IHRC Course Information
for Students


  • By participating in a weekly two-hour seminar, students obtain in-depth knowledge of relevant substantive and procedural aspects of international human rights law.
  • In class, students also engage in various exercises aimed at practicing those legal skills that are necessary to become effective advocates.
  • The clinic is offered in the Fall and Spring semesters.
  • Students can enroll in one or more semesters, but need to submit an application for each semester.
  • Enrollment is usually limited to 8-10 students per semester.

Application Process

  • Interested students should sign-in to Emery and submit an online application to receive an enrollment permission number. Students currently enrolled in the clinic who wish to enroll in the Advanced IHRC should submit a separate online application to receive an enrollment permission number.
  • Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and students will be notified the week before course enrollment begins.
  • Contact Michelle Waters at mmwaters@scu.edu if you have problems signing-in to Emery.
  • Email the Clinic director with any questions at ihrc@scu.edu.

Professional Skills

The International Human Rights Clinic prepares students for practice.

Students in the IHRC receive individualized supervision and feedback to improve their lawyering skills. A key goal is to teach students the skills they need to become better professionals in a broad range of legal fields. The IHRC also supports students’ professional development with career advising and mentorship during and after their clinic experience.

Santa Clara has developed a competency model that articulates skills students must develop to enter practice, regardless of the practice area. Clinics are an ideal setting to help students develop these skills. Students in the International Human Rights Clinic develop each of the nine competencies in the following ways:

IHRC students do legal and factual research in real cases and projects. They learn how to identify the applicable sources of law and where to find them using multiple research tools. They learn the importance of citing each source of law using the right format. The IHRC heavily emphasizes factual research design and implementation. In our class component, we spend two or three classes learning all aspects of interviewing clients, experts, government officials and other sources (including how to find interview subjects, how to contact them, how to address confidentiality and consent issues, how to prepare for and do an interview, how to evaluate the source’s credibility and reliability, and what to do with the information afterwards). We engage students using multiple pedagogical tools that include simulations, peer and supervisor feedback, and real fieldwork experience.
IHRC students are constantly practicing their writing and receiving feedback. Every week, all students draft agendas for team meetings, take and share detailed minutes of each meeting, and submit a weekly progress report to their supervisors. Depending on their case or project, students also draft legal memoranda; briefs that are actually submitted before courts or other bodies; hearing requests; letters to clients, partners, attorneys, and government officials; summaries of jurisprudence on specific legal issues; various litigation documents; memoranda of understanding; educational training materials; speeches; internal memos; blog posts about their experiences, and many other written work products. We dedicate two or three classes to teaching writing tips, including how to improve their structure, do better outlines, pay attention to their audience, work on multiple drafts, and use proper formatting.
During the first four or five class sessions of the IHRC, we teach our students both substantive and procedural law. In terms of substantive law, students learn how to read treaties (which are similar to statutes) and other sources of law and identify the components of each rule statement. Students also learn how various legal systems work, including local, national, foreign and international legal systems, and what are the main legal institutions and hierarchies within each system. In each case and project, students gain in-depth knowledge on specific subject areas and legal issues.
IHRC students develop analytical skills in various ways. In our litigation docket, for example, students learn how to structure a legal argument using traditional “IRAC” or “CREAC” configurations, just like they would in any other legal field. Students identify the various components of their argument (issue, rule, application of rules to facts, and conclusion) and learn how to properly craft each section in a logical manner, carefully considering precedents and invoking policy considerations where appropriate.
In the IHRC, students and faculty supervisors discuss potential ethical issues that arise in the clinic’s cases and projects. Students have struggled with issues involving the disclosure of confidential information and the use of information for a purpose different from its original intent. Students have also grappled with ethical dilemmas in ensuring that clients are involved in all aspects of their case. IHRC also emphasizes the importance of maintaining an impeccable individual and institutional reputation. By engaging with other lawyers, officials, and authorities, IHRC students also learn how to behave like professionals.
An essential component of our clinical experience is the development of creative problem solving skills. Our cases and projects are not based on carefully crafted hypotheticals. Instead, students and faculty jointly identify organic problems the IHRC will address, evaluate how to address the problem, develop a plan to achieve our desired outcomes, and then implement that plan. This is the essence of clinical education at the IHRC.
By working in small teams and engaging constantly with clients, supervisors, partners, and other professionals, IHRC students develop strong interpersonal skills necessary for any job market. Whether it is in written or oral communication, our students learn they must treat others with respect and communicate ideas in a constructive way. The IHRC emphasizes teamwork and collaborative lawyering. Students learn how to lead and listen, as well as contribute and coordinate when working in teams, which are usually composed of very diverse individuals from various backgrounds and cultures.
Combined with our emphasis on problem solving, the IHRC stresses the importance of acting proactively to seek innovative solutions. We ask students to “own” and take responsibility for their work. Although supervisors provide guidance, students are expected to come up with possible solutions on their own. Students must also log the hours they work and are expected to complete all tasks and submit multiple drafts on specified deadlines. One of the most important skills students develop in the IHRC is time and project management.
The IHRC exposes students to the potential power of the law. IHRC students understand the importance of using that power on behalf of those who are most vulnerable to abuse. The IHRC works on cases that advance the social justice mission of our university, and in doing so we teach our students how to be ethical professionals.

As IHRC students work on human rights cases and projects, they develop all these transferable skills Santa Clara’s competency model has identified are necessary to enter any practice area.

Learn More About IHRC: