ABOUT PUBLIC COUNSEL
Public Counsel is the largest pro bono public interest law firm in the country. Founded in 1970, it is dedicated to advancing equal justice under law and addressing economic, racial, social, and other inequities by delivering free legal and social services to the most vulnerable members of our community. Public Counsel operates eight legal projects: Children’s Rights, Community Development, Consumer Rights & Economic Justice, Homelessness Prevention, Immigrants’ Rights, Veterans’ Rights, the Audrey Irmas Project for Women & Girls’ Rights, and our impact litigation project, Opportunity Under Law.
Public Counsel has a full-time staff of over 150. We are committed to building a diverse staff and encourage applications from people of color, people with disabilities, and people of all gender identities, gender expressions, and sexualities.
ABOUT HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION LAW PROJECT
Public Counsel’s Homelessness Prevention Law Project (HPLP) serves individuals who are at high risk of becoming homeless or are currently unhoused. HPLP assists unrepresented low-income litigants in unlawful detainer (eviction) actions, and provides pre-litigation counsel and advice to tenants who are involved in a landlord-tenant dispute. HPLP also provides pro bono representation to homeless individuals and families to help remove legal barriers to obtaining permanent housing. In addition, we run several community clinics to connect low-income Angelenos with free legal advice, and provide educational workshops in collaboration with community-based organizations.
In addition to our homelessness prevention and anti-displacement efforts, our recent work includes:
- Supporting local tenants in their successful efforts to obtain and preserve COVID-related eviction protections;
- Working with community-based organizations to provide know-your-rights presentations and workshops to tenants on new and constantly-changing housing laws;
- Teaming up with other non-profit legal services providers, tenant organizers and community-based organizations throughout Los Angeles County to push forward the implementation of a Right to Counsel for all tenants in eviction proceedings.
Reporting to the Directing Attorney, the Supervising Staff Attorney is a full-time position, based primarily at Public Counsel’s main office at 610 S. Ardmore. The position may involves some off-site clinic work in South Los Angeles communities and other parts of Los Angeles County.
The Supervising Staff Attorney will launch and lead Public Counsel’s new “Special Litigation Unit” (SLU) within the Homelessness Prevention Law Project.
In the midst of the pandemic, there was an explosion of landlord harassment, illegal lockouts, and other actionable behavior by landlords who were not able to evict tenants lawfully due to local, state, and federal protections against eviction. Many tenants have lost their housing and become homeless due to these actions, or have left the area because they were unable to find affordable replacement housing. As a result, a number of new laws have been passed that provide penalties for illegal landlord behavior. But the legal services landscape in Los Angeles does not currently provide a reliable avenue for tenants to pursue legal action against their landlords to enforce these new laws. The vast majority of tenants who obtain legal representation do so through nonprofit organizations, most of which are grant-funded to undertake unlawful detainer defense, and do not have the capacity to initiate litigation against landlords. The private bar does not typically take on such cases in significant numbers, and interest from the pro bono sector has been low.
The SLU will focus on filing lawsuits against landlords to vindicate the rights of tenants to live in safe, well-cared-for, secure housing, free of harassment and discrimination. We expect the SLU to file and litigate lawsuits related to habitability issues, illegal lockouts, constructive eviction, discriminatory housing practices, and violations of the City of Los Angeles’ Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance. The SLU will also pursue novel legal theories to enforce new tenant protections passed in the last 5 years. The SLU will also consult on litigation engagements by Public Counsel and pro bono partners that seek to defend local tenant protections from challenges by landlord interest groups
The Supervising Staff Attorney will work with Public Counsel’s pro bono partners on some of this litigation, and will be responsible for overseeing the work of the SLU, in collaboration with the Directing Attorney.
The Supervising Staff Attorney position will oversee a team of one Staff Attorney and one paralegal. The team will work collaboratively to determine which cases to file, to investigate and prepare the case for filing, to coordinate with any potential pro bono partners, and carry out all litigation activities once the case is filed.
This is a full-time position that will involve the full breadth of civil litigation activities, administrative work, management and supervision of legal staff, grant reporting, meeting with clients and community partners, and court appearances. The position has the following responsibilities:
- Manage a small team of at least one attorney and one paralegal;
- With the Directing Attorney, participate in discussions with internal and external partners about program design and priorities;
- Carry a small individual caseload of cases;
- Participate in the full breadth of civil litigation activities, including drafting and filing complaints, carrying out discovery, filing and responding to motions for summary judgment and discovery motions, taking depositions, preparing cases for trial, and serving as trial counsel in jury or bench trials;
- Coach and mentor staff in providing efficient, client-centered, trauma-informed, legally sound services to affected tenants;
- Administer the SLU, including participating in interviewing and hiring for any open positions, implementing schedules, protocols, and fair division of labor to ensure the program runs smoothly, and overseeing grant compliance and timekeeping;
- Prepare and submit quarterly grant reports regarding case outcomes;
- Assign and manage staff caseload and workflow to ensure that staff are completing work in an efficient manner while keeping workloads manageable and allowing time for team-building, special projects, and professional development;
- Plan and facilitate external meetings with legal services and community-based organizations as needed, in order to be responsive to community needs;
- Attend virtual and in-person court hearings as required;
- Act as a resource for other Public Counsel staff and community partners;
- Ensure that members of the SLU team are following Public Counsel policies related to proper case handling, including document management, consistent keeping of case notes in the internal case management system and case tracking on the team’s litigation calendar;
- Participate in off-site clinic events of the project as needed;
- Consult on litigation engagements by Public Counsel and pro bono partners that seek to defend local tenant protections from challenges by landlord interest groups;
- Other duties as assigned.
- ESSENTIAL JOB SKILLS AND ABILITIES
- Juris Doctor degree and a member in good standing of the California Bar;
- At least 8 years of relevant civil litigation experience (criminal legal experience will also be considered), including demonstrated ability to independently develop, lead and manage litigation;
- Comfort with trauma-informed legal advocacy: empathy, responsive listening, restraint from judgment, cultural humility, and demonstration of authentic care and concern;
- Excellent time management and communication skills, to be consistently responsive to team members dealing with time-sensitive tasks;
- Judgment and decision-making ability to decide which clients to retain in an environment where demand for legal services well exceeds capacity, with an eye toward sustainability of the project;
- Ability to effectively supervise legal work in a fast-paced environment with a collaborative, positive approach;
- Organizational skills which enable the candidate to manage a project effectively, and change or improve workflows when needed, after consulting with the team and other supervisors;
- Commitments to race equity work and community lawyering, and willingness to incorporate race equity principles and community lawyering in practice;
- Supervision experience a plus;
- Strong interpersonal skills and ability to create a culture of feedback and continual improvement;
- Attention to detail, and strong written and oral communication skills;
- Ability to commute throughout Los Angeles County if needed.
- The following is not required, but is preferred:
- Landlord-tenant litigation experience, either in the affirmative or unlawful detainer context.
JOB TYPE AND BENEFITS
- Full-time, Exempt position
- Position is created with designated funds and is contingent on ongoing funding for the program
- Salary Range: The salary range for this position, $82,500 to $104,358.55, is commensurate with 8 to 15 years of experience plus a Supervisor supplement of $5,000.
- Public Counsel offers a competitive benefits package including:
- Medical, dental, and vision coverage with both HMO and PPO options,
- The option to enroll in a Flexible Spending Account,
- A 403(b) retirement plan with elective contribution and a discretionary employer contribution after a year of employment, and
- Employer-paid life insurance and disability plans.
- Generous paid time off and compensatory time up to 40 hours per calendar year
- Transit benefits
HOW TO APPLY
We value lived experiences and experiences working with clients across a range of settings. Please consider discussing such experiences in your cover letter, especially if they are not reflected in your resume.
PUBLIC COUNSEL VACCINATION POLICY AND COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
Public Counsel requires vaccination against COVID-19 for all employees, including new hires. Pursuant to federal and state laws, Public Counsel will provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.
Public Counsel is generally office-based, but remote work has been permitted during the pandemic. All employees with Public Counsel are required to work in the office at least one day per week, at the discretion of the head of department. This policy is subject to redesign by leadership. Public Counsel will work in a manner consistent with public health and local and state emergency orders.
PUBLIC COUNSEL EEO POLICY
Public Counsel is an Equal Opportunity Employer that does not discriminate against employees or prospective employees on the basis of union membership or activity, race, religious creed, religious observance, ethnicity, color, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or predisposition, military service, military and veteran status, pregnancy, child birth and related medical conditions, marital and family status, national origin, ancestry, age, medical conditions as defined by state or federal law, or disability, or any other basis prohibited by law.
All qualified applicants with criminal histories will be considered in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring.
Our leadership team is dedicated to this policy with respect to recruitment, hiring, placement, promotion, transfer, training, compensation, benefits, employee activities discipline, discharge and general treatment during employment.