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Legal Director

Req ID: 5002
Location: Chicago - Loop
# of Openings: 1
FT/PT: Full time
Employment Type: Regular
Salary Schedule: Grade 115
Job Notes:


NIJC advances human and due process right for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through direct legal services, impact litigation, advocacy and public education.  Headquartered in Chicago with offices in Washington, DC and Northcentral, Indiana, NIJC’s team of 89 attorneys, paralegals and professionals, along with 1,500 pro bono attorneys, provide critical legal services while advancing systemic reform.


Summary:  The Legal Director will be a member of the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC’s) Senior Management team. In this capacity, the Legal Director will be responsible for managing NIJC’s legal programs, providing strategic leadership, vision, management and evaluation of NIJC’s programs on a local, regional and national level. The Director will ensure current and future programs are consistent with NIJC’s strategic plan and goals. The ideal candidate is an individual with legal expertise and the ability to coordinate legal strategies across projects, as well as the ability to build teams, effectively communicate, collaborate and support a vision for the most efficient and effective operation of NIJC’s legal programs area are key to success in this role.


Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Strategy, Leadership, and Management

    • Provide strategic leadership and implementation of NIJC’s mission.

    • Support the Executive Director and the legal teams, facilitate communication between projects and senior management, and develop and implement performance evaluation mechanisms while maintaining a global view of NIJC’s programming to ensure alignment with our mission.

    • In consultation with senior staff and local and national partners, identify key legal issues and NIJC’s role in advancing those issues through impact litigation

    • Liaise with and coordinate among all NIJC legal projects.

    • Provide leadership in the delivery of legal services to ensure NIJC’s continued growth and success; identify conferences, professional associations and networking opportunities to enhance NIJC’s reputation and opportunities for collaboration.

    • Identify the need for and develop new legal program initiatives.

  • Operations

    • Responsible for the development, implementation, and monitoring of programs, including allocating resources in accordance with strategic priorities that will enable NIJC to remain a leader in its field.

    • Evaluate NIJC’s legal services and litigation, identify new ways of executing priorities, recommend changes to drive business process improvement, using an innovative approach.

    • Identify links and opportunities between litigation and legal services, create connections and use a collaborative approach to build teams and grow NIJC’s offerings.

    • Ensure quality and excellence in NIJC legal programs.

    • Assess NIJC’s pro bono processes, identify issues and propose solutions to same. Implement best practices to ensure NIJC’s continued success.

    • Lead the documentation and management of NIJC’s processes.

    • Identify technologies that can improve NIJC’s legal programs, providing recommendations for adjustments to improve service delivery.

    • Provide leadership and direction for prioritizing programming and resources in accordance with NIJC’s long term goals.

    • Identify and evaluate opportunities to deliver recommendations on what NIJC needs to prioritize.

    • Work with Chief Operating Officer to assess effectiveness of IT systems and databases to ensure those systems are cost-effective and adequately support NIJC infrastructure.

    • Work with legal teams and NIJC’s policy and communications teams to implement NIJC’s priorities

    • Write and present reports to the Executive Director.

    • Present to NIJC Leadership Board on legal issues.

  • Performance Management

    • Ensure each team is meeting key performance indicators, measurement and evaluation. Develop and monitor performance metrics to ensure NIJC’s successful growth. Develop metrics to track progress.
    • Engender trust and passion for change among NIJC’s legal teams by demonstrating leadership and communicating a vision that leads to organizational excellence.
    • Build a positive culture across teams that allows for the introduction of new processes or services and the winding down of services that are no longer responsive to the needs of the community and/or NIJC priorities. 
    • Identify training opportunities for team members.

  • External Relations and Advocacy

    • Lead and represent NIJC on a national level to help build NIJC’s reputation. Identify areas for collaboration and opportunities for new or improved programing.
    • Contribute to the drafting of concept notes, proposals and reports.
    • Serve as a spokesperson and champion for NIJC’s legal programs, promoting NIJC, making tough decisions to maintain NIJC’s position as a leader in the immigrant rights movement.


Qualifications:  To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • Education and/or Experience: 

    • Proven experience as an attorney, with a track record of success in legal services leadership

    • Immigration law experience required, refugee experience a plus.

    • At least 15 years of success in the legal profession, operations, strategy planning and development including working with an Executive Director and Senior Management Team to achieve goals.

    • Excellent analytical skills, proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite.

    • JD required (may or may not be practicing)


Competencies:  To perform the job successfully, an individual should demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Deep knowledge of the law, particularly immigration, civil rights, human rights law

  • Understanding of the pro bono culture and experience working with pro bono attorneys

  • Experience managing a legal program, including business processes, performance evaluation, and strategic planning

  • Experience achieving results within a climate of change, where external forces remain uncertain and where stakeholders may have conflicting objectives

  • Exceptional communicator, ability to work with a diverse, talented group of legal professionals, building trust, collaboration and a culture that welcomes change

  • Demonstrated strength in managing and resolving conflict

  • Subscribes to NIJC values, advancing due process and human rights protections for immigrants and refugees

  • Experience balancing long-term strategic vision with short-term implementation taking into account funding limitations.

  • Experience seeing the big picture, planning for growth and having a vision to achieve operational efficiency along the way, while attending to details of implementation.

  • Strong financial acumen and ability to assess projects.

  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion.

  • Exceptional verbal and written communication skills. and experience in grant writing and reporting

  • Demonstrated skill in maintaining the balance between running a successful operation and being an NGO.


Physical Demands: The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • Frequently required to sit, stand and walk


Work Environment:  The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate.


Heartland Alliance makes all hiring and employment decisions, and operates all programs, services, and functions without regard to race, receipt of an order of protection, creed, color, age, gender, gender identity, marital or parental status, religion, ancestry, national origin, amnesty, physical or mental disability, protected veterans status, genetic information, sexual orientation, immigrant status, political affiliation or belief, use of FMLA, VESSA, military, and family military rights, ex-offender status (depending on the offense and position to be filled), unfavorable military discharge, membership in an organization whose primary purpose is the protection of civil rights or improvement of living conditions and human relations, height, weight, or HIV infection, in accord with the organization's AIDS Policy Statement of September 3 1987.

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