About us

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 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 publishes widely-read essays on topics including emerging threats to the system of free expression, the meaning of self-government in the era of large-scale data collection, and how the law should respond to lies and disinformation. It has also hosted public events on new technology and public discourse, data journalism and the law, the First Amendment and inequality, whistleblowers, and national-security journalism.

What you'll do

A key member of the Institute’s growing litigation team, the Staff Attorney will contribute to the Institute’s litigation program by conceiving of and developing new cases, researching legal and factual questions, drafting research memos, working with clients and witnesses, drafting and editing legal briefs, and presenting oral argument. The Staff Attorney will also contribute to the Institute’s strategic agenda, support the Institute’s research and public education programs, speak on behalf of the Institute to professional and academic audiences, and represent the Institute in the media. The Staff Attorney must have litigation experience, preferably in cases seeking to vindicate civil rights or civil liberties. The 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.


  • Conceive of, develop, file, and litigate new cases 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.
  • 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.
  • Contribute to the Institute’s research program as appropriate through participation in discussions about potential research initiatives, research, and writing.
  • 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.
  • Supervise legal fellows and interns.
  • Cultivate and manage relationships with the Institute’s partners inside and outside the Columbia University community.
  • Travel as required for litigation, conferences, and speaking engagements.
  • Perform related duties & responsibilities as assigned.

Minimum Qualifications

The 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 two to five  years of relevant experience as a lawyer. 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 the freedoms of speech and the press, 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.

Salary Range

  • $112,000 - $137,100

All applicants must apply through the Columbia University Careers website here.

To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume, two writing samples reflecting solely your own work, and a list of three references here.