Fellow (San Francisco, Sacramento, or Fresno)

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ACLU of Northern CA

The Opportunity

The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU NorCal) is hiring two Fellows to join the Legal-Policy Department (“Department”).  The Fellows will serve two-year terms.  Over the course of those two years, the Fellows will help to develop and carry out litigation and policy work to advance the Department’s overarching strategic plans and to protect and defend civil rights and civil liberties for all Californians. The Fellows will work under the supervision of the Director of Appellate Advocacy.  The Fellows can be based in ACLU NorCal’s San Francisco, Sacramento, or Fresno offices. 

The Approach

Our work is guided by the principles of freedom, equality, and justice enumerated in the Constitution. However, we know that because of historic and systemic racism and other forms of oppression, these principles are not equitably applied to all. In an ideal world, everyone would have equal access to justice and equal protection under the law. Unfortunately, neither our world nor our country is ideal. Our work involves hard subject matter that can be emotionally draining for some people. Ideal candidates will understand that as a mission driven organization; we strive to make the world a better place knowing that the road is long and hard. At the same time, we understand the importance of self-care, and do our best to reflect that in our practices and values.

The Position

Over the two-year fellowship, the Fellows will spend 75% of their time on work projects generated by the Department’s six issue-based programs: Criminal Justice, Democracy & Civic Engagement, Gender, Sexuality & Reproductive Justice, Immigrants’ Rights, Racial & Economic Justice, and Technology & Civil Liberties.

During the initial year, the Fellows will focus on developing core legal research and writing skills, spending half of their time on litigation and policy projects generated by program teams and half on projects directly assigned by the Director of Appellate Advocacy. Litigation-related research and writing will include engaging in the investigation, development, and initiation of high-impact cases; working up fact and expert discovery; and addressing appellate matters. Policy-related research and writing will include analyzing state and local legislative proposals, researching legislative history, and drafting internal memos and position letters on legislation.

During the second year, the Fellows will each embed within one of the Department’s six programs to learn and engage directly in integrated advocacy. In addition to contributing to litigation and legislative efforts, this work may include developing grassroots advocacy campaigns to effect policy changes at the local and regional levels; contributing to public education efforts to advance programmatic priorities; and conducting outreach to and advocating in coalition with our community partners. 

During both years, the Fellows will work under the supervision of the Director of Appellate Advocacy.  In the Fellows’ first year, the Director of Appellate Advocacy will assign the Fellows projects from the program teams and will also directly involve the Fellows in Department-level appellate advocacy projects. In the second year, the Director of Appellate Advocacy will continue to serve as a mentor to the Fellows, while the Fellows receive projects directly from their assigned program team. The Fellows will also work closely with colleagues across the Department on various projects and assignments. 

About the Organization

The ACLU of Northern California is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU NorCal) is comprised of two distinct corporations, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California (501c3) and the ACLU of Northern California (501c4). The incumbent is a joint employee of both corporations. For most of the last century, it has been at the heart of many of the most major – and sometimes controversial – struggles for civil liberties and civil rights in our state.

Our mission is to ensure that Constitutional rights don’t just exist on paper but are protected in practice. As we move into a new era and face dangerous policies that threaten our civil rights and civil liberties, we remain dedicated to confronting these issues and defending the progress we have made. We must use our decades of experience in impact litigation, legislative advocacy, and fearless organizing to fight these un-American policies and protect our most cherished rights and freedoms. We are committed to fostering an anti-racist work culture and to anti-racist principles and learning. We are the resistance. Join us.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Engage in the investigation, development, initiation, and litigation of high-impact cases, including: managing fact and expert discovery, conducting legal research and analysis, drafting pleadings, motions, briefs and complaints, evaluating and investigating potentials claims, identifying potential plaintiffs and defendants, and coordinating amicus briefing. 
  • Engage in the development, initiation, and implementation of policy advocacy, including: evaluating state and local  legislation, helping to develop new policy, drafting advocacy letters, researching and developing public education materials, and working in coalition with other organizations, particularly those from impacted communities.
  • Engage in other activities to advance the work of the Department and participate in Team meetings, Department Meetings, and Organizational meetings, as required.


Education / Experience:

  • J.D. [or expected to receive a J.D. by Summer of 2024].

Required Skills / Competencies:

  • Strong commitment to pursuing public interest advocacy work, particularly in ACLU NorCal’s six core Program Areas.
  • Strong research and writing skills (and strong interest in developing and refining these skills), including the ability to translate complex legal and policy issues for diverse audiences.
  • Excellent communication skills, including ability to interact effectively with people from different racial, social and economic backgrounds, and ability to negotiate, compromise, and problem solve in coalition settings.
  • Strong time and project management skills, including a high level of organization, attention to detail, and follow-through, while balancing and prioritizing multiple activities and responsibilities.
  • Excellent relationship-building and collaboration skills, including success working as a member of a team and/or with community organizations.
  • Experience engaging in creative problem solving and taking initiative, while utilizing a solutions-oriented approach and exhibiting flexibility and good judgment in a complex organizational ecosystem.
  • A commitment to racial justice work and incorporating racial justice principles into legal work.
  • Experience using and/or a willingness to use multi-pronged strategies - litigation, public education, and legislative and policy advocacy – in response to serious problems facing impacted communities.
  • Ability to maintain a high level of confidentiality.

Preferred Skills / Competencies:

  • Fluency in Spanish or other non-English language widely spoken in California, preferred.
  • Direct personal or professional experience with impacted communities.

Technical Skills:

  • Working knowledge of Microsoft Word, Outlook, Adobe Acrobat, PowerPoint, Excel and other Office programs.

Total Compensation

We are committed to creating and maintaining a diverse workforce through equity initiatives, which includes equitable pay practices. Competitive compensation is commensurate with experience. The starting salary for this position is $84,161.40.

We understand how vital our work is and at the same time understand the toll engaged activism can take. Our goal is to retain staff and we believe that having a robust benefits offering is vital in meeting that goal. Our benefits include four weeks paid vacation in addition to 14 office holidays; fully employer-paid medical, vision and dental insurance for staff members, their dependents and spouse or domestic partner; life and long-term disability insurance; and, 401(k) plan with employer match. We have a robust Employee Assistance Program and emerging Employee Resource Groups.

This position is represented.

To Apply

Applications will be accepted until the position has been filled. We encourage you to apply as soon as possible as we will be evaluating applications on a rolling basis.  Applications must include (1) resume, (2) cover letter, and (3) a writing sample. Applicants who advance in the hiring process will be asked to provide a list of three references.  Applicants concurrently applying to any other position with the ACLU should state what other position they are applying for in the cover letter. Please submit your application online at: https://boards.greenhouse.io/aclunc/jobs/6945295002.

ACLU NorCal is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need assistance applying online, please e-mail hr@aclunc.org.  If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process.

The ACLU of Northern California advances equity and inclusion in the workplace by providing equal employment opportunity to support a work environment free from discrimination on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age (over 40), sexual orientation, military and veteran status, and any other basis prohibited by law. The organization also provides reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. This equal employment opportunity policy applies to all aspects of employment, including recruitment, selection, advancement, training, problem resolution, and separation from employment. Through this policy, the ACLU-NC strives to establish and maintain an equitable and accessible work environment that is free from discrimination and supportive of a workforce that reflects the rich diversity of our communities and the people we serve.


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