"What do Civil Liberties &

Human Rights lawyers do?"

What are 'Civil Liberties'?

"Civil liberties" are basic rights and freedoms granted to citizens of a country through common or statute law. "Human Rights" are universal rights and freedoms which apply to everyone (regardless of citizenship status). 

Key Facts

Human Rights are basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from both until death. 

Human Rights law is centred on protecting our human rights. It gives people a voice and can be used against powerful organisations that violate the rights of individuals. 

The premise of human rights is that all citizens should receive equal treatment. 

In Britain, our human rights are largely protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. 


The Human Rights Act 1998 is the main piece of legislation to uphold human rights in the UK. This act gives effect to the European Convention on Human Rights ("ECHR") in the UK law. 

The ECHR is an international treaty, signed by the UK in 1950. It is separate to the UK's membership of the EU. 

By signing up to the ECHR, the UK commits to uphold certain fundamental rights such as the right to life, the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression. 

HRA enables people to bring cases in UK courts to uphold their ECHR rights

European Charter

The 'European Charter of Fundamental Rights' is separate from the ECHR and forms part of EU Law.

the Charter sets out and formalises the basic human, civil and social rights enjoyed by citizens of the EU.

The Charter builds on the ECHR and in some areas, goes further. It also includes specific rights related to EU membership, such as voting rights. 

Following the end of the transition period, the Charter will cease to apply to the UK. However, the UK will continue its membership of the ECHR. 

Human Rights law in practice...

In civil matters, the application of public interest and human rights can come up in the following types of cases: 

  • issues relating to the right to work, education, community welfare, family welfare and discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, race, disability or religion. 

In criminal matters, human rights can come up in issues such as:

  • the incorrect application of enforcement procedures, police brutality, torture of prisoners, false arrests or wrongful identification of suspects, accusations of terrorist activities and extradition issues. 

You can specialise as a human rights lawyer and deal exclusively with human rights cases. 

It is also possible for you to qualify as a solicitor in another area of law and still be involved in human rights and civil liberties cases. Examples of practice areas that may deal with human rights and civil liberties issues include:

  • Employment

  • Housing

  • Court of Protection

  • Immigration

  • Public Law

  • Personal Injury

  • Clinical Negligence 

Skills to be a Human Rights Lawyer...

Good people management skills. 

Excellent technical ability with a thorough knowledge of the law and regulations. 

Empathy and patience and a genuine interest in helping people and fighting for justice. 

The ability to provide fair and judicious opinions in sometimes difficult situations. 

Good advocacy skills. 

Interest in contentious law. 

Law firms to consider...

  • Bhatt Murphy

  • Bindmans LLP

  • Leigh Day

  • Birnberg Pierce & Partners

  • Deighton Pierce Glynn

  • Hickman & Rose

  • Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors Limited

  • Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors

  • Irwin Mitchell

  • Simons Muirhead & Burton

  • Simpson Millar LLP