ACLU seeks staff attorney in South Carolina

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Sep 09, 2008 ACLU seeks staff attorney in South Carolina


Bill of Rights (From public domain.)

Full Glass Consulting has asked me to spread the word about an open ACLU staff attorney position. In the early Nineties, I served on the board of the ACLU of the National Capital Area, and recommend applying for this position if you are looking for a new position and if your ability and interest meet the job description, which follows:

Position Availability / Staff Attorney of South Carolina National Office

Charleston, South Carolina

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes applications for the position of Staff Attorney of the South Carolina National Office, available immediately.

The National ACLU

The national American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 to preserve the fundamental liberties written in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.

The ACLU is composed of two separately incorporated nonprofit organizations: The ACLU and the ACLU Foundation. The ACLU Foundation conducts litigation and public education programs in support of civil liberties. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax-deductible charitable organization, and contributions to it are deductible to the extent allowed by law. The ACLU conducts membership outreach and organizing, legislative advocacy and lobbying. It is supported primarily by membership dues. It is a 501(c)4 organization, which is tax-exempt, but donations to it are not tax-deductible. The majority of support for the ACLU and ACLU Foundation comes from individuals, who believe in the guarantees of freedom, justice, equality, and fair treatment under the law. The ACLU and its affiliates receive no government funding and never charge clients for legal representation.

Every ACLU office builds a menu of programs and services to meet the unique characteristics of the communities that are served. Through communications, lobbying and litigation, the ACLU endeavors to preserve and enhance liberties grounded in the United States and state constitutions and civil rights laws. Among these liberties are separation of church and state, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, the right to privacy, reproductive rights, due process of law, and the right to equal treatment under the law.  To learn more about the work of the national ACLU, please visit

The ACLU South Carolina National Office

The ACLU South Carolina is a national office of the ACLU and is the state’s guardian of freedom. Working to promote and defend civil liberties throughout the state, its mission includes a variety of legal, legislative and public education programs encompassing a broad range of constitutional issues. 

Until recently, the ACLU of South Carolina was a separately governed and operated statewide affiliate organization located in Columbia, South Carolina.  In June, 2008, the national ACLU suspended the operations of the existing South Carolina affiliate and reorganized to create an office of the national ACLU to strengthen its statewide operations and program capacity.  The new office, to be opened in July, 2008, will be located in Charleston, South Carolina, with easy proximity to South Carolina’s state capitol, Columbia, which is located about 100 miles to the northwest via Interstate 26.

Under the supervision of the Executive Director, the Staff Attorney will be responsible for building, managing and coordinating a statewide legal program and will also participate in non-litigation advocacy activities including public speaking, media interviews, writing press releases, op-eds, newsletter articles, and reports. The Staff Attorney will work also work collaboratively with national staff and legal projects, as well as local cooperating attorneys throughout the state.

The City

Consistently named among Condae Nast Traveler’s top 10 US destinations, Charleston, South Carolina is a world-class city.  Beautifully preserved historic sites, outstanding resorts and recreational facilities, and its premier waterfront location attract millions of visitors and new residents to the Charleston area each year.  With a mild year-round climate, miles of beaches and waterway, a burgeoning young professional scene and several up-and-coming neighborhoods, the region is thriving, even during difficult economic times.  This influx of diverse people of all ages, backgrounds, and origins also sustains an incredible array of world cuisine, shopping that ranges from small boutiques to large stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, and cultural amenities rarely found in markets of similarly-sized cities, including a world-class symphony orchestra, a ballet company, several stage companies, a number of museums and a growing base of art galleries and artist studios. Sports fans can also take advantage of the region’s many sports teams, with minor league baseball, professional soccer, professional tennis and professional hockey all represented here. The three-county region is also home to several colleges and universities, which greatly influence the vibrancy and diversity of the community. The region’s population of a 600,000 is predicted to grow more than 20 percent in the next few years.

The Position

The Staff Attorney is the leader of the South Carolina National Office’s statewide legal program and provides the strategic and tactical direction necessary to enable the ACLU to fulfill its mission to protect and defend the rights and liberties of the people of South Carolina.

In partnership with the local and national leadership teams, the Staff Attorney is responsible and accountable for all aspects of the ACLU South Carolina National Office’s statewide legal program, including:


  • Serve as lead and co-counsel on a variety of civil liberties cases; work with the National ACLU litigation team, coalition partners, and cooperating attorneys. This includes performing legal research, conducting discovery, drafting pleadings, motions and briefs, and presenting oral arguments in state and federal courts at both the trial and appellate levels
  • Investigate civil liberties complaints that may lead to law reform litigation
  • Work closely with the Community Organizer to identify legal issues and litigation opportunities in communities throughout the state
  • Create and oversee systems to professionally review, evaluate and respond to phone and mail intake
  • Recruit and work with ACLU volunteer attorneys
  • Prepare legal memoranda and letters; review, comment or write amicus briefs; provide legal analysis to other senior ACLU staff
  • Advocate for civil liberties and serve as a spokesperson for the ACLU both with the press and as a public speaker
  • Develop and maintain relationships with fellow legal staff members within the National ACLU and state affiliates. Participate in National ACLU legal conferences
  • Establish and maintain relationships with legal services and other public interest attorneys/ organizations in South Carolina
  • Prepare regular reports of all significant legal department activities for the South Carolina Executive Director.

The Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate will have a J.D. degree and at least eight years of litigation experience, with a background of raising constitutional, criminal justice, or discrimination issues and experience in non-profit advocacy or public interest work. The successful candidate will also be a member of the South Carolina State Bar (or must pass the next Bar Examination).

The ideal candidate will also possess substantive knowledge and understanding of constitutional law and will have experience working on civil liberties issues.  This experience will include the ability to identify and prioritize litigation of interest to the ACLU, conduct thorough legal analysis and research, and develop clear recommendations about whether, and when, to pursue cases.

The candidate will have excellent communication and interpersonal skills with both legal and non-legal audiences, and be an enthusiastic friendraiser with like-minded audiences throughout South Carolina.  The candidate will enjoy collaboration, and will possess the skills necessary to build relationships and work effectively on projects with many key stakeholders, including other attorneys, staff members, community organizations and coalitions across the state.  The successful candidate will possess the ability to work effectively with and quickly gain the respect and support of various constituencies including clients, prospective clients, local staff, national staff, consultants, and the legal community.

The successful candidate will be committed to diversity and demonstrate a personal approach that respects differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstance.  The candidate must be comfortable working with managing partners at large law firms and working directly with high-level local, state and national officials.  The successful candidate will also be equally comfortable, and dedicated to, working the Community Organizer at a grassroots level to identify key issues throughout the state and to directly engage the people who are most affected by those issues, either as potential clients, or as partners and colleagues.

In addition to a strong legal background within constitutional or public interest arenas, an entrepreneurial spirit is imperative for the ideal candidate.   The successful candidate will be a passionate advocate who is at home in a start-up environment, yet comfortable navigating within a larger national structure and hierarchy.

The candidate must also be highly resourceful and possess the key qualities necessary to build and sustain a legal committee, litigation docket and other initiatives. The candidate will possess excellent planning, strategic thinking and management skills with the ability to coach and lead team members in an environment that fosters creativity, teamwork, a commitment to excellence, and mutual respect.

Other Requirements:

  • A reputation for honesty, fairness, and high ethical standards in all aspects of professional work
  • A willingness and ability to travel frequently throughout the week and on weekends, both locally and regionally, is a must.
  • A willingness to devote as many hours as necessary to get the job done
  • Proficiency with computers; Windows and Microsoft Office in particular
  • A demonstrated commitment to the preservation and vigorous enforcement of civil liberties
  • A commitment to the mission, goals and principles of the ACLU


The ACLU offers a generous and comprehensive compensation and benefits package, commensurate with experience and qualifications.


Please send a cover letter and resume that describes your interest in this position, your relevant qualifications and experience, and your availability.  Applications should also include two writing samples; at least one of which should be a legal research memo, brief, or article.

All applications will be confidential. Applications should be sent directly by email to with ACLU SC Staff Attorney [SC-03/WACLU] in the subject line. 

Please indicate where you learned of this position.

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages applications from women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The ACLU comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation are national organizations with the same overall mission, and share office space and employees. The ACLU has two separate corporate entities in order to do a broad range of work to protect civil liberties. This job posting refers collectively to the two organizations under the name ACLU.

Jon Katz

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