Profiles in Public Interest: Michael Camilleri ’04 Takes Colombia to Court


Job: Staff Attorney, Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Prior jobs: Worked for a year as a human rights lawyer in Guatemala as a recipient of a Henigson Fellowship from the HLS Human Rights Program.

HLS resume: Helped found HLS Advocates for Human Rights. Played on the soccer team, “which for the internationally-minded is a great way to meet foreign students.”

The daily grind: Michael’s organization focuses on litigating cases before the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court of Human Rights, both organs of the Organization of American States (OAS). He’s in charge of cases against the government of Colombia. Days are spent following the human rights situation in the country, interacting with civil society groups there, and writing briefs for upcoming cases. He interacts regularly with officials of the OAS and the Colombian government.

Beyond doc review: Within six weeks of starting at CEJIL, Michael had taken sworn testimonies from victims, prepared witnesses for trial, drafted a brief to the Inter-American Court, and participated in a trial before the Court. During his year in Guatemala, he met extensively with victims of human rights violations to document their cases and participated in a civil society-government working group to draft organized crime legislation.

Money matters: Is on LIPP, “without which I couldn’t be doing this work. Obviously I make much less money than my friends at firms, but financially I’m fine. And it helps that I’m not married and share an apartment with a friend from law school.”

Michael’s advice for students: “I spent my 1L summer doing human rights work and my 2L summer at a firm, and I’m happy I gave both a try. I wouldn’t change much about my experience, but I do wish I had grasped more fully the relevance of my first year classes to the work I hoped to do and am now doing.”

“Being a 3L who is considering public interest can be a bit nerve-racking, because most of your friends have accepted jobs by October. But I think the payoff for being patient and waiting for something you’re really excited about can be huge. I don’t know anyone who held out for a public interest job and ended up unemployed, and I don’t know anyone who decided on public interest and regrets the choice.”

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