Legal Director/Senior Staff Attorney

Detroit, MI

The Detroit Justice Center (DJC), an innovative community law practice opening in spring 2018, seeks a creative, experienced leader to serve as our first Legal Director. DJC is founded on the belief that we cannot build cities that work for everyone without remedying the impacts of mass incarceration and transforming our justice system. This mission will require new ways of community lawyering—rooted in defensive and offensive fights for racial justice and economic equity—that build up our poorest residents through direct services and novel approaches to land use, housing, and employment. The Legal Director will manage a dedicated team of professionals working to deliver community lawyering services, create economic opportunities, and promote Just Cities.

Position Overview

This position is a remarkable opportunity for a dynamic leader to help expand and cultivate DJC’s impact. The Legal Director will provide strategic leadership for our programs, including warrant and re-entry clinics, supervise attorneys, manage staff development, and broaden and deepen our partnerships with community-based organizations. As DJC will begin with a small team of lawyers, the Legal Director will also provide direct representation to clients in their capacity as a Senior Staff Attorney. As a member of DJC’s Senior Leadership Team, the Legal Director will report directly to the Executive Director and collaborate closely with her on all matters related to the programmatic direction, effectiveness, and dynamic operations of the organization. 

The Legal Director will be expected to supervise staff, support and provide legal services, offer expertise internally and externally, build relationships within the field, and partner and work closely with grassroots organizations. This position will use a variety of legal, policy, communications, and coalition-building strategies to assist our community partners and allies in achieving systemic change.

Responsibilities

Specific duties include:

Supervision, Training, and Mentorship:

  • Support, train, and mentor legal staff on best practices for community lawyering and ethical, zealous client representation;
  • Supervise members of the legal team (direct reports: two staff attorneys to begin, then more as the organization grows) by providing timely feedback and supporting growth; and
  • Drive attorneys to meet work plan goals and deadlines.

Management and Leadership:

  • Cultivate a high-performing legal team by promoting a culture of trust and appreciation;
  • Develop and implement best practices for attorney teams, including internal standards and policies around case management, legal services, and knowledge management;
  • Oversee professional development and evaluation of all legal staff;
  • Promote equity, empowerment, and inclusion office-wide and in community partnerships, outreach, and client interactions;
  • Ensure compliance with grant agreements, contracts, and other legal and ethical requirements;
  • Implement and adapt tools to evaluate the effectiveness of our practice;
  • As a member of DJC’s Leadership Team, serve as a thought partner to the Executive Director by proactively identifying trends, systemic issues, and policies that affect local communities and proposing innovative solutions;
  • Cultivate and manage strategic relationships, coalitions, and diverse partnerships with community organizations and DJC’s partners;
  • Recruit and create panel of pro bono attorneys to assist with legal clinics and take on direct representation as appropriate;
  • With the Executive Director, build and maintain relationships with the courts, government agencies, public officials, the media, and the nonprofit legal community.

Legal Representation:

  • Advise, counsel, and represent clients with legal matters including warrants, suspended licenses, criminal records, public benefits, and fines;
  • Maintain organized client files, case notes, and database systems for caseload;
  • Conduct community outreach, intake, and correspondence with local community organizations regarding legal services offered by DJC.

Qualifications

The successful candidate for this position will have a deep passion for DJC’s mission; a demonstrated commitment to social justice, racial and gender justice, and civil and human rights; energy and enthusiasm for translating ideas into strategic, high-functioning programs; a bold and creative approach to community lawyering that draws upon a range of tactics and takes direction from community partners; a desire to democratize access to the law by promoting legal education and legal empowerment in marginalized communities; the ability to sustain and develop a broad set of relationships with people from diverse backgrounds; impeccable attention to detail; and an ability to project authority and vision with a collaborative style.

The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate a significant record of work that incorporates the following skills and experience:

Experience

  • J.D. degree
  • At least 5 years of experience representing clients in criminal and/or civil legal matters. Extensive experience in state and federal courts in Michigan preferred.
  • 2-3 years supervisory experience of full-time professional staff including mentoring and training junior staff preferred.
  • Demonstrated experience as a leader with a creative and community-oriented spirit and the ability to inspire and lead a team.
  • Demonstrated experience as a strategic thinker who can design and implement programs.
  • Prior experience working with grassroots organizations and/or in nonprofit environments advocating for systemic change preferred.

Credentials

  • Must either be licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan or be eligible for admission to the Michigan bar at the time of hiring (must be admitted within one year of hire).
  • Must be an attorney in good standing.

Skills & Personal Attributes

  • Strong legal, leadership, management, advocacy, organizational, and communication skills.
  • An ability to relate to and communicate effectively with a diverse group of clients, community partners, and staff, as well as nonprofit, government, judicial, and business communities.
  • An energetic, creative, and collaborative leader.
  • A fluent understanding of DJC’s community lawyering model and commitment to a needs-based approach to nonprofit growth and management, informed by the individuals, families, and communities most impacted.
  • Flexible and adaptive problem-solving skills, including the ability to identify, develop, and implement solutions.
  • An ability to work independently and with autonomy, and communicate proactively with our team.

DJC offers salary commensurate with experience plus benefits. DJC is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. People of color, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and individuals with past involvement in the justice system or who have loved ones currently or formerly in the justice system are strongly encouraged to apply. 

To Apply: Please send a cover letter, resume, legal writing sample, and three references in one Word or PDF file by February 22, 2018 to jobs@detroitjustice.org with the subject: “DJC Legal Director/Senior Staff Attorney Position.” Please mention in your cover letter where you saw this advertisement. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Please refrain from contacting the office to check on the status of your application.