Position Summary

The Knight First Amendment Institute defends the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education. Our aim is to promote a system of free expression that is open and inclusive, that broadens and elevates public discourse, and that fosters creativity, accountability, and effective self-government.

Since its establishment in 2016, the Institute has filed precedent-setting litigation, undertaken major interdisciplinary research initiatives, and become an influential voice in debates about the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age. Its active litigation docket includes cutting-edge cases relating to transparency, surveillance, and social media. Through its research program, the Institute has published a series of influential essays focused on emerging threats to the system of free expression. It has also hosted public events on new technology and public discourse, data journalism and the law, the First Amendment and inequality, whistleblowers, leaks, and national-security journalism.

Reporting to the Institute’s Litigation Director and Executive Director, the Senior Staff Attorney will contribute to the Institute’s litigation program by conceiving and developing new litigation, leading and overseeing all aspects of litigation projects, and helping to guide the work of the Institute’s litigation team. The Senior Staff Attorney will also have a major role in shaping the Institute’s strategic agenda, supporting the Institute’s research and public education programs, speaking on behalf of the Institute to professional and academic audiences, and representing the Institute in the media. The Senior Staff Attorney must have significant litigation experience, including experience litigating First Amendment cases. The Senior Staff Attorney must also have the judgment, energy, initiative, creativity, flexibility, and passion required to work effectively both individually and as part of a team.


  1. Conceive of, develop, file, and lead new litigation in support of the Institute’s strategic priorities; draft and edit legal briefs and other pleadings; present oral argument; research and oversee the research by others of legal and factual questions; draft and edit research memos; work with clients and witnesses; and oversee and take discovery.
  2. Help set the Institute’s strategic direction, determine the Institute’s substantive priorities, and design and implement the Institute’s research and public education programs.
  3. Speak on behalf of the Institute to professional and academic audiences; write in a variety of formats (including in blog posts, op-eds, and white papers) for both legal and non-legal audiences about issues relating to the Institute’s work; and represent the Institute in the media.
  4. Supervise staff attorneys, legal fellows, and interns.
  5. Cultivate and manage relationships with the Institute’s partners inside and outside the Columbia University community.
  6. Travel as required for litigation, conferences, and speaking engagements. 


Minimum qualifications

The Senior Staff Attorney must have a J.D. or equivalent, be admitted to the New York bar (or be in a position to gain admission to the New York bar quickly), and have ten or more years of relevant experience as a lawyer, including substantial experience conceiving of, developing, filing, and leading litigation, and experience litigating cases involving the freedoms of speech and the press. Applicants should have excellent communication skills, both oral and written; excellent analytical skills; and the ability to work independently and collaboratively as well as to supervise other lawyers.

Preferred qualifications

Experience litigating cases involving government transparency and new technology is preferred but not required. Familiarity with new technology and the threats it poses to free speech and privacy is preferred but not required.

To apply for this position, please submit a cover letter, resume, two writing samples reflecting solely your own work, and a list of three references. Candidates must apply through Columbia University’s Careers website here

We will review applications as they are submitted, and we will continue to accept applications until April 16, 2021 or until the position is filled.


The salary for this position is competitive with salaries at other major civil liberties and human rights organizations.

Equal Opportunity Employer / Disability / Veteran
Columbia University is committed to the hiring of qualified local residents.