equal treatment. They also prohibit discrimination in a number of different settings, including education, employment, housing, voting, and lending.
About Civil Rights Law Jobs
What exactly does a civil rights attorney do? This law practitioner’s job is to fight for the respect of the rights each individual holds as a citizen of a country. Individuals who have experienced a violation of their civil rights have the right to speak up about it and file a suit against the perpetrator. The victims can consult civil rights lawyers who then may be hired to help them right the wrong. Civil rights attorneys’ duty is to prove the infringement of rights did occur and try to secure monetary compensation for their clients in return.
It’s essential to learn how to distinguish between civil rights and human rights and the job of a civil rights lawyer vs. a human rights lawyer. While human rights represent the freedoms one is entitled to by being alive and are thus universal, inalienable, and inherent to all people, civil rights are the liberties a person obtains by being a citizen of a particular country. Even though there’s an overlap between these two categories of rights, here’s a rough breakdown:
- Human rights include the right to life, the right to a free trial, protection from torture and slavery, the right to education, and freedom of expression.
- Civil rights in the United States cover protection from unlawful discrimination in voting, employment, education, police services, housing, public accommodations and facilities, and federally funded programs, the right to equal protection, the right against self-incrimination, the right to due process, and the right to free speech.
What Do Civil Rights Lawyers Do?
Here’s a short civil rights law job description - these lawyers take on different types of cases in which civil rights of individuals have been violated and need to be defended according to the Constitution of the United States and the corresponding federal and state civil rights laws. For example, the job of a civil rights attorney may involve advocating for women’s rights, first amendment rights, voting rights, or disability rights. Attorneys may deal with cases involving various civil rights law violations or specialize in a certain type of civil rights.
A civil rights lawyer’s career involves spending a lot of time in the courtroom following procedures, making motions, and presenting cases with evidence and the conclusions that follow. However, there are many additional aspects to this job, such as doing in-depth research, meeting with clients in correctional institutions, interviewing victims and witnesses, filing legal briefs, filing legal appeals in courts of appeals at federal and state levels, conducting trial preparations, deciphering laws for individuals, organizations, and businesses, and negotiating settlements.
Different sets of duties come with different specializations civil rights law career seekers may decide to opt for. If they choose to specialize in the rights of a specific interest group - such as religious, disability, or women’s rights - civil rights lawyers’ job will be to make sure that all individuals belonging to a given group are treated fairly.
Other civil rights attorneys, however, may focus on just one major issue, amendment, or a bill such as voting and election rights, freedom of expression, privacy act, libel, the first amendment, or the eleventh amendment. Still, regardless of the specialization a law practitioner may pursue, all civil rights attorney jobs are about making sure that each citizen is treated justly and equally.
Civil rights lawyers mostly work on various levels in government institutions and private law firms to create, implement, or advocate for civil rights laws. Alternatively, these law practitioners do academic research or teach other aspiring attorneys. Given that there are quite a few ways to work in this field, it’s difficult to talk about a single type of work environment. Still, most civil rights lawyer jobs are office-bound and involve spending a lot of time in the courtroom.
Injuries and Illnesses
While a career devoted to fighting for civil rights isn’t dangerous in terms of exposure to physical injuries, one of the most common problems civil rights attorneys face is burnout. Helping people whose civil rights have been violated can be stressful and emotionally draining. However, if you are driven by defying social injustice, starting a civil rights law career on a short-term basis could be a good way to see if this field of law is for you.
Those thinking about starting a career in civil rights law would surely like to know how many hours these law practitioners put in every week. Typically, they have a 40-hour workweek. However, lawyers who work full-time in private law firms usually spend at least a few more hours conducting in-depth research and drafting legal documents to meet their clients’ demands.
How to Become a Civil Rights Lawyer
Before you can start applying for civil rights attorney jobs, you’ll need to go through several years of education, culminating in a Juris Doctor degree. While the law practitioner’s educational path is more or less the same for all lawyers, it also involves specialized training geared toward human and civil rights laws rather than areas such as criminal law. Much like with jobs in international law or environmental law, duties can vary greatly depending on the task at hand, meaning that there are plenty of fields of study and practice that an aspiring civil rights lawyer can go into.
Keep reading to learn more about not only educational requirements but also soft skills that’ll help you land any of the highly sought-after womens’, disability, or voting rights attorney jobs.