Adaobi Egboka developed a passion for human rights at a young age growing up in Eastern Nigeria. That passion led her to the field of law, where today she leads the development of innovative pro bono programs in Africa while empowering the next generation of attorneys.

“One thing I knew I wanted to do was to stand up and speak up for people,” Egboka says. “Nigeria is a very patriarchal state — there are lots of issues and abuses to the female gender — and as I got involved with different groups, it opened my eyes on how to promote and protect the rights of indigent and vulnerable persons.”

Egboka earned her LL.M. in Sustainable International Development from UW Law in 2018. Today, she serves as Africa Program Manager at the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to advancing global justice. In her current role, Egboka builds on more than 15 years of experience working on rule of law and human rights issues in Nigeria.

“The Sustainable International Development program makes you learn with classmates who are experts from many continents with similar issues and share experiences formally and informally.”

Shortly after earning her bachelor’s in law from the University of Lagos, she joined the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), where she engaged in policy advocacy, litigation strategy development, and monitoring the application of international human rights in national, regional and international courts.

She joined the Vance Center in 2018, leading an array of programs centered on strengthening the legal profession by mobilizing attorneys to engage in pro bono service in sub-Saharan Africa, and providing legal support to nonprofits while managing partnerships across the continent and the United States.

These efforts include the recently launched Africa Pro Bono Series and Women in the Profession Africa, which promote cross-border discussion of pro bono practice in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Her work also involves managing the organization’s African Legal Fellows program, which recruits African lawyers to work in New York law firms and corporate legal departments for up to a year. As international associates, the fellows receive mentorship, expand their professional networks and gain exposure to pro bono practice.

Egboka says her experience in the Sustainable International Development LL.M. program was instrumental to her work today. The program brings lawyer-leaders from countries across the globe who want to contribute to a sustainable and resilient future. She says that learning how classmates address challenges while practicing in their home countries was particularly meaningful.

“The beauty of [the SID program] is that it recruits mid-career lawyers, who at that point in their careers have an idea of what they want to accomplish.” she says. “SID makes you learn with classmates who are experts from many continents with similar issues and share experiences formally and informally.”

Making a direct impact on the lives of those in her community was something Egboka strove for and accomplished early in her career. And while her work from New York still makes her miss Nigeria, today she is shaping the future of an inclusive legal profession that directly leads to the advancement of the rule of law around the globe.