Job Description
Job Title Director, Pillar Project
Job ID 757464
Begin Date 11/13/13
Location New York,  NY 10001
Other Location Washington, DC 20005
Human Rights First seeks an experienced, entrepreneurial litigator with a strong background in international human rights law and advocacy to direct its new initiative––the Pillar Project–– designed to advance the receptivity of U.S. courts to international human rights and humanitarian law. The project is based on the premise that a better informed bar and bench will yield better implementation and adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law obligations. Our goal is to be proactive and bring an experienced group of law firms and academic practitioners together to seize opportunities to push the human rights agenda forward primarily through amicus strategies and possibly through creative direct representation. The project’s name is a tribute to Human Rights First’s long-time board member, the late Louis Henkin. Professor Henkin famously said that “In the cathedral of human rights, the United States has not been a pillar, but a flying buttress, standing outside the structure and supporting it, but unwilling to subject itself to the rules that govern inside.”


From its inception in 1978, Human Rights First has focused its attention on the promotion of human rights through the rule of law.  We have long-standing relationships and a reputation with the U.S. and other governments, as well as with private law firms, law clinics and academics for excellence in legal research, analysis, and advocacy. We work with the nation’s top law firms and other litigators on issues such as asylum and refugee protection, detention and trial policies and practices, military contractor accountability, and corporate responsibility.

As an American organization working to protect human rights internationally, Human Rights First focuses on ensuring that the United States lives up to its human rights obligations and leverages its influence to advance human rights around the world. The Pillar Project advances Human Rights First’s advocacy mission in U.S. courts and combines the unique skills and expertise of Human Rights First with the need to promote human rights in U.S. jurisprudence.

Together with a panel of private law firms, academics and law clinics, the Director will be responsible for strategic direction, leadership, and day-to-day management of the Pillar Project.

The ideal candidate will be an experienced, entrepreneurial litigator with the agility and strategic thinking to lead a dynamic, cutting-edge project and achieve measurable results in the receptivity of U.S. courts to international human rights and humanitarian law. S/he will have exceptional legal and analytic skills, complex trial and appellate litigation experience, and a strong background in international human rights law and advocacy. S/he will also demonstrate a strong personal commitment to human rights, the capacity to work successfully under pressure in a fast-paced environment while juggling multiple tasks, and the ability to work collegially in a diverse environment. Human Rights First seeks a compelling advocate and spokesperson with a proven ability to successfully steward relationships with key players.


Leadership and Strategic Direction
  • Lead and direct Human Rights First’s initiative to advance the reception of human rights and humanitarian law in U.S. courts;
  • Develop concrete, measurable objectives and a comprehensive strategy and work plan;
  • Identify and recruit new project participants among law firms and academic institutions;
  • Maintain regular contact with the panel of private bar members, academics and law clinics established to implement the Pillar Project, keeping them informed about relevant activities and developments in the project, and consulting them as appropriate;
  • Develop a strong public profile for the project, including a visible public launch, the production of news-generating materials and the development of strategies aimed at educating and engaging legal thought leaders, the media, experts, and popular audiences;
  • Identify key matters for engagement that make optimal use of the strengths of Human Rights First, and work with panel members and Human Rights First staff to develop and implement case-specific strategies;
  • Cultivate and manage strategic relationships, coalitions, and partnerships to advance our objectives, including with other NGOs, government officials, law firms, academics and law clinics.
Research, Policy Analysis, and Advocacy
  • Maintain a detailed knowledge of themes in international human rights and humanitarian law implicated in U.S. litigation, and work with other staff to identify opportunities;
  • Analyze and advise Human Rights First on trends and the advisability of promoting international human rights and humanitarian law principles and rules in various thematic areas in both federal and state court proceedings;
  • Coordinate and, where necessary, assist in drafting amicus and other briefs;
  • Develop and implement promotional and educational materials and events for the Pillar Project.
Management Responsibilities
  • Supervise assigned support staff;
  • Supervise consultants, legal volunteers, and fellows, as necessary;
  • Monitor assignment of and assist in prioritizing tasks and projects, ensuring that clear expectations are set and standards are understood;
  • Measure and evaluate the results of delegated work against clear objectives;
  • Provide mentorship and professional development opportunities, such as strategy sessions, writing projects, and training, and advance approaches that encourage collaboration, innovation and professional development;
  • Work closely with Human Rights First’s Development department to identify sources of funding for the project, support fundraising efforts through grant writing and editing, and outreach to key donors and foundations to ensure long-term sustainability of the project’s activities.

EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS:  Law degree (JD from U.S.-based law school strongly preferred; LLM beneficial).

  • A team-building, collegial approach to work;
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills characterized by clarity and accuracy;
  • Adaptability in navigating a new and dynamic project;
  • Determination and initiative, coupled with energetic leadership qualities;
  • Ability to recognize and maximize opportunity on behalf of the organization;
  • Consistent respect for colleagues at all levels;
  • Goal-oriented, objective-oriented, and achievement-oriented;
  • Demonstrated ability to work successfully across organization lines and with a diverse team of colleagues, to work comfortably in a variety of settings, including legal, academic, and advocacy, and to work confidently with government officials and the media;
  • A warm, personal style with a good sense of humor.
  • Senior level litigation management experience in recruiting, training, managing and motivating a diverse, high-performing litigation team, including mentoring law students and volunteer lawyers;
  • Demonstrated ability to develop fundraising proposals and budgets and to cultivate relationships with individual donors;
  • Experience working closely with a volunteer board of directors and nonprofit organizations.
ANNUAL SALARY:  Competitive with comprehensive benefits package

START DATE:      Immediately

SUBMISSION DEADLINE:  December 20, 2013.  Applications will be considered on a rolling basis; applicants are encouraged to apply early.


Please complete the online application found at our website under ABOUT US / JOB OPPORTUNITIES links.

You will be requested to provide:
  • Resume (upload)
  • Cover letter (secondary upload*)
  • Names and contact details for three (3) references (enter online)
* After completing the initial application and uploading your resume, please select VIEW PROFILE and UPLOAD ATTACHMENT to upload additional documents.  You can also log into your profile from the top of the Job Opportunities page.  When logged into your profile, you can upload cover letter, writing sample, and any other relevant documents by selecting UPLOAD ATTACHMENT at the top of the page. 

Applicants will receive a confirmation email with their username and password once they’ve created a profile.  Please keep this information to access your application and make changes at any time.

Only selected applicants will be contacted for phone or in-person interviews.  NO PHONE CALLS, PLEASE.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington DC. We build respect for human rights and the rule of law to help ensure the dignity to which everyone is entitled and to stem intolerance, tyranny, and violence.

Human Rights First is committed to recruiting, retaining, developing, and promoting staff across all programs and departments from a diversity of backgrounds, including members of racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTI people, people with disabilities, people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, people of all nationalities, and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. We believe that a diverse staff and an inclusive work environment that welcomes a range of perspectives help make our advocacy work stronger and more effective.
Required Skills •A significant professional background (6+ years) in law, with complex trial and appellate litigation experience, including international human rights cases, and a strong general background in international human rights law and advocacy;

•Strong professional profile and relationships with relevant contacts in NGOs, law schools, private law firms, and government;

•Knowledge of Human Rights First and its strategic focus, and commitment to its mission and vision;

•Excellent written and oral advocacy skills and a demonstrated ability to translate highly technical material for a variety of audiences and effectively edit the work of others;

•Excellent communication, media, presentation, and analytical skills;

•A minimum of three years of senior-level experience in management, administrative and/or leadership positions;

•Superior project management skills, capacity to finish assignments under pressure, and to work collegially with others;

•Ability to evaluate projects, including creating metrics to measure progress;

•Strong strategic, organizational and analytical skills; good judgment; a high degree of initiative; and the desire and ability to work successfully in a demanding, fast-paced, multitasking professional environment;

•Admission to the bar, preferably in New York.
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