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Notice of Job Posting: Staff Attorney

Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC), a small (11 full-time employees and 3 part-time employees) nonprofit legal organization, is hiring a staff attorney to focus on prisoner civil rights litigation in federal court. The staff attorney, in cooperation with the Legal Director and Executive Director, will have primary responsibility for cases handled in-house by staff attorneys, as well as cases in which Uptown People’s Law Center is co-counsel with pro bono attorneys (generally from large firms).  UPLC’s legal work also includes administrative cases before the Social Security Administration and defending tenants in eviction actions in the Circuit Court of Cook County; however, this position will handle primarily federal prisoner civil rights cases.

Responsibilities: This position will report to the Legal Director. The overall responsibility of this position will be to handle a docket of individual damages cases on behalf of people confined in Illinois prisons. Secondarily, this person will work with the Legal Director to provide support to pro bono attorneys working on cases for which UPLC is acting as co-counsel. These cases include both individual damage actions, and major class action cases.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Act as lead counsel on 5-10 individual cases
  • Help develop innovative litigation strategies to further the mission of Uptown People’s Law Center and to meet the legal needs of our clients, primarily those who are incarcerated in Illinois prisons
  • Supervise, coordinate, and evaluate legal work on prisoner rights cases performed by other staff members, volunteers, and interns
  • Develop, recruit, and provide high-level strategic input into impact litigation carried out with our pro bono partners
  • Develop and maintain relationships with UPLC’s network of pro bono partner law firms
  • Participate, along with the Executive Director, Legal Director, and all staff, in case development and selection
  • Carry out special projects and other directives as assigned by the Executive Director and Legal Director
  • Provide support as needed to the communications and fundraising work of the Uptown People’s Law Center


  • J.D., licensed to practice law in Illinois, or with the ability to become licensed within a reasonable time
  • 3-5 years of experience in representation of plaintiffs in civil rights litigation in one or more of the following areas (in order of importance):
    • prisoner rights,
    • police misconduct,
    • other civil rights,
    • other related complex federal class action litigation
  • Ability to work effectively with both the clients of Uptown People’s Law Center and attorneys at large firms
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences
  • Ability to drive and be available for out-of-town travel, primarily to downstate prisons and courthouses, for up to one to three days at a time, approximately twice a month (after the current shelter-in-place orders are lifted)  
  • Availability to work occasional evenings and weekends  

About UPLC

Uptown People’s Law Center is a nonprofit legal clinic located on the North Side of Chicago. Our work is focused on three areas: representing disabled people who have been denied Social Security disability benefits, representing tenants who are facing eviction, or other issues relating to their tenancy; and representing prisoners in civil rights lawsuits.

UPLC offers an entrepreneurial environment with a small staff of kind people who are passionate about their work. The dress code is casual (except for certain events) and we are conveniently located a short walk from the Wilson Red Line stop.

Organization Background

Uptown is a unique, racially and economically integrated neighborhood located on the North Side of Chicago. The neighborhood includes both multimillion dollar mansions and public housing developments. Residents include immigrants and refugees from all over Africa and Asia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and more, as well as families with roots in Appalachia.

Uptown People’s Law Center was founded in the mid-1970s by community residents, including former coal miners and their widows seeking black lung disability benefits, and community activists fighting against displacement of poor people from Uptown. Pursuant to our recent strategic plan, Uptown People’s Law Center focuses in serving people who live in Uptown, and those who are or were incarcerated in Illinois’ prisons. The substantive areas of law we cover are focused on three areas: representing disabled people who have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, usually before an Administrative Law Judge; representing tenants who are facing eviction, or other issues relating to their tenancy; and representing prisoners in civil rights actions. UPLC currently has five class action cases pending against the Illinois Department of Corrections, each partnered with pro bono attorneys, as well as over a dozen individual civil rights cases relating to conditions in Illinois’ prisons.

To Apply

Email and include “Staff Attorney” in the subject line. Your application should include a copy of your resume, as well as a cover letter describing your related experience and why you are a great candidate for this position. Application deadline is April 27, 2020 Please, no calls, visits, or social media contacts regarding this position.

People of color and/or LGBTQ folks and/or former prisoners are strongly encouraged to apply. UPLC is an Equal Opportunity employer. Staff members are chosen on the basis of ability without regard to race, color, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, national origin, veteran status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, in accordance with federal and state law.

This Staff Attorney salary starts at $55K per year and up, depending on experience. UPLC provides 12 or more holidays and 15 vacation days per year, and contributes to medical insurance and retirement funds.



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