Senior Staff Attorney/Legal Director

$95,000 - $120,000 yearly
  • First Amendment Coalition
  • Remote
  • Oct 27, 2021
Full time Legal Media-Journalism Nonprofit-Social Services

Job Description

The First Amendment Coalition (FAC) seeks an experienced lawyer with demonstrated expertise litigating cases seeking access to public records to oversee FAC’s growing strategic litigation program.   

The Senior Staff Attorney/Legal Director will work with FAC’s growing legal staff, including its Executive Director, to expand FAC’s strategic litigation program and our ability to provide expert legal assistance to working journalists and others, with a particular focus on those in traditionally underserved communities. FAC’s legal work is focused on enhancing public access to federal, state and local government records and proceedings and protecting the First Amendment rights of free speech and press. We carry this mission out through a range of litigation in state and federal court, including actions where FAC staff attorneys are sole counsel as well as actions where FAC is represented by outside counsel. 

For candidates with at least 5 years of experience, this will be a Senior Staff Attorney position with the ability to advance to a director position; candidates with more extensive experience may qualify for the position of Legal Director. 

This is an opportunity to play a big role in a small but growing organization, and to do work that has a major impact in California and beyond, through a combination of strategic litigation, direct counseling and integrated advocacy work. Working alongside a team of five other First Amendment and transparency champions, the Senior Staff Attorney or Legal Director will help set advocacy, litigation and program priorities in an organization that has had, and continues to have, an outsized impact on the law, and on our community, by aggressively defending free expression, a free press, and government transparency and accountability.

A sample of recent highlights from FAC's litigation program include: a precedent-setting public records case enforcing California's landmark police transparency law; a federal civil rights lawsuit against a trial court system that led to greater public access to proceedings amid the pandemic; and a FOIA case that forced the disclosure of previously sealed records related to the Trump administration's aggressive pursuit of journalist leak investigations

The Senior Staff Attorney / Legal Director’s core responsibilities are:

Managing FAC’s litigation docket, including:

  • Identifying, developing and prosecuting cases under the California Public Records Act, the Brown Act, the federal Freedom of Information Act and the First Amendment;
  • Conducting and/or managing fact investigations; 
  • Drafting and/or supervising the drafting of pleadings, amicus briefs and advocacy letters;
  • Litigating in state and federal court, including managing and meeting deadlines; propounding discovery; communicating with opposing counsel; etc;
  • Identifying, recruiting and managing outside counsel;
  • Managing FAC’s growing legal staff, including at least one Legal Fellow and a litigation secretary.

Communicating and/or collaborating with staff, the public and allied groups:

  • Working collaboratively with FAC staff and allied organizations to set policy and litigation priorities;
  • Working with FAC staff and allied groups to effectively communicate FAC’s policy positions and inform the public about our work in and out of court;
  • Identifying and working collaboratively with allied groups on litigation, legislation and policy matters.

Counseling and educating journalists and others on non- or pre-litigation matters:

  • Responding to queries to FAC’s Legal Hotline, which fields requests on a broad range of issues ranging from access to records and meetings to free expression rights under the First Amendment, as well as press freedoms;
  • Identifying legal issues, conducting legal research, and assessing legal risk for clients;
  • Helping maintain FAC’s educational resources such as public records guides;
  • Maintaining communication and relationships with clients; addressing questions and concerns clients have.

Additional responsibilities and opportunities, depending on experience and aptitude may include:

  • Providing custom workshops to journalists, activists and others on public records in collaboration with Programs & Outreach Director and other senior staff;
  • Communicating policy positions to the public through strategic communications such as substantive law articles, blog posts, etc.
  • Participating in public speaking opportunities, such as on educational panels, in the press and at legal training programs;
  • Participating in legislative and policymaking processes by reviewing and analyzing ordinances and legislation in California and formulating position papers and testimony.

Qualifications:  

The Senior Staff Attorney/Legal Director must: 

(1) have a law degree and California bar membership or the willingness to take the California bar exam within their first year at FAC; 

(2) have at least five years of experience litigating in state and/or federal court, including cases brought under the California Public Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and/or the First Amendment;

(3) have the ability to work independently, but also collaboratively and collegially on a small staff;

(4) be committed to bringing FAC’s services and advocacy to a broader and more diverse constituency, including communities of color and communities outside major metropolitan areas;

(4) have excellent research, analytical and legal writing skills;

(5) have strong time-management skills and the ability to juggle multiple disparate tasks simultaneously;

(6) be able to understand and articulate clearly to the press and public FAC’s mission and positions on matters pending in court, the California legislature and beyond;

(7) work to collaboratively resolve conflicts and overcome challenges;

(8) be committed to the creation of a diverse, equitable and inclusive work culture that celebrates differences in life experiences, race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion and socio-economic circumstances.

A background in journalism is a plus.

We welcome candidates who are able to work remotely only but will give preference to candidates who are, or can be, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and are able to work in FAC’s offices in San Rafael depending on the state of public health in 2022.

FAC is committed to a diverse and inclusive staff, one that reflects the state and country we serve.  Freedom of information, expression, and of the press are universal ideals but diversity of life experiences can make a big difference in how FAC identifies and litigates legal issues, serves our varied constituencies, and arrives at policy positions on the rights and ideals we care about. To that end, we deliberately seek applicants who can bring different perspectives and experiences to better inform our work promoting and defending free expression, a free press and the public’s right to know. 

Applicants are encouraged to submit materials as soon as possible; applications are preferred by November 30.  

Location: 

San Rafael, California.

Salary: 

$95,000-$120,000 depending on experience. Includes health benefits and eligibility for FAC’s 403(b) retirement plan, including a 5% employer match.

Starting date: 

Late 2021 or early 2022.

How to apply: Via this link.

Application materials are not accepted via email. 

If you have any questions regarding FAC's Litigation Director position or the application process, please email SrStaffAttorney@firstamendmentcoalition.org.