Staff Attorney

Washington, DC, USA
Posted on  

Job Description

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights. An affiliate of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC), founded in 1961, advances and defends civil rights and liberties in the District of Columbia. Our legal strategies are part of a multi-disciplinary approach to advocacy that integrates legal, policy, and communications strategies and is built on the belief that fighting for civil liberties and rights means not just persuading judges but also gaining the support of policy makers, government officials, and the general public.

Among the matters currently on our docket are: representing Black Lives Matter-DC and individual activists in challenging the attack by federal and local law enforcement on civil rights demonstrators in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020; a lawsuit challenging a highly invasive search practice by federal Marshals of people in pretrial detention; the representation of two D.C. agency workers who faced discrimination based on their family responsibilities (child care) in the application of remote work policies; a challenge to the D.C. police department’s practice of retaining arrestees’ cell phones for months or years after the owners are released or charges are dropped; a hostile work environment case on behalf of a D.C. Jail officer subjected to harassment and abuse based on his sexual orientation; an institutional reform case seeking to shift primary responsibility for responding to individuals’ mental health crises away from police officers in favor of mental health professionals; and suing the federal government over the use of low-flying military helicopters to intimidate civil rights protesters. To learn more about our work, visit

Under the supervision of the Legal Director, the Staff Attorney will be responsible for investigating, researching, developing, and pursuing civil liberties and civil rights impact litigation across the entire range of civil rights and liberties issues. The staff attorney will litigate, often acting as lead counsel, individual and class action cases which raise constitutional, statutory, and common law claims. The Staff Attorney will litigate in D.C. and federal courts, at trial and appellate levels, through direct representation (mainly) and the filing of amicus briefs (occasionally). The Staff Attorney, in conjunction with the Legal Director and other legal staff, will work closely on some matters with cooperating attorneys from private firms or other public interest organizations, including attorneys with the National ACLU. The Staff Attorney should have the ability to exercise sound judgment in litigation strategy and impact-litigation case selection and to take full responsibility for developing and maintaining strong client relationships founded on mutual trust and high ethical standards. The Staff Attorney will often operate independently, with supervision as needed. The Staff Attorney will collaborate with colleagues in other departments focused on policy, communications, and/or organizing to implement strategies that advance ACLU-DC priorities. The Staff Attorney will help mentor and provide substantive feedback on the work of more junior members of the Legal Department, such as legal fellows and interns.

Salary: $80,000 - $120,000 / year, depending on experience and qualifications. Benefits currently provided to all ACLU-DC employees include employer-paid health insurance (including vision and dental coverage); vacation and sick leave; generous paid holidays; 401(k) availability with partial employer match and tuition repayment assistance. The Staff Attorney is a member of the ACLU-DC staff bargaining unit and is exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The ACLU-DC currently operates as a hybrid-remote workplace; staff mostly work remotely, although some in-person work is required. Residency in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia is a requirement of employment with ACLU-DC. This is a full-time position, and occasional evening or weekend work may be required. Flexibility and personal/work balance are important values to the ACLU-DC, and every effort will be made to help employees meet both professional and personal obligations.



·        Investigate, develop, and litigate civil liberties and civil rights cases in D.C. and federal court, including conducting factual and legal research, writing demand letters, writing pleadings and motions, conducting discovery, negotiating settlements, trying cases, presenting oral argument, and writing appellate and amicus briefs.

·        Assess requests for legal assistance and recommend appropriate cases to litigate.

·        Research legal issues and contribute to the development of legal strategy, under direction of the Legal Director.

·        Proactively build the ACLU-DC’s docket of cases by identifying and (with the approval of the Legal Director) pursuing impact litigation opportunities.


Policy, Communications, and Community Outreach:


·        Represent the ACLU-DC publicly through speaking engagements, media interviews, and community engagement (such as know-your-rights presentations).

·        Assist communications staff in developing communication materials, including press releases, op-eds, articles, blog posts, and social media assets.

·        Develop equitable and reciprocal relationships with partner organizations, other lawyers and law firms, and community coalitions and members.

·        Advise the Policy Department on legislative advocacy by analyzing the constitutionality and wisdom of proposed legislation, suggesting edits to legislative language, recommending policy positions, and providing feedback on strategy. May be called upon to testify before D.C. Council.

·        Work with clients to prepare them to speak with the media.


Administration, Coordination and Support


·        Supervise (as needed) law students, interns, and volunteer attorneys.

·        Mentor more junior ACLU-DC lawyers and provide strategic guidance and targeted feedback on discrete litigation tasks and sometimes entire cases (e.g., by serving as a more experienced second chair on a case led by a legal fellow).

·        Participate in hiring teams for new legal and non-legal staff.

·        Assist with all program activities as needed; keep Legal and Executive Directors adequately informed of work.

·        Other responsibilities as assigned.


~Note: This job description provides a general but not comprehensive list of the essential responsibilities and qualifications required. It does not represent a contract of employment. The ACLU-DC reserves the right to change the job description and/or posting at any time without advance notice.~



Qualifications – required:


·        J.D. degree.

·        Membership in the D.C. Bar (or must pass next D.C. Bar Examination if currently a member of another state Bar).

·        6-10 years of experience as a full-time attorney (counting fellowships and clerkships), including at least 3 years as a civil litigator in federal and/or state (or U.S. territorial) court.


Qualifications – desired:


·        Experience litigating civil rights or liberties cases, especially involving criminal justice or racial justice issues.

·        Experience with impact litigation.

·        Experience researching and briefing complex legal issues.

·        Experience taking a lead role in civil discovery.

·        Experience supervising law students.

·        Clerkship experience.

·        Non-profit experience.


Competencies – required


·        Excellent research and analytical skills.

·        Strong writing, research, and verbal skills in presenting both to lawyers and to non-lawyers.

·        Experience interviewing and working with clients, potential clients, and witnesses.

·        Experience as the primary author of briefs, motions, or pleadings filed in court.

·        Willingness to engage collaboratively and respectfully in critical intellectual give-and-take, in order to hone litigation strategies and legal theories. Willingness to express an unpopular view, question consensus in order to improve group decision making, and be persuaded by others.

·        Ability to provide junior staff, volunteers, and interns with thoughtful, compassionate, growth-oriented, and rigorous (though not micro-managing) feedback, including close supervision of new attorneys’ and interns’ legal research, and mentorship.

·        Commitment to “integrated advocacy” model, in which other types of advocacy (especially legislative work and public education/communications) are regularly pursued in coordinated and mutually-complementary fashion with litigation.

·        Awareness of, and willingness to engage in, the difficult and transformative work of challenging systems of oppression, institutional and structural racism, and implicit bias.

·        Ability to participate in, create and sustain inclusive and engaging spaces for all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, classes, and geographies.

·        Ability to file and litigate cases independently and collaboratively.

·        Ability to take initiative, think strategically, and share responsibility and credit.

·        A personal approach that values the individual and respects differences of race, sex, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstance.

·        Ability to juggle and prioritize many concurrent tasks at once, manage a high-volume workload, adapt quickly to changing organizational priorities, and meet moving deadlines.

·        Personal enthusiasm, optimism, and a sense of humor.

·        Ability to work long hours and weekends when needed.

·        Ability to work cooperatively on a variety of projects with lawyers, organizers, other staff members, and with diverse community organizations and coalitions.


Competencies – desired


·        Demonstrated commitment to and working knowledge of civil liberties, civil rights, and the mission of the ACLU.

·        Understanding of impact litigation as a tool for social change, including both its potential and its limitations.

·        Leadership skills in coalition work.

·        Familiarity with the District of Columbia.


~Note to Potential Candidates: Research shows that women, non-binary people, and people of color are less likely to apply for a position if they don’t meet every qualification or skill listed. We know that not all strong candidates will have every experience or skill we list—that’s okay! We still want to hear from you.~


The deadline for applying is 11:59pm Eastern time on Wednesday, April 24, 2024; nonetheless, due to the pace of the search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Start date will be after September 1, but the hiring process will be completed by June 1.

Applications must be submitted via the Bamboo HR application page linked on our website at To complete the application, you will need to upload:

1.      A resume that lists relevant experience and education

2.      A cover letter explaining your interest in and qualifications for the position.

3.      A writing sample that is your own work, with a brief explanatory note describing the extent of others’ involvement (e.g. “I wrote this draft entirely myself with no input” or “This is a second draft based on feedback from a supervisor but it’s all my own writing” or the like). This sample should be no more than 10 pages, and may be a section of a larger document (with a note explaining the context if it’s unclear from the sample alone). The most useful samples are litigation-related documents containing legal analysis or argument, such as briefs or research memos about potential litigation. Legal academic articles and complaints are less useful.

4.      A list of three references, including a sentence about each one identifying what information the person can provide. If possible, at least one of your references should be a practicing attorney.

If you have a disability / disabilities and need accommodation regarding any part of the application process, please contact us at

ACLU-DC is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU-DC encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status, or any other classification protected by the D.C. Human Rights Act or federal employment law.