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Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

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Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by Admin on Sun 20 May 2018, 09:55

Wondering why they decided to write this? Oh well.


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Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Clooney is one of the most famous women in the world, but to understand what she actually does, we turned to the experts.



MARCH 29, 2017 4:30 PM



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By Jean-christophe Bott/Epa/Rex/Shutterstock.


Most celebrity humanitarians—including Bono, Oprah, and Angelina Jolie—were famous before they were advocates. Not so for Amal Clooney. She went from a respected international human-rights lawyer to one of the planet’s most recognizable faces when she married a certain Oscar-winning George in September 2014. While the elevated public profile hampers how well she can keep some facts private (like that she’s expecting twins), it has improved her ability to call attention to marginalized groups, one of the most essential aspects of her job. Thanks to Clooney, even tabloids on either side of the pond now report on the Yazidi women who have been kidnapped, raped, and enslaved at the hands of ISIL.

Clooney has talked about the positive and negative aspects of her newfound fame. She recently told Fiona Bruce on BBC News at Six, “There is lots of my work that takes place behind closed doors that is not ever seen. I think if there are more people who now understand what’s happening about the Yazidis and ISIS, and if there can be some action that results from that, that can help those clients, then I think it’s a really good thing to give that case the extra publicity that it may get.”

But with so much of her work now filtered through tabloids, which are famously more concerned with her clothing than with her clients, it can be hard for readers to follow what happens. What does an international human rights lawyer do, and how is it different from the work of other lawyers both on TV and in real life? Vanity Fairspoke to several international human-rights lawyers to gain insight into their work and shed light on what Amal Clooney might do on a day-to-day basis.

“I think human-rights lawyers for a long time were thought of kind of like the hippie aspect of lawyers,” said Sara Elizabeth Dill, the director of criminal justice standards and policy at the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C. Dill has been aiding those hit by President Trump’s travel ban. Clooney and others, in Dill’s opinion, have brought “a level of professionalism and accomplishment” to the role. Since Clooney “came on the scene,” international human-rights lawyer Hilary Stauffer, who works at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said interest in her own work has spiked “100 percent.”

Since 2010, Clooney has been employed by Britain’s Doughty Street Chambers, where she specializes in public international law, international criminal law, and human rights. Previously, she worked as a defense attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, where she helped to represent former Enron executives and other corporate clients.

Clooney is well known in her field for not only defending government leaders who’ve gone to prison but also for advocating on behalf of neglected and exploited groups. “If you are a lawyer and you want to take on easier cases, you can prosecute traffic violations or something. You’d have a very high rate of success, and you probably could sleep more easily at night. But that’s not what drives me. I want to work on cases that I feel the most passionate about,” she said in an interview with NBC in January 2016.

Clooney detailed the human-rights violations suffered by 6,700 Yazidi women during her first U.N. appearance in November. Around that time, she and George founded the Clooney Foundation for Justice, where they serve as co-presidents. In addition, she has also been a visiting professor at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute.

As an international criminal lawyer, Clooney has defended government leaders who’ve been removed from power, including former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed. Some of Clooney’s more contentious clients have included the dictatorial King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa; Abdullah al Senussi, former intelligence chief to the late Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi; and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“There really is no average day,” said Juliet S. Sorensen, Harry R. Horrow professor of international Law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, and an associate of the school’s Center for International Human Rights. An international human-rights lawyer could be anywhere on the globe on a given day; ithey are constantly reading news to stay informed about where help might be needed. They meet with or take phone calls from people seeking assistance. Much of the job entails research and writing, but there is also immediate crisis response, such as helping procure food and medical attention for those in the area of the crisis.

“It’s almost social work, where you’re getting people psychological care; you’re helping people find housing. I’ve had to buy clients clothes from time to time,” said Dill. “You’re working with the most vulnerable populations in the world,” she continued, adding that oftentimes “they have no family, they have no support group, they’ve had to flee with the clothes on their backs, or everything they have is destroyed.”

For example, Clooney advised former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the plight of Syria, where a civil war has waged for the past six years (in January 2017, the U.N. announced that there were nearly 4.9 million registered Syrian refugees). When Clooney was just a toddler, her own family fled her native Lebanon during its civil war, eventually settling in England.
Evidence-gathering fieldwork involves locating victims and witnesses, conducting interviews and taking photographs. “Archiv[ing] the violations and abuses . . . is the only way you can achieve justice,” said Roueida El Hage, head of office of human rights in Kurdistan, Ninewa, and Kirkuk at the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq. The job can also be quite physical.

Lawyers will also enlist help from local community-based partners. “They will know the context and they’ll know the local law,” Bernstein Institute faculty director Margaret Satterthwaite, who is also a clinical professor at New York University’s Global Justice Clinic, said. According to Dill, “Providing testimony, lobbying Congress, working with other countries in terms of rule of law development, training judges and prosecutors and politicians” can all come into play, along with the nonstop task of educating the public.

Lengthy court cases “may not necessarily be the right way to get the result that you want,” said Stauffer, noting that most human rights lawyers don’t spend too much time before judges. “Most of the time you don’t win your cases, actually,” Sukti Dhital, deputy director of the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law, said. “But you get these small victories that kind of propel you to keep going.”

Defending the Armenian people, Clooney lost a case in the European Court of Human Rights in October 2015. There she challenged a Turkish politician who classified the 1915 Armenian genocide as an “international lie.” “The most important error made by the court below is that it casts doubt on the reality of the Armenian genocide that the people suffered a hundred years ago,” Clooney said. “The lower court reached its conclusions that the genocide was not proved or even provable without using any of the fact-gathering tools available to it.” Despite her arguments, his right to deny the massacre was upheld.

Satterthwaite added that a career of regularly confronting atrocities puts human-rights lawyers at risk of suffering “vicarious trauma.” “It is stressful, it is emotional, it is heartbreaking,” El Hage said.

The desire to serve, an enjoyment of public speaking, an analytical mind, creativity, and resilience were cited as characteristics international human-rights lawyers tend to possess. But Satterthwaite said that how a person responds to the Greek myth of Sisyphus—who spent eternity pushing a boulder uphill—is key.

“People who listen to that story and find it inspiring, not depressing” are best suited for this line of work, Satterthwaite said. Human rights lawyers, in Dill’s words, “look at the most horrific situations and see hope, and believe in the goodness of people.” Yet their greatest hope of all is for a future that renders their job obsolete.
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by annemarie on Sun 20 May 2018, 12:37

It is nice too finally have a clear understanding of what she does.

I have seen where it is written she hasn't won any or many cases. The article explains

how she isn't going to win and it's little wins that matter. I can see how it is a stressful  and time consuming

job. It also shows that just because we don't see her in court she is still working basically away from

the public eye.

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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by lelacorb on Sun 20 May 2018, 13:51

One of the most famous women in the world? maybe only after she married George Clooney! The famous woman was not even recognized at the entrance to the Royals wedding party! Very Happy
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by Admin on Mon 21 May 2018, 08:26

annemarie wrote:It is nice too finally have a clear understanding of what she does.

I have seen where it is written she hasn't won any or many cases. The article explains

how she isn't going to win and it's little wins that matter. I can see how it is a stressful  and time consuming

job. It also shows that just because we don't see her in court she is still working basically away from

the public eye.
Yeah.  I think a lot of people still think she's like a normal lawyer you'd see on tv - who has to be in court all the time, presenting cases before a judge. I think 90% of what she does doesn't even go to court.  Now she's senior and can choose her cases, I'd say most of them are largely unwinnable in a conventional sense.
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by carolhathaway on Mon 21 May 2018, 09:23

Yes, and her cases get a lot of attention. So, if you have a case you want to be recognized, try to hire her. If you think about the Armenian genozude, that's something we knew about (at least in Europe, and esp since Armenia is an own country now and not part if the former USSR anymore). But you just knew about it if you were interested in history.
And though I'm very interested in this issue, I still didn't know that lawyers can specialize in human rights law and had never heard of Geoffrey Robertson and others. 

For me it's also obvious that her cases aren't easy to win. I've written it before: When you set a trial vs a government or a country, it's mostly about compromizing, since they don't want to lose face and power. And that's diplomacy, nothing bad about that...
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by party animal - not! on Mon 21 May 2018, 12:56

Necessary once in a while, cos people mostly don't have a clue and feel free to criticise and regard her simply as a clothes horse. 

 Interesting that it was in a fashion magazine

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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by Admin on Thu 24 May 2018, 19:10



A little out of date.
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by Joanna on Sat 26 May 2018, 16:56

lelacorb wrote:One of the most famous women in the world? maybe only after she married George Clooney! The famous woman was not even recognized at the entrance to the Royals wedding party! Very Happy


Oh really ?

Were you there to listen to the chatting that went on at 
the entrance to Frogmore House then ?     Shocked
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by Admin on Tue 29 May 2018, 08:42

Joanna - there was a video of them being stopped outside the reception while the police checked ID.  That wasn't a reflection of George or Amal's level of fame, just a security thing.  Wouldn't surprise me if they'd forgotten to bring the invite with them or something else silly like that.
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Re: Amal Clooney’s Work, Explained by International Human Rights Lawyers

Post by Admin on Tue 29 May 2018, 09:12

I also see that sometimes posters don't understand what Amal's job is because the UK legal system is so different from the US one.

She's a barrister - this is seen as the top of the legal profession and requires further study.  Generally only about the top 10% of law graduates will go on to be accepted as a barrister.  [I was told this by a barrister I met recently, who - like many in his profession - was a little overly proud!]


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What do they do day-to-day?

Depending on their specialism, employment status (e.g. self-employed or not), level of seniority, you will find that barristers cover the following activities in their work:

  • Advising clients on their case. This requires a large amount of research which they then present in either written form or verbally to a client or solicitor.

  • Understanding and interpreting the law to provide legal advice generally to clients as part of an organisation or at events.

  • Representing clients in court. This can include presenting the case, questioning witnesses, giving summaries etc.

  • Negotiating settlements.

  • At more senior levels, barristers can be involved in development of legal policy and strategy.


Could you become a barrister?

The competition to becoming a barrister is extremely high. It is an intellectually demanding role and requires a significant amount of additional training after university. It is notoriously competitve as well.
Prospective barristers should also be prepared for working long, often unsociable, hours in their early careers as they work to establish themselves.  
However, the rewards can be high in this profession and renumeration for successful barristers can be significant.  



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Barristers (in England and Wales) are specialists in advocacy and represent individuals or organisations in court. They are independent sources of legal advice and can advise clients on their case. Generally, they are hired by solicitors to represent a case in court and only become involved once advocacy before a court is needed.
As a barrister you'll plead the case on behalf of your client and the client's solicitor. Members of the public can also go directly to a barrister to ask for advice and representation in court.
Most barristers work on a self-employed basis, while others work in government departments or agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Government Legal Service (GLS).
An increasing number of employed barristers work in private and public organisations, such as charities.
If you're self-employed you'll work in offices called chambers, you could have your own office or share one with other barristers.

What to expect


  • Around 80% of barristers are self-employed (The Bar Council, 2016) and have to contribute towards the running/overheads of chambers from their income, as well as covering their own tax and pension arrangements.

  • Most opportunities are in London and other major cities and towns.

  • This is a demanding and intellectually challenging role, but there is a very supportive professional community.

  • Barristers are expected to conform to high standards of dress, ethics and professional conduct.

  • While it is relatively rare to travel or work overseas, travel within a working day is common.



The very top, top, top of the British legal profession, is QC ('Queen's Council'). There are only about 1,600 of them in the country whereas there are around 15,000 barristers. Barristers who aren't yet QC are called 'Junior Barristers'. A junior barrister is the second highest level you can get in British law*. Saying that Amal is "only a junior" is like saying Mike Pence is "only" a vice-president and therefore failing in his career.

*ok, technically there are higher levels: judges, Attorney-General, Solicitor-General, and Director of Public Prosecutions.

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Barristers and solicitors
Solicitors tend to work together with others in private practice and are generally the first port of call for those seeking legal advice. Solicitors are also employed in government departments and commercial businesses. The Law Society is the professional body representing solicitors.

Barristers, on the other hand, do not generally deal with the public directly, but take their instructions from a solicitor representing the client. Barristers then represent the client at court and present their case. The Bar Council is the professional body representing barristers.

Fields of practice
The main actions of barristers involve going to court, especially to the higher courts. They make speeches in front of the court, they write briefs, they give legal advice, and they provide expert opinion for difficult cases. Usually they use briefs of professional clients, solicitors, and accountants. The barristers analyze the briefs and bring the results to the court.

At the moment, there are approximately 10,000 barristers in England and Wales. Most of them have their offices in London.

Their elite still form the Queen's Counsels, of which many of the judges for higher courts are chosen. The Queen´s counsels are publicly known for wearing silk gowns.
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