Laurence R. Helfer portrait

Laurence Helfer

You could surmise that Laurence Helfer’s background — degrees from Yale, Princeton and NYU, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, Duke Law professor — would elevate him into some out-of-touch echelon of the legal world.

Not so.

Helfer says his experiences have “given me a unique perspective on how human rights apply to real-world problems and are implemented on the ground.

“My research is based on a careful analysis of treaty texts and case law as well as interviews with government officials, judges, lawyers and civil society groups in regions all around the world.”

That’s why he’s serving on the UN committee as an independent expert for the 2023-2026 term. 

“… Professor Helfer is known globally as a tireless advocate for human rights, and the United States applauds his election,” the State Department said in announcing his selection.

Helfer’s expertise includes the areas of international law and institutions, international adjudication and dispute settlement, human rights (including LGBT rights), and international intellectual property law and policy.

In 2009 Helfer became a faculty member at Duke Law, where he is co-director of the school’s Center for International and Comparative Law. In addition, Helfer is a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts: Center of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2014.

Helfer’s writings have appeared in more than 100 publications, including the Yale Law Journal and the Columbia Law Review, plus in numerous peer-reviewed political science and international law journals.

Helfer previously taught at Vanderbilt University Law School, where he was director of the International Legal Studies Program. He has also taught at Harvard Law School, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Princeton University, the University of Chicago Law School and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.