Job Posting: Legal Director
American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee
The Opportunity – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) seeks a dynamic and visionary legal director to lead ACLU-TN’s legal department in advancing and shaping the civil rights and civil liberties landscape in Tennessee. The legal director is responsible for leading the organization’s legal program, which includes building a robust docket, ensuring that it advances the ACLU’s strategic priorities, and collaborating with local, state, and national partners in our shared pursuit of fairness, freedom, justice, and equity.
ABOUT ACLU-TN – ACLU-TN, the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union, is a private, non-partisan public interest organization. ACLU-TN is comprised of two separate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Tennessee.
ACLU-TN’s mission is to translate the guarantees 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, litigation, legislative lobbying, policy initiatives, and public education.
ACLU has been a leader in moving fairness and freedom forward in Tennessee for nearly a century. In 1925, ACLU represented public high school teacher John Scopes when he was arrested for teaching evolution in a science classroom 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. Today we continue to successfully tackle cutting edge initiatives on a range of issues, including voting rights, criminal legal reform, policing, LGBTQ+ equality, fair treatment of immigrants and refugees, freedom of speech, privacy, and reproductive justice.
Primary responsibilities include:
• Build and maintain ACLU-TN’s impact litigation docket, which advances our strategic priorities and responds to threats to civil liberties;
• Manage all aspects of ACLU-TN’s legal program, including coordinating case selection with the executive director, overseeing the investigation and development of cases prior to filing litigation, and building litigation teams with ACLU attorneys, cooperating attorneys, and other partners;
• Maintain an individual caseload and oversee litigation in federal and state court while ensuring effective client counseling;
• Supervise the legal team, including staff attorney and legal program coordinator and potentially additional legal staff, budget-permitting;
• Consult with the executive director on priority and complex issues and resource requirements;
• Recruit and collaborate with cooperating attorneys to build the ACLU’s docket, including overseeing all aspects of discovery, motion practice, briefs, trials, appellate work, and amicus briefing;
• Research civil liberties and civil rights issues and draft legal memoranda and demand letters;
• Ensure that the legal program adheres to highest standards of legal and professional ethics;
• Collaborate with the communications, policy and development teams to advance the ACLU’s priority campaigns, ensuring maximum media exposure, coordinating policy and legal advocacy tactics, and developing financial resources to grow;
• Ensure that volunteer attorneys and legal interns are well trained in substantive areas of the law, sound legal practice, and organizational operations;
• As part of the senior leadership team, partner with the executive director, to build strong team spirit, create professional development opportunities, and foster an organizational culture that encourages independent thinking and transparency, and upholds our diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging values;
• Monitor annual litigation budget and expenses throughout the year, seek adjustments as needed, ensuring bottom-line budget–to-actual performance;
• Expands and deepens relationships among ACLU attorneys, cooperating and pro bono counsel, and other lawyers to elevate the visibility of the ACLU in the legal community and to help build capacity in our legal docket by engaging lawyers in pre-litigation investigations, amicus briefs, active litigation, and other ACLU activities;
• Partner with the policy and communications teams to create comprehensive advocacy strategies that leverage all of the ACLU’s tools;
• Serve as a spokesperson for the ACLU-TN, working closely with our communications and policy teams to engage in strategic public forums, advocacy discussions, and media opportunities;
• Assist with administrative matters including but not limited to developing budgets, providing regular reports on legal department activities, assisting with file retention policy implementation, managing intake and correspondence, and coordinating and supporting other activities as needed.
• JD and licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee (or licensed in another state and qualified to apply for admission in Tennessee within 6 months).
• 8+ years practice as a litigator, including substantial trial and appellate experience in federal courts, especially complex litigation of constitutional issues.
• Substantive knowledge of constitutional law and civil liberties issues as well as the ability to think creatively and to use non-litigation strategies to promote objectives.
• Exceptional analytical, writing, and speaking skills.
• Demonstrated skills in legal analysis, research, and strategic thinking.
• Demonstrated commitment to the preservation and vigorous enforcement of civil liberties and civil rights.
• Track record of proven leadership and management skills including experiences in budgeting, staff supervision, relationship building with both internal and external partners, and mentoring of volunteer attorneys and interns.
• A personal approach that values the individual and respects differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstance.
• A sense of humor in order to maintain perspective and balance.
• An absolute commitment to the highest ethical and professional standards.
• Willingness to work beyond the 9 to 5 workday, with occasional travel required for national and statewide meetings.
• Awareness of, and willingness to engage in, the difficult and transformative work of challenging systems of oppression, institutional and structural racism, and implicit bias.
To Apply: Please email a single PDF that includes your letter of interest, resume, a professional writing sample (please limit to 1,500 words; an excerpt from a brief or pleading is acceptable) and three professional references to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Legal Director Search” in the subject line. In your cover letter, please share how/where you learned about the position. No phone calls please.
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and will be accepted until the position is filled.
Compensation: The legal director position is a salaried exempt position. Salary is commensurate with experience and based on the ACLU compensation scale. Excellent benefits package includes 100% employer-provided health insurance; dental, life and disability insurance; paid parental leave; vacation and holidays; and defined contribution plan (401K) with employer match.
The ACLU of Tennessee is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and a culture of inclusivity and belonging. We encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, gender, age, national origin, socio-economic disability, record of arrest or conviction, and veteran status.
The ACLU-TN office is located in Nashville, a rapidly growing city with a rich history in social justice and an awesome music, arts, culture and food scene.