amal clooney
Amal Clooney of the Clooney Foundation for Justice attends the United Nations "Arria-formula" meeting, an informal gathering of Security Council members, on April 27, 2022 to discuss how the UN can support and coordinate accountability efforts for serious crimes in Ukraine. Source: Timothy A. Clary/AFP

She steps out of the car, her dark locks cascading down her back as she looks up and flashes a smile. Flashes of lights go off almost simultaneously, and the repeated click of cameras heard. Amal Clooney raises her hand and waves. She turns and walks towards the International Criminal Court where she will speak on behalf of a victim of genocide.

A stunning beauty to look at, there is much more to Clooney than just her looks. This powerhouse barrister specialises in international law and human rights. Described as “exceptionally brilliant,” Clooney has made the news for representing Yazidi victims, genocide victims in Sudan and adviser to Special Envoy Kofi Annan to Sudan.

Amal Clooney’s violent start in life

Ever wonder how she got to where she is? Born in Beirut in 1978, she and her family fled to the UK to escape the war in Lebanon. She then attended Dr Challoner’s High School, an all-girls grammar school in Buckinghamshire. Supported by a strong tradition of academic excellence and a consistent placing in the top 30 in state school examination league tables, Clooney fared well.

She moved on to St Hugh’s College in Oxford, where she read law in 1996. There, she received an exhibition scholarship and the highly esteemed Shrigley Award. This award is given for excellence in law studies. Clooney graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Jurisprudence in 2000.

Graduating students celebrate during the 2022 commencement ceremony of New York University, Alma Clooney’s alma mater. Source: Angela Weiss/AFP

Jurisprudence, or legal theory is the theoretical study of propriety law. Oxford’s BA in Jurisprudence is a three-year undergraduate law degree, equivalent to what other universities call an LLB. It also doubles as a “qualifying law degree” so one can practise as a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales.

Keen to collect more degrees, Clooney continued on to the New York University (NYU) School of Law where she completed her Master’s in Law (LLM).

At NYU School of Law, there are nine LLM’s and eight high quality specialisations to choose from. Boasting more than 100 full-time faculty members who are also scholars, the university has been an influential institute for many since its inception in 1831.

Clooney was admitted to the bar in New York in 2002. She completed a clerkship in The Hague at the International Court of Justice and worked as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

In 2010, she was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2010. Getting “called” refers to barristers formally recognised for passing the vocational stage of training.

The prolific career of Amal Clooney

Today, she has a robust legal career and has chalked up an impressive resume. She has represented political prisoners around the world — think WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

She’s also played a huge role in many landmark human rights cases including the world’s first trial where an ISIS member was convicted of committing genocide against Yazidis.

“The arrest of Taha A.J. is a milestone for survivors of ISIS’ brutal crimes. This is the first time a member of ISIS will face trial for the crime of genocide, anywhere in the world,” Clooney said upon the ruling.

Amal Clooney

Amal Clooney often takes on high-profile cases. Source: Ben Stansall/AFP

Despite living such a busy life in the spotlight, Clooney has never forgotten her roots and always aimed to give back.

In 2015, Clooney launched the Amal Clooney scholarship with the aim to give back to women in Lebanon. The scholarship award is part of an ongoing effort by 100 LIVES — the organisation that strengthens cross-cultural education through social and philanthropic projects.

She still actively plays a role in the education sector by lecturing students as a Visiting Professor at the Columbia Law School. Professor Clooney has earned a title in the legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners as a leading barrister in international human rights law, public international law, and international criminal law.

Lebanese-British barrister Amal Clooney (L) and husband US actor George Clooney arrive for “The Tender Bar” premiere at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on October 3, 2021. Source: Lisa O’Connor/AFP

Despite such prestigious titles, the power couple, (George included) have always had a heart for the lesser fortunate. The Clooney Foundation for Justice was founded in 2016.

One of the key elements of the foundation is to provide free legal support to victims of abuse of power. Each programme looks to support vulnerable communities including journalists, women, children, LGBTQ persons and minorities.

She has made one thing a surety: bringing positive change. For Amal Clooney, it started off with a great start in her education. As she says, “We need young people with the courage to say, ‘This is our world now, and there are going to be some changes.'”