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. We aim 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 hosted leading thinkers as visiting scholars and published influential essays focused on emerging threats to the system of free expression. It has also hosted public events on issues including new technology and public discourse, data journalism and the law, the First Amendment and inequality, national-security journalism, and the implications for public discourse of economic concentration in the technology sector.

The Institute seeks an experienced Policy Director to build a policy program within the Institute. This is an exciting opportunity to construct a new program from the ground up, working with the Institute’s senior leadership to identify the Knight Institute’s long-term policy goals and develop a strategy for achieving them. The Policy Director’s responsibilities will be wide-ranging, including working to deepen the Institute’s understanding of the current and emerging regulatory landscape surrounding speech and privacy online, identifying and developing avenues for involvement in policy debates and discussions (within lobbying limits), and establishing policy-focused partnerships within the broader Columbia community.

The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated record of leadership on issues at the intersection of free speech and technology, experience in program building and staff management, a command of the policy issues related to speech, privacy, and technology, experience engaging in policy analysis, strategy, and advocacy, and the ability to collaborate with a range of colleagues across programs and disciplines. The Policy Director will be energetic, creative, and highly organized; a strong writer and strategic thinker; and a natural multitasker and connection-maker.


Serving as a member of the senior management team and in partnership with the Executive Director of the Knight Institute, the Policy Director will lead the following areas:

Program Building:

  • Engage in policy debates and discussions at the international, national, and state levels;
  • Represent the Institute before policymakers, regulators, civil society, industry, and the media;
  • Formulate regulatory proposals related to the Institute’s core focus areas;
  • Identify areas of opportunity for needed research and analysis related to policy issues;
  • Produce policy-related publications, including white papers, reports, essays, op-eds, blog posts, and other formats;
  • Build relationships with partner groups inside and outside the United States and with legislators, executive branch officials, and technology industry representatives.

Program Management:

  • Develop a long-term plan for the policy program’s growth and development;
  • Hire and manage additional program staff;
  • Write and/or edit position papers, public comments, and other documents framing Institute knowledge and positions in ways that can advance policy discussions;
  • Coordinate Institute responses to requests from legislators and regulators for advice on potential policy proposals;
  • Represent the Institute in meetings with executive and legislative offices and staff;
  • Identify and arrange opportunities for Institute staff to provide expert testimony and other guidance on issues relating to Institute projects and priorities;
  • Liaise with policy counterparts at colleague organizations and identify opportunities to coordinate with or support relevant policy-related efforts;
  • Evaluate coalition sign-on letters and other requests for Institute endorsements or support on policy-related questions.

Informing Our Work:

  • Monitor existing and anticipate impending policy proposals at the national and state level that relate to our work in general and to specific ongoing and potential litigation, research, and public education projects;
  • Share information about relevant legislative and other policy proposals with our litigation, research, and public education teams;
  • Analyze and prepare internal reports, memos, or other briefing materials on relevant legislation and policy proposals, on the timetables for these proposals, and on the potential First Amendment impacts of these proposals;
  • In partnership with the litigation and research teams, explore whether and how potential legislation or regulatory changes could address concerns we have raised in litigation and research projects and where appropriate, help us craft model legislative proposals.

Developing Columbia Partnerships:

  • Shape and guide the Institute’s emerging partnerships with the Columbia University community to advance the Institute’s policy objectives and involve faculty and students from across the university in the Institute’s work.

Minimum Qualifications

  • JD or graduate degree in public policy or related field;
  • At least ten years of experience working on legislative and policy matters;
  • Demonstrated expertise in researching, interpreting, and analyzing legislative and regulatory frameworks to inform policy development;
  • Strong analytical and critical thinking abilities to assess complex policy issues, identify potential impacts, and develop effective strategies;
  • Flexibility and adaptability to navigate dynamic political landscapes and respond to evolving policy priorities;
  • Proven leadership capabilities to guide and partner with interdisciplinary teams, fostering cohesive and productive collaborations;
  • Extensive knowledge of current policy questions at the intersection of free speech and new technologies;
  • Demonstrated ability to analyze legislative and administrative policy;
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills;
  • Strong legal research and analytical skills, including drafting and analyzing legislative language;
  • Ability to prioritize multiple projects.

Preferred Qualifications

  • In-depth knowledge of government processes and the public sector gained through substantial experience in similar roles.

How to Apply

Candidates must apply through the Columbia University Careers site at this link

To apply, please attach the following materials: 

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Two writing samples
  • The contact information for three references

Additional information may be requested during the interview process.