Client-Centered Human Rights Advocacy

51 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2005 Last revised: 2 Oct 2020


Human rights advocates are at risk of essentializing and re-victimizing the beneficiaries of their own human rights advocacy, or so critics argue. This article looks at human rights advocacy and the merits of client-centered lawyering as opposed to cause lawyering in the human rights context. In this article, the author both acknowledges the validity of and responds to arguments put forward by human rights critics, in which they admonish human rights activists that they are at risk of Western Imperialism in both the selection of their causes and the strategies they use to move their advocacy forward. The author describes client-centered human rights advocacy, particularly as it is being taught and practiced in law school clinics. The author responds to the critics by asking them to consider whether human rights advocacy as practiced when centered in the real needs of a real client, or "client-centered human rights advocacy" would escape some or all of their criticism. Finally, in acknowledging those parts of the human rights critiques with which the author agrees, she concludes that human rights practitioners, and particularly human rights clinicians, must be rigorously reflective, in particular when taking on particular human rights cases, and must consider the benefits of centering their advocacy in the goals and needs of a real client, as opposed to an issue.

Keywords: human rights advocacy, human rights clinics, asylum law and practice, client-centered advocacy, human rights criticism, human rights clinical practice

Suggested Citation

Haynes, Dina Francesca, Client-Centered Human Rights Advocacy. Clinical Law Review, Fall 2006, NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 05/06-4, Available at SSRN:

Dina Francesca Haynes (Contact Author)

New England Law | Boston ( email )

154 Stuart St.
Boston, MA 02116

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