Staff Attorney/Senior Attorney, Terrestrial Wildlife Program

Permanent, Full-Time | Remote or Washington, DC
$70,000–$110,000 plus generous benefits
J.D. and Minimum Three Years (Staff Attorney) or Ten Years (Senior Attorney) Legal Experience Required

About AWI

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1951 whose mission is to alleviate the suffering caused to animals by people. We seek better treatment of animals everywhere—in the wild, in research, in agriculture, in commerce, and in our communities. AWI employs more than 30 staff and consultants located in our headquarters in Washington, DC, and remotely across the United States. AWI is program oriented—more than 90 percent of our budget goes to support our programs to protect terrestrial and marine wildlife, farmed animals, animals in research, and companion animals. We advance our mission through strategically crafted political and legal advocacy, educational programs, litigation, research, and engagement with industry, policymakers, scientists, and other NGOs. AWI is committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in our culture, policies, and practices.

Position Summary

We seek a full-time staff attorney or senior attorney to join our Terrestrial Wildlife Program team (Program). This role presents an exciting opportunity to develop and implement innovative legal, policy, and administrative efforts to protect terrestrial wildlife at local, state, national, and international levels. You will use legal advocacy to advance the Program’s mission to reduce the detrimental impacts of human activities on wild animals. Our efforts include working to foster humane, nonlethal, science-based solutions to conflicts with wildlife, protect threatened and endangered species and their habitat, and address unsustainable and inhumane global wildlife trade. You will report to the Program’s Director & Senior Attorney, work with the Program’s scientists and policy advisors as an integral part of an experienced, close-knit, and collaborative team, and serve as a member of the organization’s Legal Team.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Identify and engage in opportunities to protect terrestrial wildlife through federal and state regulatory mechanisms, legislation, and litigation.
  • Develop and implement litigation and legal advocacy strategies to support Program goals, including by proactively conducting legal research, identifying litigation opportunities, collaborating with coalition partners, and participating in all phases of litigation.
  • Engage in administrative advocacy by drafting petitions for rulemaking, comments on proposed regulations, and ESA listing petitions.
  • Advance AWI’s legislative efforts by drafting and reviewing state and federal legislation, engaging with state and federal policymakers, and providing expert testimony before the US Congress, state legislatures, and administrative agencies.
  • Assist with the Program’s work related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as needed.
  • Draft and submit FOIA and other public records requests and appeals, track agency responses, and communicate with federal and state agencies to obtain timely responses.
  • Research and prepare reports to engage in public education and outreach and to influence public policy.
  • Represent AWI at meetings, hearings, conferences, and other events.
  • Draft action alerts, press releases, op-eds, educational materials, social media posts, website content, donor updates, and AWI Quarterly magazine articles highlighting the Program’s activities.
  • In conjunction with AWI’s communications staff, devise and implement appropriate media strategies for the Program’s activities.
  • Cultivate strong relationships and communicate with government officials and advocates within coalitions and at other NGOs.
  • Manage AWI’s Wildlife Law and Policy Internship Program by hiring, supervising, and mentoring interns. 


  • A J.D. as well as admission to and good standing with a state bar is required.
  • A minimum of three years of relevant legal experience is preferred for the staff attorney position, and a minimum of ten years of relevant legal experience is preferred for the senior attorney position. We are willing to consider candidates with exceptional potential and alignment with AWI’s mission but with a varied duration of professional experience.

Qualifications and Skills

We seek candidates with the following preferred qualifications, noting that we desire applicants with diverse lived experiences. We are willing to consider candidates with equivalent or alternative professional and personal qualifications.

  • Passion for AWI’s mission and demonstrated commitment to public interest work, including the prevention of animal suffering and preservation of wildlife.
  • Experience using a broad suite of legal advocacy tools, including federal and state administrative rulemakings and petitions, legislation, and litigation. 
  • Participation in some or all tasks involved in complex litigation, including factual investigation, legal research and analysis, discovery, briefing, and hearings.
  • Experience working across disciplines using law, science, policy, and communications to advance legal advocacy.
  • Exceptional research, writing, and communication skills.
  • Excellent oral advocacy skills, including public speaking experience.
  • Strong working knowledge of the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedure Act, Freedom of Information Act, and other federal and state laws that protect terrestrial wildlife.
  • Knowledge of CITES issues and processes.
  • Exceptional negotiating skills and ability to facilitate conversation and drive decision-making in a consensus-oriented team and organization.
  • Demonstrated ability to take initiative and think creatively about Program activities and strategies.
  • Demonstrated ability to cultivate and maintain relationships with a wide range of stakeholders and policymakers, including other NGOs, state and federal government officials, and legislators and their staff.
  • Understanding of scientific principles as they apply to the Program’s activities.
  • Superb work ethic and sound judgment, with the ability to assume responsibility for project leadership, including planning and implementation, and ability to balance independent action with regular communication with Director and Program team members.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and proactively, as well as high capacity to work constructively in a team environment.
  • Demonstrated ability to work under pressure in a fast-paced environment, meet internal and external deadlines, use good time management and organizational skills, and prioritize a heavy workload.
  • Commitment to the highest standards of professional conduct.
  • Strong attention to detail, as well as problem-solving skills.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • Ability to work effectively with and to understand the needs and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and orientations.
  • Commitment and positive contribution to the creation of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture that celebrates differences and where everyone feels like they belong.

Job Location

The position may be located either on-site at AWI’s headquarters in Washington, DC, or in a remote location anywhere in the United States. 

Salary and Benefits

The starting salary range is $70,000–$110,000. Salary is based on education, experience, qualifications, skills, internal equity, and location. The maximum of the hiring range is reserved for candidates with the highest qualifications and relevant experience.

We offer an excellent benefits package, including:

  • 100% employer-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance.
  • Paid time off policy that includes three weeks of vacation, two weeks of sick leave, five personal days, 12 paid holidays, and bereavement leave.
  • 401(k) with employer match of 5% of employee’s salary.
  • 12 weeks of paid parental leave following childbirth or adoption.
  • Support for mental wellness, including resources provided by CareFirst Wellness and an Employee Assistance Program with free access to a Licensed Professional Counselor, phone support, and online support.
  • 100% employer-paid short-term and long-term disability benefits.
  • Payment of the fees associated with membership in one state bar, and payment of fees associated with meeting the continuing legal education requirements of one state bar.
  • Resources to attend conferences and professional development trainings.
  • If working in the dog-friendly DC office, on-site parking and access to DC Metro SmartBenefits® program, or if working remotely, resources to support a comfortable home office.

To apply

Please submit the following materials to [email protected], with “Terrestrial Program Attorney” in the subject line: (1) cover letter, including an explanation of your interests in wildlife protection and your motivation to work in this position and the public interest legal field; (2) resume; and (3) two writing samples that are predominantly your own work. A rulemaking comment or petition and legal brief or memorandum are preferred writing samples. No telephone calls, please. We will review applications on a rolling basis and the position will remain open until filled.

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AWI is an equal opportunity employer. We are committed to employment practices that provide equal opportunities for all persons without regard to age, gender, race, color, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law. We are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization, and encourage applications from candidates whose identities have been historically under-represented in the animal welfare movement.