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Vice President and Legal Director, MacArthur Justice Center

Multiple Locations, Multiple Locations
MacArthur Justice Center
Vice President and Legal Director

About the MacArthur Justice Center

The Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) is a national, nonprofit civil rights law firm. We advocate for people harmed by America’s oppressive and violent criminal legal system to vindicate their rights, hold people with power accountable, and transform the system. Our advocacy includes cutting-edge litigation across the country, addressing end-to-end issues in the criminal legal system: from police and prosecutorial misconduct to mass incarceration, to the conditions of jails and prisons, to wrongful convictions. 

MJC is a 501(c)(3) organization that uses the U.S. legal system to work with and for communities affected by institutional racism and oppression by standing with communities, ending the punishment of poverty, holding police and prosecutors accountable, and advocating for the rights of the incarcerated. We have a total operating budget of approximately $10M, a team of 50 dedicated legal professionals, and offices in Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; New Orleans, LA; Oxford, MS; and Washington, DC. 

For more information about MJC, visit www.macarthurjustice.org.

Position Summary
The MacArthur Justice Center seeks a Vice President and Legal Director to serve as a thought leader, manager, and litigator, to work collaboratively to develop and execute MJC’s legal strategy, overseeing some of the nation’s most talented legal professionals. The position will report to and serve as a partner to MJC’s President and Executive Director in actualizing MJC’s mission across all parts of the organization, including litigation and advocacy, external and internal communications, operations, and development. In partnership with, and with direct supervision of, the organization’s six office directors and a deputy director, the Vice President and Legal Director will also oversee the implementation of MJC’s legal strategy in a nuanced way that appreciates the expertise that MJC has developed through its regional offices and the need to adapt strategy and priorities to account for regional differences. 

In addition to legal strategy and team management, the Vice President and Legal Director will provide strategic organizational leadership across all functions, providing advice to the President and Executive Director, and working in collaboration with the Managing Director of Operations and Communications Director.

The successful candidate will be  a trusted resource and thought partner to MJC’s office directors and litigation teams in the panoply of strategic, legal, and technical questions that arise in litigating high-stakes, complex civil rights cases. They will develop expertise regarding MJC’s full docket of cases (indirectly overseeing 150+ matters) and personally participate in litigating trials and appeals in partnership with attorneys across MJC’s offices. The Vice President and Legal Director will also serve as MJC’s in-house general counsel, providing legal advice to the President and Executive Director, serving as the principal contact within the organization for issues of professional responsibility and legal practice, and overseeing outside counsel relationships as needed. 

The top candidate will be a seasoned litigator with experience leading a diverse legal team to function at the highest level of skill and integrity while maintaining our positive and people-centered culture. They will be a bold advocate who centers agility, collaboration, accountability, and humility in their leadership, in alignment with MJC’s Core Values. Additionally, the ideal candidate should have a demonstrated commitment to advocating for people harmed by the criminal legal system and securing accountability for those who abuse their power. 

The criminal legal system disproportionately harms people of color, people from low-income communities, the formerly incarcerated, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals.  We strongly encourage those who identify within these and other communities underrepresented in the legal profession to apply.  
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

Strategy & Leadership (25%) 
  • In collaboration with the President and Executive Director and office directors, develop and refine the overall strategic direction for MJC’s legal work to most effectively pursue MJC’s overarching mission, values, and strategic goals.
  • Serve as a strategic partner to the President and Executive Director, and leadership team in actualizing MJC’s mission across all organizational functions, including advocacy, internal and external communications, operations, and development
  • Develop principles and processes to guide MJC’s decision-making as to its legal work and advocacy, including guiding the organization’s issuance of position statements, participation as amicus curiae, and case selection. 
  • Regularly interface with MJC’s Managing Director of Operations, communications function, and development function to maximize strategic alignment and ensure effective implementation.
  • Maintain existing external partnerships and identify and build relationships with potential new partners and allies.
Implementation & Management of Legal Program (30%)
  • Lead the design and implementation of a realistic and concrete plan to execute the organization’s legal strategy. 
  • Directly supervise MJC’s legal function, including direct supervision of the organization’s six office directors and a deputy director, and indirect oversight of the organization’s full legal team of about 50 professionals. 
  • Motivate, nurture, and connect a diverse, inclusive, and high-performing team, uplifting their substantive and regional expertise to guide the day-to-day work.
  • Manage the case approval process, including reviewing proposed new matters for mission alignment and impact, as well as ensuring adequate staffing and resources for matters in collaboration with office directors, prior to approval by the President and Executive Director. 
  • Demonstrate expertise regarding MJC’s full docket of cases and proactively ensure that all matters are adequately staffed and resourced throughout their duration. 
  • Develop and oversee the approval process for amicus briefs filed by MJC. 
  • Maintain and build relationships with outside law firms who support our work as co-counsel or provide other litigation support to MJC.
  • In partnership with the Managing Director of Operations and Director of Human Resources, develop performance management metrics and a professional development program for all legal professionals in the organization.
  • In partnership with office directors and support from the Director of Human Resources, develop routines to assess the impact of MJC’s legal work and support a culture of constant learning and improvement. 
Litigation (30%)
  • Litigate cases in federal and state courts, both at the trial level and on appeal, with litigation teams across MJC’s offices.
  • Oversee preparation of briefs, motions, and other filings.
  • Oversee or conduct discovery, including depositions.
  • Conduct trials and hearings; argue trial-court motions and appeals.
  • Communicate with clients and opposing counsel.
  • Negotiate settlements.
General Counsel (15%) 
  • Advise the President and Executive Director on legal issues and oversee outside counsel relationships as needed.
  • Serve as the organization’s primary contact for important issues of professional responsibility and ethics. 

The ideal candidate should have the following experience and qualifications: 
  • J.D. degree with at least 10 years of litigation experience; preference will be given to applicants with demonstrated experience in complex civil rights litigation.
  • At least five years of experience managing others in litigation, including lawyers, legal fellows, legal interns, and paralegals.
  • Experience overseeing a legal practice, including extensive experience collaborating with outside co-counsel and private law firms. 
  • Ability to think creatively and strategically about the direction of a legal program.
  • Excellent legal research, writing, and analytical skills.
  • High emotional intelligence and cultural competency.
  • Ability to plan, manage, and be decisive under a tight deadline with the ability to multitask and be flexible and effective in fast-paced and high-pressure situations.
  • Ability to collaborate across offices, departments, and geographies and to work effectively with colleagues at all levels of the organization.
  • Understanding of the important role litigation plays in exposing injustice, raising visibility, and movement building.
  • Strong interpersonal skills and ability to promote the legal program.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Commitments:
  • Alignment with MacArthur Justice Center’s mission and values. 
  • A passion and demonstrated interest in social justice reform; experience in the criminal legal system, public policy, or related fields is strongly preferred.. 
  • Comfort with ambiguity and change. Can move start-up projects from concept to completion and adapt as needed based on learning and input from others while also demonstrating initiative, responsiveness, and thoughtfulness. 
  • Strong analytical and strategic thinking skills, along with the ability to manage stressful situations. 
  • Excellent judgment, integrity, and commitment to personal responsibility and accountability. 
  • Strong written and oral communication skills, including the ability to make complex issues understandable and relevant to external audiences. 
  • Ability to prioritize projects, meet deadlines, and work collaboratively as part of a team to support others in doing the same. 
  • Willingness to honor the diverse experiences of MJC staff and clients.

Location:  The position can be based in one of the five locations where our offices are located: Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; New Orleans, LA; Oxford, MS; or Washington, DC. 
We are currently a hybrid organization, with all locations reporting to the office at least some days each week. This is not a remote position. The selected applicant must reside in one of the above areas by the first day of employment.

Compensation:  The salary range is $190,000 to $215,000 depending on experience, with generous benefits including employer-sponsored health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance, EAP programming, access to FSA plans, a retirement plan that includes employer matching, and a generous paid-time-off policy.

TO APPLY: Interested candidates should submit a resume and thoughtful cover letter. Although applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, applications will be considered on a rolling basis, and the position will remain open until November 1, 2023.

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