Local Human Rights Lawyering Project

In 2011, the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law created the Local Human Rights Lawyering (LHRL) Project, an initiative funded by the Ford Foundation that aimed to normalize international human rights law at the local level by incorporating the use of the international human rights framework into the everyday work of legal aid attorneys in the U.S. The Project was the first of its kind, providing training, coaching, and resources to experienced legal aid attorneys—at Maryland Legal Aid (MDLAB) and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid — to use the human rights law framework and integrate human rights arguments into advocacy before judges and policy makers to expand protections for the most vulnerable persons in the U.S. It also expanded on nearly ten years of work by the Center promoting human rights law in the U.S. through trainings, workshops, conferences, mentoring, and research.

Directed by AUWCL alumna Lauren Bartlett, the Project had significant impact working with legal aid attorneys and other public interest advocates across the U.S. to transform the way that human rights are understood and incorporated into the practice of law at the most local level. Among the Project’s many successes are: the training of more than 1600 attorneys across the U.S. through in-person meetings and webinars; the first-ever filing of a joint legal aid complaint to a UN Special Procedure; the expanded use of human rights arguments in legal aid cases in local courts and before policymakers; and the first-of-its-kind civil society human rights consultation with the United States Government on Access to Justice.


The Project also developed the groundbreaking Human Rights in the U.S. Handbook for Legal Aid Attorneys, which aimed to get practical, and useable human rights information into the hands legal aid attorneys interested in integrating human rights into their everyday work. In February 2014, the Public Welfare Foundation provided funding to support the creation of a new section of the Project’s handbook on the Right to Counsel and a complementary trainings webinar on the topic.

For more information about this project or the Center’s work on promoting human rights in the U.S., please contact humlaw@wcl.american.edu