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General Counsel
Human Rights Watch
Grade: Unspecified
Occupations: Legal Affairs
Job Expired 6 Jul 2021
Added 1 month ago
Job Description

General Counsel’s Office
New York or Washington, DC
Application Deadline: July 6, 2021

Role Description
The General Counsel is responsible for the management of the legal and compliance functions of Human Rights Watch (“HRW”), the provision of legal services globally, and strategic leadership on a comprehensive range of legal and compliance matters, including tax, media law, intellectual property, U.S. and foreign operations, insurance, commercial transactions, litigation and employment matters including labor relations.

This is a critical position for the organization and HRW is looking for a transformational leader who will establish best practices on matters of organizational policies, compliance, and risk assessment and mitigation and will set the future course on these matters for our global organization. This is a highly visible role which will report to the Chief Operating Officer, be a member of HRW’s Management Team, and serve as legal advisor to HRW’s leadership and board of directors.

HRW is dedicated to taking on human rights abuses around the world; accordingly, its legal team must be able to provide sound legal and compliance advice to colleagues around the world, including many of whom operate in high-risk and stressful conditions. The General Counsel leads a small but growing team that focuses on organizational legal and compliance matters, and not advocacy, policy or legal work relating to programmatic positions and activities.


This position will be based in New York City or Washington, D.C., and will require both international and domestic travel (less than 20%) when it is safe to do so.

Candidate Profile
To be successful in this position, the candidate must have experience working in a global organization and be comfortable with the complexity of working across multiple cultures and regulatory schemes. This position requires an expert, collaborative, innovative, and visionary leader with outstanding people, communications and management skills. Both high intellect and emotional intelligence are critical in order to communicate and influence effectively within a global, highly distributed organization.

The ideal candidate will have breadth of legal knowledge and be results oriented with a client-focused approach to providing legal services. The successful candidate must have strong influencing skills, ability to communicate complex legal and compliance matters to diverse groups, experience with overseeing internal investigations and compliance with organizational policies and applicable laws, demonstrated experience managing various organizational risks, and ability to partner with leadership to achieve results. The General Counsel must be values driven, have a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and have outstanding judgment.

Prior experience working in a nonprofit/NGO environment is desirable, but not necessary. However, the candidate must be passionate about working in a mission driven organization dedicated to human rights.


Organizational Overview
HRW is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization that investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. HRW is made up of approximately 500 staff members located in over 90 countries around the world who are country experts, lawyers, journalists, and others who work to protect the most at risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime, to refugees and children in need. HRW directs advocacy towards governments, armed groups and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies and practices. To ensure independence, the organization refuses government funding and carefully reviews all donations to ensure that they are consistent with organizational policies, mission, and values.

Duties and Responsibilities

1. Work closely with leadership, the Board and staff, providing legal expertise and advice in support of the organization’s legal and reputational standing and its ability to effectively achieve its mission and accomplish its goals and strategies.
2. Proactively identify legal risks, stay abreast of important legal and compliance global trends that may impact HRW and its ability to deliver on its mission, and advise leadership on how to respond to and mitigate risks.
3. Work effectively across a variety of legal systems globally, ensure compliance with governmental regulations and all applicable local, national, and international laws, and stay informed and well versed in changing global laws and regulations.
4. Develop, implement and advise on policies and procedures and drive compliance with the organization’s Code of Conduct, working with other organizational leaders and external experts as appropriate.
5. Design and manage efficient and effective risk management decision making processes that appropriately balance risk and organizational nimbleness.
6. Manage claims, including those related to our programmatic work (e.g., claims of libel).
7. Develop and motivate a legal and compliance team of approximately 7 staff and ensure they have the training and tools to deliver on the legal needs of the organization. Manage the legal team to ensure focus on key priorities, support an internal client-focused approach to the delivery of legal services, and identify long-term needs of the organization and its impact on the team.
8. Drive the continuous improvement of standards and legal processes, including the ability to translate complex legal requirements into actionable solutions, policies and processes.
9. Manage the budget of the legal program, including managing outside counsel costs, setting financial goals and adapting for best results.
10. Efficiently deploy legal staff and outside counsel, including a network of pro bono firms and develop and implement a strategy for strengthening relationships with pro bono firms to support HRW.
11. Develop and oversee a compliance function within the General Counsel’s Office which works across the organization and together with other leaders drive a culture of compliance, security and accountability.



Education: Juris Doctorate or equivalent. LL.M. degree from a U.S. law school is required if law degree was acquired outside of the U.S.

Experience: Fifteen (15) years of experience working as legal counsel in house and/or law firm, with a minimum of five (5) years of such experience working in a global organization and/or global law firm. Five (5) years of experience managing in-house teams or law firm teams.

Required Skills and Knowledge:
• Licensed to practice law in at least one U.S. jurisdiction.
• Accomplished executive with a proven track record as a legal strategist and a proven background in working at the most senior levels of an organization.
• Willingness and ability to develop familiarity with legal systems in and outside of the U.S. and the ability to adapt policies and procedures in compliance with local law.
• Experience working on legal and regulatory matters in multiple international jurisdictions.
• Experience overseeing or advising on ethics and compliance matters and internal investigations.
• Experience evaluating and/or negotiating complex agreements and transactions.
• Experience communicating complex legal concepts at all levels of an organization.
• Experience managing outside counsel.
• Experience overseeing or advising on risk management.
• Knowledge in a broad range of legal disciplines.
• Outstanding oral and written communication skills in English are required; proficiency in other languages is a plus.
• Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.


Salary and Benefits: HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits. HRW offers a relocation assistance package and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply: Please apply immediately or by July 6, 2021 by visiting our online job portal at and attaching a letter of interest and CV or resume. No calls or email inquiries, please. Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

If you are experiencing technical difficulties with your application submission, please email Due to the large response, application submissions via email will not be accepted and inquiries regarding the status of applications will go unanswered.

Human Rights Watch is strong because it is diverse. We actively seek a diverse applicant pool and encourage candidates of all backgrounds to apply. Human Rights Watch does not discriminate on the basis of disability, age, gender identity and expression, national origin, race and ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or criminal record. We welcome all kinds of diversity. Our employees include people who are parents and nonparents, the self-taught and university educated, and from a wide span of socio-economic backgrounds and perspectives on the world. Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer.

Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

This job is no longer available.