Staff Attorney

Job Location

Washington DC/ Denver CO


Type of Job



$98,000 - $105,000

Published By

Publisher Name

Published Date

May 20, 2022

About the job

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This position requires working knowledge of federal environmental and natural resources law and significant litigation experience.  Primary emphasis is on litigating cases under federal wildlife and natural resources laws to conserve biological diversity, drafting comments on proposed rulemakings, working with and advising field and program staff on legal and policy matters, and helping to develop and advance Defenders’ conservation policies.  The staff attorney also exercises a supervisory role for legal interns.



  • Develop and litigate cases under various federal statutes to protect imperiled wildlife species, to conserve wildlife, habitat, and ecosystems in the face of global warming, and to ensure conservation of wildlife and habitat on federal public lands;
  • Draf public comments on proposed rulemakings;
  • Advise Defenders’ field and program staff on conservation law and policy matters;
  • Review and analyze legislation;
  • Actively participate in the development and advancement of Defenders’ conservation policy goals;
  • Exercise a supervisory role over legal interns
  • Perform all other related duties as assigned


Education: JD or equivalent; appropriate state bar license required

Experience: 3+ years of litigation experience


Knowledge, Skills, Abilities for All Defenders

  1. Personal interest in and commitment to conservation;
  2. Ability and willingness to model the tenets of Defenders’ Commitment Statement: Mission, Transparency, Respect & Trust, Appreciation, Empowerment & Accountability, Professional Growth, Fairness, Diversity, Safety, Work/Life Balance, and Pride;
  3. Ability to approach work in a collaborative and inclusive style, with a solutions-oriented manner;
  4. Ability to work independently as needed, problem solve, and exercise sound decision- making skills in fluid environments to meet job expectations and achieve goals in an accurate and timely manner;
  5. Ability to represent Defenders to external entities and the public in a professional manner while exercising tact, diplomacy, and discretion;
  6. Demonstrates a willingness and ability to productively engage and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives;
  7. Ability to clearly and accurately communicate with internal and external stakeholders, in both verbal and written forms;
  8. Ability to effectively navigate through change and maintain flexibility;
  9. Ability to effectively address and manage conflict;
  10. Working knowledge of Microsoft Outlook and Word.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities for Professional 5


  1. Ability to accurately maintain electronic and physical records
  2. Anticipate and meet the needs of internal and/or external stakeholders delivering excellent service


  1. Ability to clearly and accurately communicate with internal and external stakeholders
  2. Ability to articulate complex ideas clearly, accurately and concisely
  3. Ability to convey effective messages to broad and diverse constituencies
  4. Ability and willingness to effectively represent Defenders’ interests in external environments
  5. Ability to exert influence and build consensus with internal and external stakeholders

Critical Thinking

  1. Ability to handle sensitive and confidential matters with discretion
  2. Strong research and data analysis skills, including ability to gather and synthesize information from multiple sources to produce high quality work products in a consistent, efficient, accurate, and timely manner
  3. Creative problem-solving and troubleshooting skills with willingness to experiment and innovate new methods.
  4. Facilitate and promote the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into Defenders’ work
  5. Ability to independently exercise appropriate judgment in response to complex and/or fluid environments
  6. Strategic thinker with the ability to take high-level strategy and translate into relatable points and action steps.

Project Management

  1. Ability to work well under pressure and tight deadlines while balancing competing assignments
  2. Ability to remain flexible and adaptable to shifting priorities while remaining responsive to urgent requests
  3. Ability to take ownership of a project or process and to use problem solving skills to resolve issues
  4. Ability to manage deadlines on multiple cross-functional projects in a dynamic environment
  5. Demonstrated ability in managing competing interests on complex issues
  6. Ability to independently initiate project and initiative ideas; managing projects and initiatives through to completion

Coalition and Community Engagement

  1. Strong interpersonal skills and ability to form effective working relationships with diverse constituencies including federal/state agencies; elected officials and their staff; Defenders’ members and donors; private landowners; hunters and anglers; community leaders; religious, scientific, and academic communities; and /or the general public.
  2. Ability to lead diverse stakeholders in collaborative activities, to anticipate issues impacting Defenders’ mission and make recommendations within Defenders, other organizations, and coalitions.
  3. Networking skills to engage with leaders in the conservation community, federal and state agencies, NGOs, and other organizations.

Conservation Knowledge

  1. Expert-level knowledge of Defenders’ legal, scientific, and/or political issues
  2. Expert-level knowledge of national and regional social, political, and ecological landscapes

Leadership and Management (if applicable)

  1. Ability to foster a team culture which models the tenets of the Commitment Statement
  2. Ability to connect employees and their work to Defenders’ mission
  3. Ability to set and maintain clear expectations, ensuring clarity of roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities
  4. Ability to ensure that staff have the skills and support required to perform at the highest level
  5. Working knowledge of Defenders’ business and people systems and processes

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities for Staff Attorney

Legal Knowledge and Skills

  1. Ability to carry-out all aspects of litigation with minimal supervision, including development of legal claims, ability to analyze voluminous factual records and identify key facts supporting legal claims, drafting pleadings and legal briefs, and present oral argument.
  2. Working knowledge of and the ability to research environmental and administrative laws, agency regulations and guidance, executive orders, etc. (Examples of relevant laws include the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Clean Water Act, National Forest Management Act, Refuge Improvement Act, Administrative Procedure Act, Freedom of Information Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other federal statutes.)
  3. Working knowledge of and the ability to research case law and legal precedent, court procedures and rules, agency decisions, etc.
  4. Understands and interprets written material, including technical material, rules and procedures, instructions, etc.

Written Communication

  1. Communicates information in a succinct and organized manner; uses correct grammar, punctuation, and citations
  2. Produces written information that is appropriate for the intended audience

Oral Communication

  1. Expresses information to individuals or groups effectively, taking into account the audience and nature of information
  2. Makes clear and convincing oral presentations. Listens effectively; clarifies information as needed

Strategic Thinking

  1. Develop innovative litigation strategies and cases to advance Defenders’ mission
  2. Formulates objectives and priorities; anticipates potential risks and opportunities
  3. Actively participates in the development and advancement of Defenders’ conservation policy goals

Professional Development

  1. Assesses and recognizes own strengths and weaknesses; pursues self-development
  2. Uses efficient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills; uses training, feedback, and other opportunities for self-learning and development


  • Demonstrated commitment to public-interest advocacy, environmental protection, and natural resources conservation
  • Travel is occasionally required for events such as conferences and court hearings

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All employees are required to satisfactorily perform the essential duties and responsibilities of their positions. The essential duties and responsibilities listed above are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.


Defenders requires employees who engage in in-person work activities, including business travel or onsite work, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. An applicant (i) who is disabled or pregnant or who has a qualifying medical condition that contraindicates a COVID-19 vaccination or (ii) who objects to being vaccinated on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice may request an exemption from this vaccination policy. This determination will be made on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with applicable law. Any medical information concerning an applicant's disability will be treated as a confidential medical record in compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws.


Please be advised this position is union-eligible.