A Career As a Civil Rights Lawyer


Civil rights lawyers work with clients on cases involving discrimination, sexual harassment and other human rights violations. These lawyers have much of the same training requirements as other attorneys; however, most will have experience in civil law. Lawyers who are experts in civil law use their knowledge to defend their clients in law suits and win monetary damages from employers, businesses, law enforcement and other authorities who violate civil right laws.


  • When your human rights have been violated, a civil rights lawyer has a duty to represent you to the best of her ability. Cases where a civil rights lawyer will need to be hired include violations involving unequal treatment and discrimination based on gender, race, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation. Often, civil rights cases come to light in situations that involve employment, education and housing.

Education and Salary

  • To become a lawyer, first you must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Typically, students considering becoming a lawyer, specifically civil rights lawyers, will complete degrees in political science or history where they will learn about the American legal system and Constitution. In their senior year, students must take the Law School Admission Test (LSTAT) and apply for law school. Once admitted, law students will spend three years concentrating on civil rights and civil law while completing their Juris Doctor Degree (JD).

    Once graduating from law school and passing the state bar exam, lawyers can begin to practice civil rights law. Salaries for civil rights lawyers vary and depend on several factors such as experience, employment location, type of legal industry (law firm or non-profit) and specialties. The median salary for civil rights lawyers is $102,470 with the majority of salaries ranging from $69,000 and $145,000 per year. New lawyers earn from $60,000 to $85,000 per year. More experienced attorneys will earn more.

Racial Profiling

  • Racial profiling is a violation of a person's civil rights. This includes any individual who is harassed by police enforcement because of race. This individual has a right to file a civil suit against the officer and the law enforcement agency for racial profiling. Under the law, a person must be stopped or detained by a police officer for justifiable and legal reasons that don't include the color of a person's skin. A civil rights lawyer will be hired to take on the case and prove that such racism has occurred. The lawyer will prepare for the case, research similar cases to help him argue his client's case in court. In addition, many civil rights attorneys are great communicators and public speakers. In some cases, issues of race and discrimination become very publicized and political. Many civil rights lawyers take these public opportunities to raise awareness of such crimes and to hinder violations from occurring in the future.

Sexual Harassment

  • There are laws to protect men and women from sexual harassment in the workplace. A civil rights lawyer will be trained to protect his client under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The lawyer will help his client prove harassment through proper documentation and filing a civil suit against the employer. A civil rights lawyer will file the case with the state's Equal Employer Opportunity Commission. A civil rights lawyer will discuss with his clients the statue of limitations on filing a sexual harassment case against the employer and the possible outcomes of the case.

Equal Pay Act

  • The Equal Pay Act entitles both men and women to equal pay in the workplace. Also, everyone has a right to ask their employer questions regarding the other gender's pay for doing the same job. If it comes to light that one gender is making more pay for reasons not related to education or experience, an employee may choose to file a civil law suit against the employer. A civil rights lawyer will be well education on the Equal Pay Act. He or she will argue in court that the law prohibits sex-based wage discrimination in the same workplace performing under the same working conditions.

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