The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia is a private, non-profit organization that promotes civil liberties and civil rights for everyone in the Commonwealth through public education, litigation and advocacy with the goal of securing freedom and equality for all. We are an affiliate of the national ACLU, with which we share resources and expertise.

The ACLU litigates impact cases addressing a wide range of constitutional issues, including free speech, religious freedom, police misconduct, reproductive freedom, voting rights, privacy, drug policy, LGBT rights, and the rights of people of color, women, immigrants, and prisoners.

Internship Overview

Summary: The ACLU of Virginia typically seeks two legal externs during the academic year, and two legal interns during the summer. Interns/externs will be an integral part of the legal program, and will contribute as much and in as many ways as his or her ability allows. Interns/externs will assist in the development of ACLU cases from initial intake, through interviews, factual investigation, and legal research, to litigation.

Most of the vast number of requests for ACLU assistance are rejected by letter after careful screening, and interns/externs will provide valuable research, writing, and investigative help with this all-important process in simple and difficult cases alike. Many requests for ACLU assistance take time, investigation, and legal research to evaluate for the presence of significant and litigable civil liberties issues.

Cases that do present such issues are considered for presentation to the legal panel, a lawyers’ committee of the ACLU of Virginia Board that discusses cases in depth. Interns/externs may assist in written and oral presentations to the Legal Panel, and take part in case discussions. Law students may help develop board-approved cases into actual lawsuits. Many matters are disposed of informally by negotiation or other means, and the students’ role can extend into these functions as well.

When the ACLU does end up litigating a case, externs will be encouraged to attend court and depositions with the supervising attorney and/or cooperating attorney, and will participate in researching and writing pleadings. Because ACLU litigation often involves imminent threats, or harms already occurring, to the exercise of constitutional rights, suits to enforce those rights must often be handled quickly. Tough legal issues can arise that call for virtually instant response, often in unsympathetic forums, testing the skill, commitment, and dedication of all who participate.

Supervision: Legal interns/externs will be supervised by the legal director and senior staff attorney. In addition to his or her interactions with the supervising attorney, the intern/extern will have the opportunity to consult with cooperating attorneys and attorneys from the ACLU national office, each of whom has deep and varied experience to offer.


  • Must have finished second year of law school.
  • Very strong research, writing and communication skills.
  • Excellent computer skills, including databases, word processing, spreadsheets, case management software, email and online communications.
  • A demonstrated commitment to the mission of the ACLU, civil liberties and civil rights issues.
  • Students who have studied constitutional law are preferred.
  • A commitment to diversity; a personal approach that values the individual and respects differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability and socio-economic circumstance, and able to work with diverse individuals within the organization and broader community.

Commitment: Our summer internships require a full-time 10 to 12 week commitment. For academic year externships, the commitment varies according to your law school’s requirements.

Compensation/Credit/Fellowships: This is an unpaid internship. Students are highly encouraged to seek public interest fellowship funds. Arrangements can also be made with the student’s law school for work/study stipends or course credit.

Applications: In order to ensure a good fit, for both the ACLU of Virginia and the intern, please submit a resume with three references, a cover letter, and brief writing sample. Cover letters should include a start and end date, as well as your hours of availability. Applicants for academic year externships should indicate if they’d like to have a semester-long or year-long commitment.

Deadlines: Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, but should be submitted no later than March 15 for the fall semester, October 1 for the spring semester, and February 1 for the summer.

Please email a cover letter, resume with three references, and writing sample to:

Leslie Mehta, Legal Director
ACLU of Virginia
701 E. Franklin St., Ste. 1412
Richmond, VA 23219

To learn more about the ACLU, go to www.acluva.org or www.aclu.org.

The ACLU of Virginia is an equal opportunity employer.  We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU of Virginia encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, and veteran status.   Persons with disabilities may request accommodations.

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