JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN THE OFFICE OF THE COUNTY COUNSEL
I. About the Office of the County Counsel
The County of Santa Clara’s Office of the County Counsel is one of the nation’s preeminent public law offices, serving as legal counsel to the County, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, every County department and agency, the County’s various boards and commissions, and numerous school districts and special districts. The Office’s work covers a wide array of litigation and policy matters that significantly affect the health, safety, and well-being of the County’s 1.9 million residents. The Office supports the County’s efforts to protect public health and the environment, provide healthcare services, address homelessness and increase access to affordable housing, maintain roads and parks, ensure access to a fair criminal justice system, and serve vulnerable populations. The Office handles nearly all of the County’s civil litigation, including employment, personal injury, child welfare, breach of contract, civil rights, taxation, environmental law, and social justice and impact litigation. The Office also provides all the day-to-day legal services expected from any in-house legal team, researching and analyzing emerging areas of law, crafting policies, analyzing and commenting on legislation, advising and counseling the Board of Supervisors and County departments on transactional matters, addressing challenging issues facing local governments, developing innovative affirmative litigation, ordinances, and programs to advance social and economic justice for the county’s residents, and promoting local, state, and national public policy reform.
The Office is consistently recognized for its excellence. In 2019, the Office received the American Bar Association’s prestigious Hodson Award. Awarded to one office nationwide each year, the Hodson Award recognizes outstanding performance and extraordinary service by a government or public-sector law office. In 2022, the Office’s Child and Family Protection Team received the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award from the International Municipal Lawyers Association for its transformative work in guiding Santa Clara County’s child welfare system toward a model that promotes equity, inclusion, and cultural competency in the provision of government services to highly vulnerable client populations. And in 2021, the Office received a California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) award for its leadership role in shaping the regional, statewide, and national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, numerous attorneys within the Office have been recognized for their impact litigation work, amicus contributions on appellate and Supreme Court cases, and coordination of broad coalitions of counties, cities, and national local government organizations on issues of vital interest including local government discretion over policy decisions, protecting public health and safety, ensuring funding for local health care, and defending against environmental harms. Additional information on the awards and recognition from the American Bar Association, International Municipal Lawyers Association, Daily Journal, California Lawyer Magazine, County Counsels’ Association of California, and other leading legal institutions is available here.
II. The Open Positions
The Office of the County Counsel is seeking talented, highly motivated attorneys to fill open positions on the following teams. Prior public-sector experience is desirable, but not required for any of the open positions. Salaries vary based on experience and qualifications. For attorneys with five or more years of experience, the annual salary range is $219,323 to $272,981.
Civil Rights, Tort, and Employment Litigation Team
The Civil Rights, Tort, and Employment Litigation Team defends the County in lawsuits filed against the County, its officials, and/or its employees. The Team’s docket includes a wide variety of cases, including tort, employment, civil rights, medical malpractice, and dangerous condition of public property actions to name a few. Our experienced litigators handle all phases of litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts. Additionally, our litigators represent all County departments and have developed expertise in the work of each department to provide advice and training on risk management issues to improve policies, practices, and to minimize legal exposure to the County. We are interested in candidates who would like to work in a collaborative and dynamic public-sector litigation practice. Experience in the specific types of cases described above is desirable, but not required.
Environment and Land Use Team
The Environment and Land Use Team provides legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, the Consumer and Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environmental Health, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Planning and Development, the Roads and Airports Department, and the Office of Sustainability. The Team’s attorneys research and analyze novel areas of the law impacting the environment, land use, and sustainability within Santa Clara County, and advise on strategies and implementation measures to respond to the evolving built and natural environment that makes up Santa Clara County. The Team regularly prepares ordinances and policies, negotiates contracts, comments on legislation, and advises County officials and departments on a multitude of significant issues facing the County. The Team’s practice covers various areas of public law, with attorneys also specializing in land use, sustainability, transportation, and environmental law, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Equal Opportunity and Employment Investigations Team
The Equal Opportunity and Employment Investigations Team works closely with, and provides legal advice to, the Equal Opportunity Division (EOD) in investigations of alleged violations of County policies against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The Team also supports EOD in reasonable accommodation matters by providing legal advice and training regarding accommodation requirements, the interactive process, and placement issues. In addition, the Team responds to employment-related government administrative claims, including complaints processed through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Finance and Government Operations Team
The Finance and Government Operations Team provides legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, County Executive, Assessor, Clerk of the Board, Facilities and Fleet Department, Finance Agency, County Library, Procurement Department, and Registrar of Voters to fulfill the public service mission of the County. Team attorneys research and analyze many areas of law, craft ordinances and policies, negotiate contracts, comment on legislation, and help solve challenging problems for the County departments and officials they advise. The Team’s attorneys also participate in highly significant litigation related to property taxation and election-related matters and provide advice on programs of significant importance to the County’s Board of Supervisors and the broader community. The Team’s practice is grounded in various areas of public law, including the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, and the Political Reform Act. Attorneys also practice in specialized areas including public contracting, finance, property taxation, ethics and conflicts of interest. We are particularly interested in candidates with experience in property tax and assessment appeals; public finance; and contracting.
Health and Hospitals Team
The Health and Hospitals Team provides legal advice to the County’s health care delivery system. This team of attorneys provides in-house legal counsel to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC), a 731-bed acute care hospital and Level 1 trauma center and 50-bed psychiatric hospital; O’Connor Hospital, a 358-bed acute care hospital; and Saint Louise Regional Hospital, a 95-bed acute care hospital serving the southern portion of the county; as well as a network of eight health centers and four urgent care clinics. The County runs one of the nation’s largest public health and hospital systems. Attorneys in the Health and Hospitals Team also serve as in-house legal counsel to the Behavioral Health Services Department, Public Health Department, Custody Health Services Department, and Valley Health Plan, the only locally based commercial health plan in Santa Clara County. The attorneys on this team have broad experience providing advice on a wide array of cutting-edge issues to healthcare providers and administrators on matters of importance in the healthcare industry, including Affordable Care Act implementation, regulatory compliance, contracting, quality improvement and risk management, certification and licensing, pharmacy services, policies and procedures, health information privacy and data security, medical ethics, health care finance, and health care information technology.
Labor and Employment Team
The Labor and Employment Team advises County departments and managers regarding a wide array of labor and employment matters, including hiring, training, and disciplining employees; reasonably accommodating employees and complying with employee-leave laws and policies; negotiating and finalizing labor contracts; drafting personnel policies; and complying with the County’s Merit System Rules and state and federal labor, employment, and equal opportunity laws. Team attorneys also represent the County and its departments in cases before the County’s Personnel Board, labor arbitrators, the Public Employment Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and other state and federal administrative agencies. The Team’s goal is to support the County’s commitment to being an employer of excellence that values and supports all of its employees. We are particularly interested in candidates with experience in labor relations.
Public Safety and Justice Team
The Public Safety and Justice Team provides legal advice to the departments and agencies that make up the County’s criminal justice and emergency response systems including the Probation Department, Office of Pretrial Services, Office of Reentry Services, Office of Emergency Management, Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and Department of Correction. Public Safety and Justice attorneys assist these agencies in addressing a wide array of legal issues related to law enforcement, criminal adjudication, juvenile justice, jail operations, probation, reentry services, 911 services, disaster preparedness and response, and related services. In advising the County’s public safety departments and agencies, our attorneys research and analyze many areas of law, craft policies, draft and negotiate contracts, facilitate the release of records to the public, comment on legislation, contribute to significant reform efforts, and assist the departments they advise in addressing significant and challenging issues. We are particularly interested in candidates with experience in jails and criminal justice reform.
Real Property and Public Works Team
The Real Property and Public Works Team is responsible for advising County departments and the Board of Supervisors on all aspects of the County’s real estate and public construction activities. Real estate transactions include purchase and sale agreements, commercial leasing, ground leases, easements, and complex public-private partnerships. The Team also has significant expertise in complex affordable housing-related real estate finance matters. The Team’s public construction practice members are involved from project conception through completion, including design professional procurement, project delivery method selection, prequalification, bid solicitation, bidding disputes, construction contracting, change orders and resolution of construction and claims disputes, and related risk management issues. In addition, the Team advises its clients on the unique legal requirements applicable to the County in the real estate and public construction context, including the California Environmental Quality Act.
III. General Qualifications
- Must be a member in good standing with the State Bar of California;
- Must have a demonstrated history of hard work, dedication, and academic excellence;
- Must have the ability to prioritize and manage several simultaneous projects under deadlines;
- As some of the work done in the Office of the County Counsel will undoubtedly be new to any applicant, the ideal candidate will be flexible and show an eagerness to learn;
- Must be self-motivated and willing to take ownership of any matter;
- Must be a team player. Our Office is a collegial and supportive environment in which employees willingly pitch-in to help one another;
- Must have exceptional legal research and writing skills;
- Must have strong communication skills. Our attorneys must be able to explain complex legal issues to judges, arbitrators, elected officials, a diverse range of clients, and, occasionally, members of the public;
- Must be able to establish and maintain excellent working relationships with other County staff; and
- Our attorneys are expected to practice the highest level of ethics and professional responsibility.
IV. Salary and Benefits
Salaries vary based on experience and qualifications. For attorneys with five or more years of experience, the annual salary range is $219,323 to $272,981.
The County offers comprehensive medical, dental, and vision plans for all attorneys and their dependents. Attorneys also receive substantial pension benefits, long-term disability insurance, life insurance, and related coverage.
Other Benefits Include:
- 19 days accrued paid vacation time per year, increasing to 25 days after 4 years of service and 8 days accrued sick leave per year
- 13 paid County holidays
- 457 Deferred Compensation Plan
- Employee Assistance Program
- Dependent Care Assistance Plan
- Employee Wellness Program
- Tuition Reimbursement Program
- Payment of State Bar Dues
- Eligibility for hybrid remote/in-office work schedule
Additional information regarding benefits is available here.
V. Diversity and Inclusion
Santa Clara County is one of the most diverse communities in the United States, and its diversity is one of its greatest strengths. Our Office aims to reflect the communities we serve, and we believe that diversity in our Office is crucial to successfully performing the variety of work with which we are entrusted. Being able to draw on different perspectives allows us to be at the forefront of legal issues both locally and nationally. The Office of the County Counsel seeks a diverse applicant pool for every position, welcomes qualified applicants of all backgrounds, and hires based on fair and open competition.
VI. How to Apply
Applicants interested in any of the above positions should send a résumé, list of five references, and brief cover letter to Assistant County Counsel Tony LoPresti via [email protected]. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, and interested applicants are encouraged to apply promptly.
Job Opportunities in the Office of the County Counsel (PDF)
VII. Frequently Asked Questions from Attorney Candidates
This information is offered as a resource. To the extent there is any conflict between this FAQ and the County’s Merit System Rules, County or Office Policies, or the MOU with the County Counsel Attorneys’ Association, those documents control.
- Why does your Office have openings?
- CCO is growing! The need for attorneys in our office has significantly grown in the last decade, from 60 attorney positions in 2012, to 108 in 2022. This increase reflects the large array of litigation and policy matters that our Office works on as legal counsel to the County, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, the County Executive, every County department, and other government bodies.
- Office structure and substantive team assignments
- What is the supervisory structure at the Office? The Office’s legal work is carried out by 17 teams. Each team has a Lead Deputy County Counsel who oversees the team’s work and numerous Deputy County Counsels who carry out the team’s work. The Office’s management team consists of the County Counsel, eight Assistant County Counsels (each of whom supervise several teams), and the Office’s Legal and Compliance Officer.
- Are attorneys only assigned to one team or multiple teams? It depends. Many attorneys are “cross-assigned” to more than one team, but some attorneys are only assigned to a single team.
- Compensation + benefits
- What are the compensation and benefits like for attorneys? The County of Santa Clara offers competitive salary and benefits for all employees, more information about which can be found here. Compensation and benefits for Deputy County Counsels within the County Counsel’s Office are governed in large part by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the County Counsel Attorneys’ Association (the union that represents attorneys within the County Counsel’s Office, with exceptions) and the County of Santa Clara (available here). Highlights of the current compensation and benefits package includes:
- Salary based on experience and qualifications. For attorneys with five or more years of experience, the annual salary range is $219,323 to $272,981;
- CalPERS Pension, and medical, dental, vision, and life insurance;
- Up to 19 days of paid time off in the first year of service (increasing to 25 days after 4 years of service), 8 days of accrued sick leave per year, plus 13 paid County holidays; and
- MCLE training provided.
- Will I qualify for student loan forgiveness if I work at the Office? The County of Santa Clara is a “qualifying employer” for purposes of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. However, you also have to meet the other requirements for PSLF (e.g., be employed full time and make qualifying payments). Your law school may also offer other loan assistance programs for public service employment.
- Office culture
- What type of culture does the Office have? While every attorney will describe our Office culture differently, some words that come up frequently are “supportive,” “collaborative,” and “growth-oriented.” We are an office committed to excellence, public service, and effective legal advice and advocacy. We strive to create a safe space for attorneys to develop their skills and interests and build experience in practice areas for which they have a passion. We are dedicated to a culture that focuses on creative problem-solving for the benefit of the County. In addition to valuing excellent legal work, our Office also values kindness, collegiality, and respect among colleagues. We support getting to know one another as colleagues through activities such as our annual Halloween lunch, end-of-year holiday event, summer picnic for Paralegal Appreciation Day, and other events organized by our Social Committee and Wellness Workgroup. In addition to Office-wide events, attorneys frequently eat lunch together on the back patio of the Office, and many teams have their own traditions of gathering for annual retreats, lunches, and other social events.
- Telework policy
- Does the Office have a telework policy? Yes. To provide attorneys with flexibility and other important benefits, the Office allows attorneys to telework up to two days per week. The Office also believes that in-person work best facilitates collaboration, relationship building, and mentorship. In order to balance these goals, all County Counsel staff, including attorneys, are required to work in the Office on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, attorneys are required to work one more day in the Office, which they can elect to be either Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday. At this time, attorneys must meet the following requirements to telework:
- Have worked for the Office for at least six weeks;
- Must be available to come to County facilities in person if a need arises (e.g., attending a court hearing or an in-person meeting with departments); and
- Must sign and agree to the terms of the County of Santa Clara Office of the County Counsel Attorney Telework Agreement.
- What is the County of Santa Clara Office of the County Counsel Attorney Telework Agreement? Attorneys who have been working for the office for at least 6 weeks may elect to participate in the Office’s telework program by signing and agreeing to the terms of the County of Santa Clara Office of the County Counsel Attorney Telework Agreement. These agreements are renewed (i.e., signed by the attorney and approved by the County Counsel) annually on June 30th, regardless of when they are signed. Telework Agreements can be modified with the approval of the County Counsel.
- Are attorneys allowed to telework from any location? No. Attorneys must telework from an approved location, like a home office or room, that is private and secure, such that confidential information is not inadvertently disclosed to third parties. An attorney’s designated telework location(s) is listed in the approved telework agreement. Telework locations must be within 75 miles of the office to allow attorneys to promptly come to a County facility if a need arises.
- What efforts has the Office undertaken to retain attorneys? The Office values its staff and attorneys. Supervising Lead Deputy County Counsels and Assistant County Counsels meet regularly with attorneys on their teams for check-in meetings to provide attorneys opportunities to articulate their professional goals, to appropriately coordinate and manage workload, to assess whether attorneys’ professional goals are being met, and to ensure that attorneys’ interests are considered when they are given projects. The Office also fosters a very supportive and collaborative work environment that helps attorneys succeed, even if they are responsible for a task they’ve never done before. In addition, the Office focuses on health, wellness, and social activities that provide attorneys with opportunities to engage in healthy activities and to meaningfully connect with other staff in the Office.
- What are the opportunities for mentorship? Currently, formal mentorship for attorneys is provided through the Leads and Assistants for the team(s) the attorney is assigned to. Informal peer-mentorship networks are also formed throughout the Office, and there are opportunities for attorneys to serve as mentors to summer law clerks/interns.
- Opportunities for feedback
- Are attorneys provided feedback on their work performance? Yes! There are many opportunities for feedback. The most formal opportunity is via our Office’s annual evaluation process, during which each attorney meets with that attorney’s supervisors and receives a written evaluation. In addition, during an attorney’s first year in the Office, the attorney has quarterly formal check-ins with all of their supervising Lead Deputy County Counsels and Assistant County Counsels. While these are not considered formal evaluations, they are an opportunity for the attorney to ask for and receive feedback. Besides these Office-wide practices, Leads and Assistants have periodic check-ins with the attorneys on their team, during which they go over the attorney’s assignments and provide feedback as necessary and appropriate.
- Attorney qualifications
- What are the qualifications for attorneys in the Office? Applicants must be a member in good standing with the State Bar of California. The Office of the County Counsel seeks a diverse applicant pool for every position, and welcomes qualified applicants of all backgrounds. Prior public law experience, including clerkships, can be valuable, but are not required. The Office hires attorneys with experience in various sectors with a demonstrated history of hard work, dedication, and an eagerness to learn. Given the complexity of the County, almost all attorneys who join the Office receive training after their arrival to build a foundation for public law practice.
- The Office also hires attorneys at all phases of their career. While the Office rarely hires attorneys straight out of law school, a significant portion of our new attorneys have less than five years of experience. When reviewing applications from recently graduated attorneys, the Office considers relevant experience before and during law school, including non-legal experience relevant to the work of the County’s many agencies and public services. The Office greatly values excellent writing skills and carefully reviews submitted writing samples as part of the hiring process. We also look for indicia that an attorney will be a skilled, effective, and creative lawyer.
- What kind of professional training opportunities are there for attorneys? The Office offers frequent training opportunities on various topics. The Office offers Office-wide, on-site MCLE trainings to all attorneys on important legal topics. These trainings satisfy the state bar’s MCLE requirements. Newer attorneys also receive foundational trainings in several areas. Robust training and learning also happens at the team level, ranging from informal peer-to-peer mentorship to structured monthly team meetings for knowledge sharing and roundtable discussions on novel issues. The Office also supports attorneys in attending external training opportunities, such as relevant conferences.