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Associate Attorney Program

Earthjustice's associate attorney program offers an exceptional opportunity to develop the skills necessary to become an effective public interest attorney. Associates participate in cutting-edge litigation to protect people and the environment. With the mentorship of some of the best environmental litigators in the nation, associates take on significant responsibility for driving the work of Earthjustice forward.

While the associate attorney experience differs from office to office, associates generally work as part of a team of attorneys to develop and pursue strategic litigation, primarily in federal but also in state courts. In addition, associate attorneys typically become involved in other aspects of public interest advocacy, including working with the media and helping to develop and maintain successful coalitions.

Associates work with more experienced attorneys on major cases and during their tenure typically take on primary responsibility for some cases. Associates conduct legal research and prepare memoranda on issues relating to ongoing or potential litigation projects, work to develop potential cases, interact with clients, draft motions, briefs and other pleadings, argue motions, assist with discovery, work with experts, and prepare comments on proposed agency actions and environmental impact statements.

What qualifications do we look for in associate attorney candidates?

  • A recent law school graduate, a recent judicial clerk, or a lawyer with one to five years of experience.
  • Excellent research, writing and oral advocacy skills.
  • An outstanding academic record.
  • Demonstrated initiative.
  • Collegiality and teamwork.
  • Excellent work ethic.
  • Sound judgment.
  • Sense of humor.
  • The ability to work well with colleagues and clients from diverse backgrounds.

Although we value candidates with a demonstrated commitment to the environment and the public interest, we will consider any promising candidate with a strong legal background, whether in government, public interest, or private practice.

The term for the associate position is three years, with potential for extension. Many use the position as a springboard to other environmental litigation career opportunities. Others are promoted to senior associate and staff attorney positions, and some have become managing attorneys at Earthjustice. Decisions to promote an associate attorney depend on organizational considerations (such as overall staffing demands and budgetary resources) as well as an associate’s own skills and performance. For currently open associate attorney positions, visit our Career Opportunities section.

From Current And Past Associate Attorneys, About The Program:

Claudia Polsky
Director, Environmental Law Clinic, UC Berkeley Law School

“I served as an associate attorney in Earthjustice’s San Francisco office from 1997 to 2000.

“One of the best parts of the job was the ability to handle significant cases immediately. My very first oral argument—at Earthjustice, and in my career—was on an issue of nationwide first impression in the Ninth Circuit. At a law firm, a new associate would never be given that level of responsibility, but it sure makes you learn fast.

“I also loved the opportunity to interact with so many mature environmental organizations in various litigation coalitions. The subject matter knowledge and tactical intelligence of our clients made me really come to understand representation as a lawyer-client partnership, and to learn how to enlist clients as fully as possible in developing the best facts, arguments, and strategies to win.”

Sanjay Narayan
Managing Attorney, Environmental Law Program, Sierra Club

“My time as an associate in Earthjustice's Northern Rockies office provided an excellent foundation for a career as a public interest litigator.

“It gave me an opportunity to learn the particulars of environmental practice from a fantastically talented and experienced group of colleagues, as well as hands-on experience developing and litigating cutting-edge cases.

“There are few better entry points for an aspiring environmental lawyer.”

Rebecca Bernard
Senior Attorney, Bessenyey & Van Tuyn, L.L.C.

“Being an associate attorney with Earthjustice was a great opportunity to work with, and learn from, high-caliber attorneys and to hone my legal skills on interesting and relevant environmental problems.

“My experience there gave me a great foundation for my subsequent career in public interest environmental litigation.”

Kapua Sproat.
Kapua Sproat
Counsel, Mid-Pacific Office, Earthjustice

“I began with Earthjustice in 1998 as an associate attorney.

“The experience provided the very best training for the work that I do now. It was the foundation for my legal career in environmental litigation.

“What was really special about the experience was that it wasn't just theoretical—I wasn't just doing legal research and writing.

“I got on-the-ground experience: meeting with clients, getting out into the community, doing site visits. It was work that provided the building blocks for where I am today.

“I strongly encourage anyone considering a career in environmental litigation to explore the options at Earthjustice, because it's the very best experience you can get.”

Katherine OBrien.
Katherine O’Brien
Staff Attorney, Northern Rockies Office, Earthjustice

“I joined Earthjustice in September 2013 as an associate attorney in the Northern Rockies office in Bozeman, Montana.

“I came to Earthjustice because I wanted to work with lawyers who are holding the line for vulnerable communities and ecosystems in the defining environmental battles of our time. I also wanted to learn from the very best public interest litigators at the start of my career.

“My experience as an associate attorney has exceeded my expectations. My colleagues have a passion for justice and the environment that is matched only by their dedication to excellence in their litigation practice.

“It has been an incomparable education to collaborate with them and our clients, and I feel privileged to be part of Earthjustice’s work to defend wild places, wild creatures, and public health in the Northern Rockies.”

Hannah Chang.
Hannah Chang
Staff Attorney (until 2019), Northeast Office, Earthjustice

“I joined the New York City location of the Northeast regional office as an associate attorney in 2010.

“My experiences as an associate attorney were invaluable in helping me build a strong foundation as an attorney and public interest litigator.

“As an associate, I had a chance to work on a broad range of cases and issues, from advocating for cumulative impact analysis of natural gas pipelines in federal court to defending a state's authority to require a factory farm to operate under a Clean Water Act permit in a state administrative proceeding.

“I am grateful for the opportunities I had to learn from talented, deeply-committed people throughout the organization and the guidance I was given, together with the freedom, to grow as an attorney.”

Eric Jorgensen.
Eric Jorgensen
Managing Attorney, Alaska Office, Earthjustice

“I was fortunate to be one of the first Earthjustice associate attorneys, joining in the D.C. office in 1984.

“Like the program today, the associate attorney position gave me the rare chance to get a job working to protect the environment straight out of a clerkship with a judge.

“With few conservation organizations hiring lawyers and even fewer offering positions to junior lawyers, this then-new option at Earthjustice was an extraordinary opportunity for me.

“The position gave me the chance to learn from experienced lawyers about how to enforce the law to protect the environment, exposed me to important conservation struggles, and allowed me to make real contributions.

“I worked on issues ranging from sea turtle protection in Florida and clearcutting on national forests in the Midwest to endangered red cockaded woodpecker protection on national wildlife refuges in Louisiana.

“I was inspired by the work and my colleagues, and somehow persuaded Rick Sutherland, our president at the time, to keep me on as a staff attorney. I’ve been with Earthjustice ever since, and now as managing attorney in the Alaska office, I’ve hired and worked with many top notch associate attorneys over the years.

“I value the program now as much as I did when I first became an associate. Earthjustice gets the benefit of working with bright, energetic, and enthusiastic attorneys who do work critical to the success of our offices. And associates get the chance to learn and do environmental law in ways they would not at nearly any other place, make strong connections for their futures, and make a difference in the world.”

Our Values

Earthjustice is driven by a passion for justice, partnership, inclusion, and excellence. Our core values lead us to seek a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds to achieve our mission and to maintain an inclusive environment where all staff are valued and respected.

As an equal opportunity employer, we are committed to employment practices that ensure that employees and applicants for employment are provided with equal opportunities without regard to race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, veteran status, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information or any other factor that is not related to the position.

About Earthjustice

Founded in 1971, Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We take on the biggest, most precedent-setting cases across the country. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health; to preserve magnificent places and wildlife; to advance clean energy; and to combat climate change. We partner with thousands of groups, supporters, individuals and communities to engage the critical environmental issues of our time, and bring about positive change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.