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The education of Amal Clooney, international human rights lawyer

SOURCE: SUZANNE CORDEIRO AFP
Amal Clooney has chalked up an impressive résumé as an international lawyer.


By U2B Staff 

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Few human rights lawyers have enjoyed the global limelight that Amal Clooney has.

Still, with two prestigious law degrees under her belt, a legal career involving high-profile clients like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a Hollywood actor as a partner and a sense of style that women want to emulate, there’s little Clooney can do to avoid grabbing headlines.

Clooney is a respected human rights lawyer who has worked on a slew of high-profile court cases, including representing former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, to name a few.

The Lebanese-British barrister specialises in public international law, international criminal law and human rights, and is qualified to practice as a lawyer in the US and the UK.

Clooney had already made a name for herself within legal circles before catapulting to international fame by becoming Hollywood actor George Clooney’s wife. 

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Thriving legal career

According to her profile on Doughty Street Chambers, Clooney represents clients before international courts, including the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights and domestic courts in the UK and US. Alongside court work, Clooney provides advice to governments and individuals on legal issues in her areas of expertise.

The 43-year-old served as a senior advisor to Kofi Annan when he was the UN’s Envoy on Syria. She also served as counsel to the UN Inquiry on the use of armed drones led by the Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, said her profile on Doughty Street Chambers.

She is a member of the UK’s team of experts on preventing sexual violence in conflict zones and was appointed to the UK Attorney General’s expert panel to advise and represent the UK government in cases involving public international law.

Before joining the London Bar, Clooney worked in The Hague with various UN-sponsored justice mechanisms, including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. 

She is also admitted to the New York Bar and practised as a litigation attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. Clooney is also trilingual — she speaks English, French and conversational Arabic and has been a visiting professor of law at Columbia University.

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Amal Clooney’s education

With a career that has spanned over 15 years, Clooney has chalked up an impressive résumé. Her education from two prestigious universities in both the UK and US didn’t hurt either.

Clooney studied at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, where she received a BA/LLB before pursuing her master’s at the New York University (NYU) School of Law where she earned an LLM. The University of Oxford is ranked second in the latest QS World University Rankings 2022, while NYU is ranked 42nd.

Law is a field that is constantly evolving; a pathway to an international law career begins with equipping yourself with a strong foundation in law. Clooney has a highly regarded undergraduate law degree from the UK.

Oxford, for instance, notes that its BA in Jurisprudence is their regular three-year undergraduate law degree, equivalent to what in some universities would be called an LLB. The Oxford method of teaching by tutorials — or weekly meetings between a tutor and two or three students — gives students intensive training in the art of argument.

Apart from a good grounding in law, many professionals use an LLM to develop a new specialisation or pathway to a new career. In the case of NYU School of Law, students have nine LLM and eight specialisations to choose from. Students can also tailor their degree to suit their needs.

An LLM, in general, can also prepare graduates to practice in the country where the degree was issued, as well as in global legal environments, which Clooney is currently doing.