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American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee

Staff Attorney

American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee


Job Summary

The ACLU of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) seeks a licensed attorney for the position of staff attorney. The staff attorney will participate in both litigation and non-litigation advocacy to advance civil liberties and civil rights in Tennessee. The staff attorney will work under the direction of the ACLU of Tennessee’s legal director to help develop and litigate cases at the trial and appellate level in state and federal courts on a wide variety of civil rights and civil liberties issues.

The staff attorney will be expected to develop a docket of cases and take a lead role in their litigation, as well as support the legal director in other cases. In addition, the staff attorney will have non-litigation advocacy responsibilities, including public speaking.

The ACLU of Tennessee is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU of Tennessee encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status and record of arrest or conviction, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law. Black people; Indigenous people; people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, gender-nonconforming and intersex people; women; people with disabilities; protected veterans; and formerly incarcerated individuals are all strongly encouraged to apply.

The ACLU of Tennessee makes every effort to assure that its recruitment and employment practices provide all qualified persons, including persons with disabilities, with full opportunities for employment in all positions. The ACLU of Tennessee is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities. Please do not hesitate to inquire at if you believe you may need accommodations during the application or interview process.

About the ACLU of Tennessee – ACLU-TN, the state affiliate of the national ACLU, is a private, non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization. ACLU-TN’s mission is to translate the promises of the Bill of Rights into reality for all Tennesseans. ACLU-TN defends and advances civil liberties and civil rights through advocacy, coalition-building, community engagement and mobilization, and public education, legal and policy initiatives.

ACLU has been a leader in moving fairness and freedom forward in Tennessee for over nine decades. In 1925, ACLU represented public high school teacher John Scopes when he was arrested for teaching evolution in Dayton, Tennessee. In the 1960s and 1970s, ACLU advocated for racial justice and the right to assemble, including representing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Memphis sanitation strike and challenging police surveillance of civil rights activists in the city. During the Trump Administration, we aggressively challenged the relentless attacks on civil liberties and civil rights, and today we continue to tackle cutting edge initiatives on a range of issues, including criminal legal reform, policing, LGBTQ equality, voting rights, fair treatment of immigrants and refugees, freedom of speech, religious freedom, and reproductive justice.

Job Responsibilities

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Participate directly in litigating civil liberties and civil rights cases in federal and state court, either as co-counsel or, when appropriate, as lead counsel.
  • Conduct factual and legal research, prepare memoranda, draft Open Records Act requests, write demand letters, draft pleadings and motions, and help write appellate and amicus briefs.
  • Identify, develop, interview, and retain potential clients for representation.
  • Manage the discovery process for complex civil litigation, including preparing discovery requests and responses, analyzing documents, and taking and defending depositions.
  • Monitor litigation being handled by cooperating attorneys and provide assistance as needed.
  • Help assess requests for legal assistance and identify appropriate cases for legal challenge that come through our intake program.
  • Develop and maintain working relationships with the legal staff at the national ACLU, its projects, and other affiliates, and collaborate on litigation and investigations that arise in Tennessee.
  • Review, comment, and edit letters and briefs of co-counsel and other ACLU-TN staff.
  • Support the work of the legal director, as needed.


Secondary Responsibilities:

  • Engage in advocacy work to advance civil rights through non-litigation means such as writing public comments, public speaking, and public-education efforts. 
  • Work with ACLU-TN staff to implement integrated advocacy campaigns and high-impact strategies in collaboration with ACLU-TN’s communications, legislative, advocacy, and legal programs.
  • Occasionally speak to media.
  • Perform other duties as assigned by the legal director.


  • J.D. from an accredited law school with excellent academic achievement.
  • At least two years of civil litigation, with a preferred emphasis in complex civil litigation, civil rights or constitutional law.
  • Admitted to the Tennessee Bar (candidates who are eligible to immediately apply for admission to the Tennessee Bar will be considered).
  • A strong understanding of, and demonstrated commitment to, civil liberties, civil rights, and the ACLU mission, with a preference for those with lived experience in ACLU’s focus areas. Experience in non-profit advocacy or other community-based groups is also valuable.
  • Exceptional writing and analytical skills are required. Judicial clerkships and/or experience litigating federal civil rights and civil liberties cases are a plus.
  • Demonstrated skills in legal analysis, research, and strategic thinking.
  • Substantive knowledge and understanding of constitutional law and civil liberties issues.
  • Demonstrated skills in working independently, collaboratively, and under pressure.
  • Excellent communication skills with both legal and non-legal audiences.
  • Demonstrated ability to work cooperatively on a variety of projects with lawyers, other staff members, and with community organizations and coalitions.
  • A commitment to diversity and a personal approach that values the individual and respects differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, ability, and socioeconomic circumstance.
  • Willing to work some evenings, weekends, and holidays.
  • Willing to periodically work long and extended hours.
  • Willing to occasionally travel locally/regionally as needed, including to prisons and jails.  

Personal Characteristics:

Ideally, the successful candidate will be:

  • Personally committed to advancing ACLU-TN’s values, mission, goals, and programs, with an understanding of the range of civil liberties issues and their implications, with preference for those with lived experience with these issues.
  • Flexible, well-organized, reliable, creative, and energetic.
  • Able to handle and prioritize multiple activities and responsibilities.
  • Absolutely committed to the highest ethical and professional standards.
  • A team player who is comfortable working in a small, tight-knit office environment.

Additional Information


Excellent benefits offered, including 100% employer-paid comprehensive health insurance; dental, life, accidental and disability insurance; defined contribution plan (401K); vacation, sick and holiday leave.

How to Apply

Please submit a single PDF titled “Staff Attorney Application – Your Name” that includes a detailed letter of interest, resume, legal writing sample, and contact information for three references by Monday, May 16, 2022, to, with the subject line “Staff Attorney Application — Your Last Name.” In your letter of interest, please indicate how you learned about the position.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed until the position is filled, at which time the position will be removed from the ACLU/ACLU-TN websites. Qualified candidates may be asked to submit additional information, including performance samples, a law school transcript, and references from people with whom they have worked in the past.


  • Date Posted: April 28, 2022
  • Type: Full-Time
  • Job Function: Legal
  • Service Area: Other
  • Start Date: 06/01/2022
  • Salary Range: 62000-71000
  • Working Hours: 40 hrs/wk M-F 9am to 5pm