Benefits and Housing Law Lead Attorney - Worthington

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., (SMRLS) is seeking to fill a Lead Attorney position in its Southwest Region Benefits & Housing Law Unit. The SMRLS Southwest Region has offices in Mankato and Worthington to assist low income persons in the 17 counties of southern Minnesota west of Interstate 35 to the South Dakota border. The Region currently has a total staff of 8 attorneys and 8 paralegal, clerical and other staff, with two additional Intake Hotline attorneys in the Mankato and Worthington offices.  The Benefits & Housing Law Unit consists of 3 attorney and 1.5 paralegal positions.

SMRLS is a non-profit law firm which receives federal, state, local, public, and private funding to provide free legal help to low income and elderly people who reside in 33 counties of southern Minnesota, including the St. Paul metropolitan area.  As Minnesota’s oldest legal aid program (founded in 1909), SMRLS has established a tradition of partnership with the private bar, a bi-partisan Legislature, the Minnesota Supreme Court and other Minnesota Legal Services Coalition programs in providing access to justice.  SMRLS has an experienced, dynamic staff of 51 attorneys and 43 additional staff.  Hundreds of volunteer attorneys help staff provide legal assistance to over 10,000 eligible persons each year.

SMRLS is a client-centered organization which is committed to its Mission of providing a full range of high quality legal services, in a respectful manner which enable clients to: enforce their legal rights; maintain freedom from hunger, homelessness, sickness and abuse; and empower persons and ensure equal opportunity, thus, helping persons to help themselves and become economically self-reliant, to the extent their individual abilities and circumstances permit.  SMRLS values, welcomes and promotes diversity in all aspects of its work.  SMRLS has adopted Practice Standards and Guiding Principles to accomplish its Mission and has established case priorities which govern the types of cases which will be accepted for representation.

SMRLS values, welcomes and promotes diversity in all aspects of its work.  SMRLS serves clients from a wide range of backgrounds.  SMRLS has adopted a Racial Justice policy to guide the firm’s work towards racial equality.

Mankato is located on the Minnesota River, about 90 miles southwest of the Twin Cities and has a state university.  It is the regional hub for an estimated 260,000 persons in southern Minnesota. Worthington is located on Interstate 90 in the southwest corner of the state, approximately 100 miles southwest of Mankato.  The Worthington community of approximately 11,000 persons is located on Lake Okabena and is the site of a community college.

RESPONSIBILITIES  

The Lead Attorney is responsible for the leadership and general supervision of the Southwest Benefits & Housing Law Unit, including the quality of the legal work.  The Lead Attorney supports and supervises the work of the Unit’s attorneys and paralegals, and oversees community education, outreach and related activities.  Specific responsibilities include:

  • representing clients in contested court and administrative proceedings; 
  • developing unit and individual work plans; 
  • case reviews; 
  • job performance evaluations; 
  • legal advocacy and counseling in government benefits, housing and other civil legal matters; 
  • encouraging staff development; 
  • ensuring appropriate staff participation in client, private bar, and community activities; 
  • making case acceptance decisions in accordance with SMRLS’ case acceptance policies; 
  • resolving client grievances; 
  • serving as a resource to volunteer attorneys handling pro bono cases; 
  • communicating policies and procedures to unit staff and the client community; 
  • handling day to day personnel issues; 
  • participating in the leadership team for the Southwest Region; 
  • meeting grant requirements and writing some grant applications and reports; 
  • ensuring compliance with SMRLS’ policies, and state and federal law; 
  • working with other members of SMRLS’ leadership team in maintaining and building a positive, productive, open and helpful work environment; and 
  • fully implementing SMRLS values and policies with respect to equal opportunity, sexual harassment and other important matters. 

Community education, outreach, bar participation and community involvement are also expected activities.  Assignments may change over time based upon client and firm needs.  Substantial local travel is required.  Other types of cases and responsibilities may be assigned depending upon client and program needs.

QUALIFICATIONS

At least five years of attorney experience required.  Must be licensed to practice law in Minnesota or licensed in another state and eligible for admission in Minnesota.  A broad-based knowledge of poverty law issues is required.  Experience working in the areas of benefits and housing law is required.  Prior legal work supervision or other relevant management experience preferred.  Experience as a supervisor and working constructively on personnel issues is preferred. 

Non-academic experience working in low income communities, or other activities that demonstrate an interest in working with low income clients, will be given great weight.  Demonstrated ability to work effectively with low income persons, victims of domestic abuse, and persons from different cultural backgrounds is essential. 

Good communication skills; ability to work constructively with others in a team work setting; good judgment; ability to learn quickly and to work hard, independently, and under pressure; and ability to handle contested hearings are all required.  Fluency in a second language, particularly Spanish or Somali, will be beneficial but is not required.  Basic computer competence required.

SALARY

The salary is $56,784+ DOE, pursuant to scale.  Good medical benefits provided.

STARTING DATE

As soon as possible after the position is filled.

SMRLS IS COMMITTED TO DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE. WOMEN, MINORITIES, AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ARE ESPECIALLY ENCOURAGED TO APPLY.

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