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CBA Young Lawyers International Program
International Development
Young Lawyers International Program

Opportunities for Young Lawyers – Helping Build Human Rights Law Abroad  


The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will fund the CBA Young Lawyer International Program until 2017.

Lear more about the program

CBA Young Lawyers International Program (YLIP)


The CBA receives funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) to send young Canadian lawyers to work with legal human rights and legal development organizations overseas, including human rights advocacy organizations, legal aid organizations, and legal profession institutions in developing countries.

The internships are for 8 months each, from August 1 to March 31 of the following year. The first month is spent in Canada preparing, and there is a two-week holiday half-way through the placement.

Living and accommodation expenses are paid by the program, as well as travel costs to the overseas placement.

The internships are described in more detail elsewhere on this page. To read more about interns' first hand experiences, click here (National Magazine).

The Young Lawyers International Program is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) as part of the Government of Canada's Youth Employment Strategy (YES). Through this program, young lawyers are placed in seven and a half-month internships (they are overseas for between six and a half to seven months to work on issues such as women's rights, refugee rights, labour rights, constitutional rights, children's rights and indigenous people's rights, in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southern and Central Africa. The program is designed to achieve two objectives:
  • Firstly, it provides human rights legal organizations abroad with young lawyers who have the expertise to make a professional contribution to their work.
  • Secondly, it gives young lawyers, at the threshold of their careers, international experience to help them obtain employment in the field of law and international human rights legal work.
Host Organizations

The host organizations represent a range of legal services and professional bodies, both large and small. These include NGOs and legal clinics, doing systemic advocacy and individual representation for disadvantaged and vulnerable clients, and law societies and bar associations advocating for and on behalf of the legal profession in developing countries. For more information on current partner organizations, click here.

Eligibility Guidelines

Applicants must be qualified lawyers at or below the age of 30. Preference is given to those who have done their articling or have equivalent practical legal experience. Please note that you cannot do your articles on this program. You must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, who is unemployed or under-employed, and have not had previous career-related, paid employment overseas. Please note that you may not apply if you have previously participated in an internship under the Canadian government's Youth Employment Strategy (YES Program), of which this program is a part. Nor may you be enrolled in a full-time educational program.

 If you are presently in full-time employment, but wish to make a career change to work in the area of international/human rights law, this can be considered, but please note that if accepted on to the program you will have to resign your current position. This program is funded to assist young Canadian lawyers to obtain employment.  Nobody can be accepted who, on being accepted, continues with a full-time job. It is also not permissible to take a leave of absence from a full-time permanent employment for the duration of the program and then return to the employment.

How to apply

Write a letter of application, describing your interest and attaching your resumé. There is no application form. You should say how you believe you could make a contribution to a human rights legal Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) overseas, and detail your experience, both voluntary and professional, in legal human rights-type activities. Such activities could include working in a legal aid clinic or a rape crisis center, being an active member of Amnesty International or human rights advocacy group, or working for a trade union or in women's, children's, Aboriginal or labour organizations.

To ensure that your application is considered, please read these instructions carefully:

Applications must be submitted electronically by email to info@cba.org with the following content and in the prescribed format.

Send your application in two e-mail attachments in Word or WordPerfect format. No Adobe/pdf files please. The first attachment is your cover letter, and the second attachment is your resumé. Please pay attention to the file names of the two attachments. For instance, if your name is J.Smith, the file name of your cover letter should be SmithJ.let, and the file name of your resumé should be SmithJ.cv. We get a large number of applications and this will enable us to file your application so that it does not get lost.

Please do NOT send both cover letter and resume as a single document, and do NOT use the body of the e-mail as the cover letter. It will not be considered.

The subject line of the e-mail should be your surname and initial, e.g.: SmithJ, YLIP Application. Then e-mail your application to the CBA Program Director .

Please include with your CV the names and contact information, including telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, of three (3) referees: ideally one professional, one voluntary organization or educational, and one personal. Initial approaches to referees are made by e-mail, so the e-mail address is important. Please include professional status of referees.

Internship deferrals

If you are accepted on to the program but unable to take up your place that year, the possibility exists of deferring your internship to a later year, by mutual discussion and agreement. This is a possibility, not a right. Note also that the age limit of 30 might be relevant - and please note this is the government’s restriction, not the CBA’s.

Matching of interns to placements

Please note that applications are made for a place on the program, NOT to go to particular countries or placements. The work at placement host organizations varies widely, and can vary from year to year.

Once accepted on to the program, a matching process takes place, through which the qualifications and interests etc., of the interns are matched with the type of work being done by particular placements. This is a purely professional process: geographical or location factors are not taken into account at all in the first instance. However, discussions with the interns are part of the process, interns are welcome to put forward ideas and preferences about their placing, which will be taken into account and acted on if possible, and if they do not conflict with professional considerations. Some discussion with host supervisors takes place as well. Though professional considerations are paramount, this is a process, not merely an assessment and allocation. Some factors are very compelling: for instance, an intern with professional-level skills in Spanish will be in a strong position to be considered for placement with a Spanish-language host organization.

The placements and language requirements

Placements are generally in the English language except for one Spanish language placement (ONIC Colombia) in South America. Please note that French language placements can be accessed through the Barreau du Québec and other organizations in Quebec and New Brunswick. Please check also the placements listed on the CIDA IYIP web page.

Language requirements for a non-English placement are exacting. These are not opportunities for learning a language. There is no finer recipe for an unhappy and unsuccessful placement than the inability to properly understand what is going on around you and/or to make yourself understood precisely and immediately. If you are applying for a Spanish speaking placement, please confirm that your Spanish is on a level that will enable you to work on legal documents in Spanish and converse freely with your Spanish speaking colleagues. You will be tested as part of the interview process.

Your time abroad

The full term of the internship is eight months which allows for a month of preparation, and a short period of follow-up and consolidation in Canada upon your return. You are required to produce a minimum of six months (24 weeks) of work for your host organization, and you have a holiday of two weeks at mid-term, normally while your host office is closed for the holiday season. Your total time abroad at your placement is six and a half to seven months. (This may be extended under special conditions — notably if your host organization is willing to pay for your continued contribution to its work — and some of our interns have found ongoing project work either with our partner organization itself or with another organization in the country of placement.) 
Your approach to the placements

First, our agreement with the host organizations is that you are treated as far as possible as a regular member of staff, subject to the same conditions, work hours, lunch hours, time of arrival in the morning and leaving the office in the evening, days off, disciplinary requirements, professional standards etc., though in respect of professional standards, these should not be average, but the highest only. The fact that you are being paid from Canada should not affect this. It is a fundamental factor in achieving acceptance by your colleagues and in maximizing the value of your overseas professional and personal experience. And though you may find your remuneration under the program low, you should be sensitive to the fact that it is likely way higher than that of your local colleagues.

Please note that these placements are not for the faint of heart. Nor are they for those seeking unfocused "overseas experience," rather than intending to do hard professional work; nor will you be regarded as doing anybody any favours. On the contrary, the internships are the kind where you throw yourself heart, body and soul into the work and life of your organization. The rewards are concomitantly high, but you must be prepared to meet challenges, many of an unglamorous and even disheartening kind; to be comparatively low on your host organization's agenda (you are only an intern!); and to be entrepreneurial in terms of your work: in other words, you may not only have to take the ball and run with it, you may well have to make the ball first. On the other hand, you will have plenty of back-up support, including ongoing advice from your predecessor(s) and contact with other interns — and your host organization will certainly appreciate your dedication, professionalism and initiative, as well as your team spirit and sense of humour.

The internship is yours, in the sense that you must use your own initiative and creativity in developing your project and making the most of your placement; and it is your host organization's, in the sense that your work, activities and behaviour must be directed to furthering the aims of the organization, enhancing its image, accepting its employment conditions as one of a team, and of course making a solid contribution to its work.

Don't place your expectations too high. You will not change the world. But you will make a difference. You will not achieve everything. But you will achieve something.


The CBA and your host organization overseas will give you all the backup and support you need, but the initiative is at all times YOURS!

Interviews, preparations, briefings, reporting and follow-up activities

Interviews are done by telephone conference call. The final selection of applicants is made subsequently after following up with references, and then the matching process to placements takes place, interns are put in touch with their overseas host supervisors to begin developing their projects, and applying for necessary visas and other requirements. The idea is to complete all the necessary formalities, and do the preliminary research and work necessary to enable the intern to "hit the ground running" on arrival at the placement. Interns must develop a work plan, which must be agreed by the placement supervisor and by the CBA's program director, before the intern leaves.

A mandatory orientation/briefing session will be held in Canada at a time and venue to be announced.  It will be before you leave for your placement and may be before the program commences.  Fares to this session are paid by the program. Interns are then required to arrange their visas and other travel requirements and procedures. Costs for all these (but not for passports) are covered by the program. Interns participate in a mandatory debriefing in Ottawa upon their return. At this debriefing (again, travel and other costs are paid for by the program), interns are given advice and assistance to help them in seeking jobs. Interns may also be asked, on return, to give presentations at CBA meetings and perhaps other relevant functions, to advise on the following year's program, and to help promote the program. They are asked to produce articles for CBA's website and publications, and for other relevant publications. They are asked to take photographs while at their placements, for CBA to use in its materials, and to publicize the placement and its work, through their Bar bulletins, Law School Alumni magazines and other appropriate media. Please note that the program sponsor, CIDA, requires these follow-up advocacy activities.


Interns are required to do an interim and a final report.  The reports are sent to the CBA program coordinator, the interim report early in the internship, with the final report being due at the conclusion of the program. You will be given more information on the reporting requirements on acceptance to the program.

Financing and holidays

Interns have their fares paid to and from their placements, and receive a monthly stipend for the duration of the program, as well as an accommodation allowance for the time they are away. These are sufficient for the upkeep of the interns, and also enable them to have a holiday while they are in their host country. Interns have two weeks' holiday at mid-term, usually over the holiday period when their placement offices are closed. Note that the minimum work requirement is 24 weeks/six months, so the holiday period is over and above this, making the minimum total period of the internship 26 weeks, or six months and two weeks.  The holiday is regarded as important, and interns are encouraged to see and experience some of their host country or region during their holidays.


There is no overtime allocation as such, though the assumption of this program is, that as in all such work, dedicated interns will no doubt be working overtime, hopefully cheerfully!  What is totally unacceptable is that interns take additional time off without advance permission, and then justify it after the event by claiming “overtime” performed previously.  If you need to take additional time off, for some very good reason, it should be set up in advance with the express agreement of the CBA in the first place, and of your supervisor, and the overtime done before the event as far as possible, in a structured and agreed way.

The overseas organizations

Organizations where interns may be placed include:


Africa, North of the Zambezi

Africa, South of the Zambezi  For further information on the program, we suggest you visit the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development website. Click on "Available internships."

Project undertaken within the Government of Canada's Youth Employment Strategy, with contributions of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).

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