The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) invites rising third-year law students and recent law graduates to apply for a sponsorship opportunity to work with us as a public interest legal fellow. As an integral part of the ACLU-NJ, our fellows gain practical experience through defending and expanding civil liberties and constitutional rights: they will have the opportunity to work on lawsuits, advocate for clients, and engage with our policy and communications teams on advancing legislation and public education. Past fellows have even had the opportunity to argue as amicus before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

We will work with a successful applicant to develop a project proposal for specific funding organizations, including Equal Justice Works, the Open Society Foundations (Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship), Justice Catalyst, and the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, and for funding through law schools, such as Yale’s Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship and University of Chicago’s Postgraduate Public Interest Law Fellowship.

We prefer to develop proposed projects that combine legal advocacy and impact litigation, policy advocacy, community outreach, and public education. ACLU-NJ legal staff will collaborate with the selected fellowship candidate to develop a proposal that builds on the candidate’s interests and skills, ensures appropriate supervision and mentorship, fits with the ACLU-NJ’s priorities, and employs strategies most likely to be effective in advancing the project’s goals. The ACLU-NJ will work closely with candidates to craft their pitch to external funders and prepare for interviews.

Please note that the ACLU-NJ does not have independent internal funding for this fellowship position.

Overview

As the New Jersey affiliate of the national ACLU, we advance wide-ranging civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice issues. We are focused on ending discriminatory criminal justice policies, challenging abusive police practices, protecting and expanding voting rights, and fighting for the rights of immigrants, students, and LGBTQ people. But our work, and your project, can span many other areas wherever civil rights, civil liberties, and racial equity are concerned. We also prioritize issues at the nexus of civil liberties and economic justice because of our belief that people must possess the basic necessities of life in order to enjoy other constitutional rights and freedoms.

Examples of projects by past and current fellows include:

  • Advancing the rights of incarcerated young people to an adequate education;
  • Challenging civil asset forfeiture policies;
  • Advocating against solitary confinement in immigration detention;
  • Challenging the use of unfair or biased government algorithms in public benefits and other areas of high-risk government decision-making;
  • Advocating for and litigating in furtherance of increased government transparency;
  • Combatting debtors’ prison practices in municipal courts; and
  • Tracking the school-to-prison pipeline that criminalizes young New Jerseyans in their classrooms.

The projects we look for can come from a broad array of issues and can leverage an equally broad array of legal skills from litigation, to advocacy, to public education.

Qualifications

In addition to having passion for civil rights and civil liberties and alignment with the mission of the ACLU-NJ, the ideal candidate will be a self-starter and be able to work independently, manage projects, and collaborate and be part of a team. We are looking to sponsor candidates who are able to think critically, write clearly and accessibly, and have litigation (such as a clinic or clerkship) or policy advocacy experience. The ideal candidate will also have a strong commitment to racial equity, and an understanding of how power is manifested in matters of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstances.

The ACLU-NJ values a diverse work environment and strongly encourages applications from women, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, people with disabilities, people who have experienced poverty or homelessness, people who have had prior contact with the juvenile, criminal, child welfare, or immigration systems, and people who have personal experience with other issues we work on.

To Apply

To apply, please email careers@aclu-nj.org and attach a résumé, writing sample, law school transcript, and a cover letter that details specific interests and outlines a fellowship project proposal.

At this stage, your project proposal can be broad, but we ask you to include at least one — a project proposal will help us get a sense of the kind of work you are hoping to ultimately do as a part of your fellowship and allows us to anticipate how we could best work with you to craft that project and pitch it to funders. You might want to consider some of the following questions when outlining your project proposal:

  • What unique skills or perspectives are you bringing to this particular issue?
  • What is your personal connection to the issue or group you wish to serve?
  • In what ways will your project advance racial justice in New Jersey?
  • What would your public interest “dream job” look like, and why is the ACLU-NJ the right home for it?
  • What makes this issue ripe for work in New Jersey?

There is no need to answer any of these questions explicitly, or at all, but a good proposal should be thoughtful about what makes the project the right fit for you and, ideally, the ACLU-NJ. To that end, a project can be, but need not be, novel. What’s important is that it suits you and advances the mission of the ACLU-NJ. We invite applicants to include in their cover letter information about how their background and/or experiences could contribute to the diversity, cultural vitality, and perspective of our staff and advocacy work.

The candidate will be expected to work closely with the ACLU-NJ through the funding process. In turn, we will be invested in helping you develop your project proposal to present it to potential funders.

About the position

Compensation: The ACLU-NJ pays law fellows on the same scale as staff attorneys, and starts at $69,000 for a new law graduate, even if the funding from the external fellowship does not match.

Location: The position is based at the ACLU-NJ’s office located in Newark, NJ, where staff members work on a hybrid remote work schedule and need to be available to participate in hearings, meetings, and other events within New Jersey.

We will begin to review applications beginning June 13, 2022, and will make decisions in July. Once the priority deadline of June 13th passes, we will continue considering applications until the position is filled. We often are able to sponsor people for school-sponsored fellowships throughout the fellowship cycle depending on capacity and welcome applications on a rolling basis. Fellow applicants sponsored during this cycle will have a start date in September 2023.

The ACLU-NJ is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture of belonging. It is our policy to employ qualified people without regard to race; color; gender, gender identity or expression; religion; sex; national origin or ancestry; age; disability; sexual orientation; veteran’s status; marital status; civil union status; arrest or court record; citizenship; credit history; genetic information; status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking; or any other characteristic protected under federal or state law. Black people, Indigenous people, people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people, women, people with disabilities, protected veterans, and formerly incarcerated individuals are all strongly encouraged to apply.

The ACLU-NJ makes every effort to assure that its recruitment and employment provide all qualified persons, including persons with disabilities, with full opportunities for employment in all positions. We are committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need assistance applying online, please email careers@aclu-nj.org. If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process.