New Local Human Rights Lawyering Project Selects
Legal Aid Partners in Maryland and Texas

Project aims to help organizations integrate human rights strategies into domestic legal work

Lauren Bartlett, Director, Local Human Rights Lawyering Project
office: (202) 895-4556, cell: (504) 343-2316,


WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012—American University Washington College of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law has selected Maryland Legal Aid and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid as founding Project Partners for its new Local Human Rights Lawyering Project. With funding from the Ford Foundation, the project will train, coach and mentor attorneys from both organizations to help them integrate human rights arguments and strategies into their daily work.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with two highly respected and creative legal aid organizations with such a deep dedication to human rights,” said Hadar Harris, the Center’s executive director. “The Local Human Rights Lawyering Project is the first of its kind to work directly with legal aid attorneys to help them incorporate human rights arguments, strategies, and methodologies into their work. At a time when legal aid agencies are under siege with significant budget cuts—and growing needs—this project will expand the tool box for legal aid attorneys to make compelling human rights-related arguments in U.S. courts.” 

“Legal aid attorneys fight every day to secure basic rights for the most vulnerable people in the U.S.—the poor, racial minorities, young people and immigrants,” said Project Director Lauren E. Bartlett. “Yet U.S. law often fails to provide a ‘floor’ of minimum protections for these marginalized individuals. The project aims to give these clients a voice and a ‘central place in the fight.’”

The Center received applications from more than ten interested legal aid organizations across the U.S. The Center selected Maryland Legal Aid and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid because of their proven experience in the field and their openness to innovation. As part of this two-year partnership, both programs will hire human rights coordinators to serve as “point people” on human rights issues in their offices. In addition, attorneys will participate in periodic trainings, consultations, ongoing mentoring, and specific litigation support supplied by the Center.

The project will also draw on the human rights expertise and extensive legal aid experience of its Advisory Board, which consists of leading legal aid attorneys and human rights experts from across the United States.

The project expands on nearly ten years of work by the Center promoting human rights law in the U.S. Through trainings, workshops, mentoring, and research, the Center seeks to enhance understanding of international law and its applications to domestic social justice work. The Center aims to bridge the disconnect between our nation’s promotion of human rights abroad and its recognition of international law and standards within the U.S. For more information, visit the Local Human Rights Lawyering Project website.


In 1896, American University Washington College of Law became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 100 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. The law school's nationally and internationally recognized programs (in clinical legal education, trial advocacy, international law, and intellectual property to name a few) and dedicated faculty provide its 1700 JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC and around the world. For more information, visit

The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law was established in 1990 to provide scholarship and support for human rights initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. The Center works with students, academics and practitioners to enhance the understanding and implementation of human rights and humanitarian law domestically, regionally and internationally. The Center explores emerging intersections in the law and seeks to create new tools and strategies for the creative advancement of international norms. For more information, visit