Rightslink is a student-led organization at Columbia Law School in New York City that connects talented and enthusiastic law students with domestic and international human rights and/or public interest organizations that lack either the financial and technical capacity or the political freedom to conduct their own research. Research projects are mutually beneficial for students and partner organizations – students gain valuable experience and credit towards their graduation requirements, while organizations receive free assistance on important research priorities.
Rightslink’s student researchers are able to respond to a wide range of research requests utilizing both online resources and Columbia Law School’s extensive library holdings; with more than a million volumes and subscriptions to more than 7,450 journals, Columbia’s Diamond Law Library ranks among the best libraries in the world. Research projects may involve tracking down, evaluating, or supplementing human rights reports, statutes, treaties, or case law or other legal materials. For example, organizations working on domestic violence laws or employment discrimination in the United States may find it helpful to reference comparative analyses of analogous frameworks in other countries. Rightslink can also provide more in-depth research exploring potential avenues for human rights activism or litigation on specific issues. Please note, however, that Rightslink is unable to provide legal advice.
Rightslink students have partnered with a variety of organizations across the world to work on a wide range of issues. Projects that students in Rightslink’s research program have previously worked on include:
- Researching the legal culpability of doctors who collaborated with Brazil’s military regime.
- Analyzing India’s legal framework for anti-HIV discrimination, assisting Rightslink’s partner organization with representation of Indian AIDS patients.
- Compiling information about Eastern European criminal justice systems, assisting Roma plaintiffs in bringing their cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
- Analyzing alternative methods of refugee resettlement to support the resettlement of and advocacy for refugees in Cairo, Egypt.
Rightslink students are open to working on a variety of different types of projects. However, we have found that several characteristics of projects are best suited for both our students and partner organizations:
- Don’t require a high degree of supervision from the host organization.
- If the project is large, it should be easy for either Rightslink or the host organization to delineate different assignments among students.
Flexible deadlines are key, particularly at the end of the semester (November/December for fall semester; April/May for spring semester).
- Many of our students have an interest in working in human rights but may have little experience in particular issues, so we generally ask for projects without a large amount of specialized experience or context-specific knowledge.
- Finally, in order for students to receive pro bono credit for the projects, they must at least tangentially relate to some legal aspect of human rights.
Incoming research requests are directed to Rightslink’s Research Supervisors for their selection based on interest and expertise. Once your request has been selected, the relevant Supervisor will assemble a research team and contact you to discuss your project’s turnaround time. Research team members will work in consultation with and present their findings to their Supervisor, who will typically write a memorandum summarizing the results of the research and send it to you along with relevant supporting documents. Please note that depending on the size and complexity of your request, it may take from one to several weeks to process it and to return the results.