Legal Action of Wisconsin Seeks Staff Attorney for Housing and Community Law Project (2 Positions)

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. (Legal Action) is hiring at least two full-time staff attorneys in Milwaukee to fill positions in the Housing Unit and the Community Law Project, also known as the Community Redevelopment Legal Assistance Project.  More information about each of the positions can be found below.  Applicants should state in their cover letter whether they are applying for the Housing Unit position, the Community Law Project position, or both.  Applicants applying for both positions should state whether they prefer one position over the other.

During the pandemic, most Legal Action staff members are working remotely.  These positions will also be remote until we determine that it is safe to return to the physical office.  These positions may require occasional access to our physical office during the pandemic; Legal Action requires staff to wear face masks when in our physical offices.   We may consider some remote work for these positions after the pandemic ends.

Legal Action  is a large, vibrant non-profit law firm funded by the federal Legal Services Corporation, the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, and other sources.  Legal Action provides free legal aid to about 13,500 low-income persons annually in the southern 39 counties of Wisconsin with offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Oshkosh, Green Bay, and La Crosse.  In addition, LAW operates a statewide farmworker project, and several other state-wide projects serving crime victims, including victims of sex and labor trafficking.  LAW attorneys have expertise in a range of substantive areas, but the majority of our work is in the areas of housing, public benefits, removing barriers to employment, consumer law, and family law.  Staff attorneys are expected to maintain a direct service caseload on behalf of individual and group clients, as well as to engage in law reform litigation and other impact work.  Attorneys are expected to specialize in specific areas of poverty law.

The Milwaukee Area Office staff is housed at 633 W. Wisconsin Ave. and is comprised of 41 attorneys, 19 paralegals, and 18 other administrative, professional and technical staff.  Intake is done by telephone, on a walk-in basis, or at neighborhood outstations in Milwaukee and Waukesha.  The Milwaukee Area Office also houses the Legal Action administrative staff, the SeniorLAW Project, and a Volunteer Lawyers Project. Two attorneys are located at the Center for Driver’s License Recovery & Employment at Milwaukee Area Technical College and one attorney and one paralegal are housed at the Student Legal Aid Project at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

All Staff Attorneys at Legal Action of Wisconsin are expected to provide rigorous and high-quality representation in all direct service cases using Legal Action’s attorney performance standards. In addition to individual case work, they must participate in at least one of Legal Action’s firm-wide Priority Committees and provide training and other assistance to volunteers who participate in Legal Action’s Volunteer Lawyer’s Project.  They must work effectively with clients from a wide range of backgrounds.   They may be required to supervise interns or paralegals, in addition to other duties that may be assigned from time to time.

Legal Action believes that equal justice under law can only be achieved through the collaboration of a diverse staff. We are committed to equitable inclusion across gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, sex, religion, economic circumstances, ethnicity, national origin, and culture. We are striving to transcend the construct of race and be an anti-racist law firm. We encourage staff to bring their whole selves to work each day and pledge to celebrate every aspect of who they are. 

HOUSING UNIT STAFF ATTORNEY

Attorneys in the Housing Unit provide legal services to low-income tenants in eviction defense and other housing related civil matters in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.  Services are provided under various funding sources, including but not limited to the HUD Emergency Shelter and Community Development Block grants and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  Key Responsibilities of this position include:

-         Advising and representing clients in eviction cases to prevent homelessness.

-         Representing clients with a termination notice or eviction from public or subsidized housing (including housing with a Section Eight rent assistance voucher.)

-         Representing  clients in denials of admission to public or subsidized housing.

-         Representing clients terminated from or denied eligibility to rent assistance programs.

-         Representing tenants involved with problem landlords.

-         Representing tenants whose landlords are in foreclosure.

-         Representing tenants in motions to seal their eviction cases.

 

Housing Unit attorneys will also be expected to:

-         Attend Milwaukee Housing Coalition meetings.

-         Develop expertise in the areas of law that affect housing and homelessness, including state and federal constitutional law, basic housing law, fair housing, and eviction defense.

-         Collaborate with staff and volunteer attorneys to provide representation at the Eviction Defense Project in Milwaukee County.

-         Conduct community education sessions, attend job fairs, and familiarize themselves with the needs of the community.

The Milwaukee housing unit staff attorney will also help identify and develop impact litigation in coordination with the Housing Priority Committee, the Assistant Director of Litigation, and other attorneys.  The lawyer will be expected to plan and initiate affirmative litigation in state and federal courts. 

COMMUNITY LAW PROJECT STAFF ATTORNEY

The Community Law Project is funded by a special grant from the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation and staffed by five attorneys: two in Milwaukee, one in Racine, one in Madison, and one in Green Bay.  Attorneys in the project use a community lawyering service delivery model to stabilize and redevelop targeted neighborhoods.  In Milwaukee, these neighborhoods are Sherman Park, Harambee, Near West Side, and Havenwoods/Silver Spring.  A community lawyering service delivery model requires that the attorney create and maintain strong, long-lasting partnerships with the community organizations and residents in the target neighborhoods.  It also requires an ongoing assessment of the needs of the community and a willingness to adjust the services provided when they no longer align with community needs. 

Key responsibilities will likely include legal representation in the following areas:

-         Unstable and unhealthy rental housing conditions.

-         Lack of affordable housing.

-         Threats to homeownership because of civil legal problems such as denial of public benefits, criminal histories and lack of drivers’ licenses, and consumer law problems.

-         Representation for low-income residents and locally-owned businesses during revitalization and development efforts.

-         Foreclosures.

-         Evictions.

Community Lawyers may also:            

-         Advise and educate community-based organizations (CBOs) on business and housing development opportunities and represent in  transactional work (e.g. land acquisition, real estate closings, zoning, drafting and reviewing contracts, zoning compliance) when they undertake these opportunities.

-         Represent  CBOs seeking injunctive relief and litigating other claims to force repairs of properties blighting the neighborhood and to challenge destructive behaviors by non-resident property owners.

-         Litigate against bad actor landlords in conjunction with municipal government enforcement actions on behalf of CBOs and tenants.

-         Assist CBOs, associations, neighbors, and property owners with legal incorporation (IRS and the State.)

-         Advise, educate, and sometimes represent community groups seeking to increase desirable development and prevent dangerous development (e.g. companies or industry that harms the environment or worsens neighborhood isolation) and illegal activities (e.g. drug houses and drug dealing, human trafficking.)

-         Assist resident homeowners, family members, and older homeowners who have title issues and other problems in transferring their homes. 

QUALIFICATIONS (BOTH POSITIONS)

-         Commitment to serving low-income clients and the Milwaukee community, by  improving access to justice;

-         Admission to the Wisconsin Bar, by diploma privilege or by passage of the first available bar exam.

-         Prior legal aid or other relevant experience is desired, though not required.

-         Some experience with federal or state courtroom procedure is helpful though not required;

-         Superior writing, research and analytical skills.

-         Demonstrated ability to speak and write clearly and persuasively.

-         Enthusiasm for representing clients in court as well as through motions and other written work;

-         Self-motivated, diligent, and able to meet strict deadlines while under pressure.

-         Ability to travel throughout Legal Action’s service area to meet with clients and to attend court hearings.

-         Cultural competence and respect for differences in race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstances.

-         Ability to work harmoniously with others.

-         Fluency in a language other than English and cultural affinity for the client community that speaks that language is desired, though not required. 

-         Legal Action will provide training and support, as needed.

-         Please note, that 3rd year law students with an anticipated May 2021 graduation date are encouraged to apply and will be considered based on available openings.  

We strongly encourage applications from women, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQIA, people with disabilities, and people with life experiences or education that add to our diversity and our capacity to provide high-quality legal aid.  We also encourage applicants to include a statement about the ways that their unique backgrounds and personal, professional, and life experiences contribute to the diversity, cultural vitality, and perspective of our staff and our law firm’s mission along with their other application materials. 

PHYSICAL DEMANDS AND WORK ENVIRONMENT

This position involves sedentary work, including sitting and/or standing at a desk while working a computer for an extended period.  This position also exerts up to 10 pounds of force on a regular basis to lift, carry, push, or otherwise move objects. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to stand, sit, talk, hear and use hands and fingers to operate a computer and/or laptop keyboard and use a telephone. Specific vision abilities required for this job include close vision requirements due to computer work. The position may drive a motor vehicle while seated for extended periods of time daily. Occasional reaching, bending, kneeling and stooping involved to retrieve various items and materials are required. This position works in an environmentally-controlled office environment with moderate noise from phones, printers, and light office traffic. 

SALARY & BENEFITS

The salary for this and all positions are determined by Legal Action’s attorney salary scale as set forth in the firms’ salary administration plan.  The attorney salary is determined by Legal Action’s Board of Directors and cannot be negotiated.  The position may receive an annual increase if the Board of Directors approves it.  For example, under Legal Action’s attorney salary scale, an attorney with 0-1 years of experience practicing law would earn a salary of $45,727.  An attorney with 5 years of experience practicing law would earn a salary of $52,347. 

Legal Action provides a generous fringe benefits package, including employer-paid health and dental insurance for employees and eligible dependents. (Some employees are required to contribute to the health insurance premium for their spouse, if the spouse has group health insurance provided by their employer.) Legal Action also provides life and long-term disability insurance, a profit-sharing retirement plan, salary deferral options for retirement planning, low-cost employee paid vision coverage, four weeks of annual leave per year (accrued), four days of personal leave per year, generous sick leave accrual, and four weeks of paid parental leave for eligible employees.

The position is governed by Legal Action’s Personnel Policies, subject to unilateral change by the firm’s Board of Directors.  All positions at Legal Action are “at will”; there is no guaranteed period of employment.

GOVERNANCE

The position is subject to a probationary period of up to one year. The position is governed by the Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. Personnel Policies which are subject to unilateral change by the Legal Action Board of Directors.  As with any Legal Action position, there is no guaranteed period of employment and employment is at will, subject to termination at any time. 

TO APPLY

Applicants must submit the following application materials via Legal Action of Wisconsin’s online applicant portal:

•            Cover letter

•            Resume

•            Writing sample

•            Provide the names and contact information for three professional references (current LAW staff members are not required to include references)

•            Law school transcript (only required for applicants who graduated 2017 or later)

•            Optional, but highly encouraged: A statement about the ways your unique background, and personal, professional, and life experiences contribute to the diversity, cultural vitality, and perspective of our staff and our law firm’s mission and this position. 

Please submit and upload all the documents required. If the required documents are not submitted on or before the deadline, your application will be considered incomplete and we will not be able to consider you for this position. 

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS

The position will be open until filled.  We encourage applicants to apply before Monday, November 30, 2020.

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employee

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