For Next Stage of Her Evolving Legal Career, LLM Grad Turns to Indigenous Human Rights

May 11, 2021

IPLP LLM ‘21 grad, Susan Filan

Susan Filan had already experienced multiple successful legal careers when she began the Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy (IPLP) Master of Laws (LLM) program at University of Arizona Law. Now the Class of 2021 graduate is gearing up for another.

After earning her JD from the Quinnipiac University School of Law, Filan worked in private practice as a trial lawyer, then became a Connecticut state prosecutor, followed by a transition to media, eventually rising to senior legal analyst for MSNBC-TV.

“And then I decided that I wanted to go in a new direction, and human rights has always been an interest of mine,” says Filan. “I was trying to be a human rights lawyer in these areas of criminal and family, but now I am specifically focused on indigenous human rights.”

Filan chose University of Arizona Law because of the strength of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program.

“It is the number one program in indigenous law in the country, if not the world,” says Filan. “The LLM in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy has been such an inspiring and exciting experience. I am with the greatest professors, scholars and advocates in the world in this program, and the opportunity to engage and learn from them is really an honor and a privilege for which I am incredibly fortunate and grateful.”

Filan says her most meaningful memories at University of Arizona Law are of listening to lectures from professors Robert Williams and Rebecca Tsosie and her time in the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop.

“The privilege of being a part of the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop with professor Seanna Howard and United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [José] Francisco Calí Tzay is an unmatched experience,” says Filan. “[It’s]practicing human rights law at the highest level, really, in the world, because the human rights clinic gives students an opportunity to advocate for and work with indigenous peoples globally.”

Filan advises incoming LLM students to take every opportunity available to them to interact with professors and take as many classes as they can.

“You only pass through this buffet once, and you want to eat everything that you can,” says Filan. “The year goes quickly, and then it’s over.”

In fact, Filan wasn’t ready for her education to end and will now work towards a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in IPLP.

“I didn’t get enough, and I want more,” says Filan.

She hopes to become an advocate and scholar, and be able to teach, write and argue before international humans' rights bodies and domestic courts.

Says Filan, “I want to take this as far I possibly can, because I’ve been given the greatest education in the world, so I want to do the most I can in service to give back to those on whose behalf I am studying.”