How do I Become a Civil Rights Attorney?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

A civil rights attorney defends those who have been discriminated against for a wide range of possible reasons, including such factors as race, sex, and socioeconomic status. If you would like to become a civil rights attorney, you must successfully complete law school, ideally at an institution which emphasizes knowledge of civil rights. Then, you must pass any licensing exams required by your state or country in order to practice law. Before you begin practicing as an attorney, you may also wish to complete one or more internships at organizations which provide legal counsel to victims of discrimination.

To become a civil rights attorney, you must first complete law school. Depending upon which country you live in, you may be eligible to begin a law program immediately after finishing high school, or you may have to first complete an undergraduate degree. If you are required to complete an undergraduate degree first, as is the case in the US, consider majoring in a subject which will broaden your knowledge of civil rights policy and history in your country. History, sociology, or political science may be useful majors. Toward the end of your undergraduate education, you will likely need to take an entrance exam and complete an extensive application process to gain admission to law school.

Whether your law studies begin after high school or after you have earned an undergraduate degree, in order to become a civil rights attorney you should aim to attend an institution which emphasizes the study of civil rights issues. If you are uncertain which institutions emphasize civil rights, try speaking to a pre-law counselor at your current school or to representatives from the schools to which you are thinking of applying. Once you have begun your studies, try to take classes which will help you understand how the laws of your country can be used to protect civil rights.

Before you become a civil rights attorney, you may wish to complete one or more internships at organizations which provide legal services to victims of discrimination. You might, for instance, spend a summer working at a nonprofit organization which provides legal advocacy to the poor or to immigrants. This type of experience can give you a firsthand glimpse into the world of civil rights law, and can also help you establish a network of professional contacts.

Once you have completed your education and gained some work experience, you will be nearly ready to become a civil rights attorney. Before you can begin practicing law, however, you usually must pass a licensing exam. Licensing requirements vary depending on which state or country you live in. If you are uncertain about licensing requirements in your region, try consulting the website of your state or country’s bar association.

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