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Supervising Prisoners' Rights Attorney

Supervising Prisoners' Rights Attorney


Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) is hiring a supervising attorney to oversee UPLC’s extensive prisoner civil rights litigation–one of the largest prisoner civil rights dockets in Illinois. The supervising  attorney will work closely with the Legal Director and Executive Director to provide guidance to the staff attorney and paralegals handling our extensive class action and individual prisoner dockets. The supervising attorney will also have primary responsibility for their own caseload (including individual cases handled by UPLC), as well as cases (including class action cases) in which UPLC is co-counsel with pro bono attorneys (generally from large, for-profit firms).

Position Responsibilities

This position will report to the Legal Director. The overall responsibility of this position will be to coordinate and supervise the prisoner rights staff attorney, to handle a docket of their own individual damages cases and to 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 primarily individual damage actions, but also may include major class action cases against the Illinois Department of Corrections. The daily responsibilities include supervising, training, and acting as a resource for the staff attorney; managing discovery, taking and defending depositions, drafting and responding to dispositive motions, engaging in settlement negotiations, and preparing for and conducting jury or bench trials.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Supervise and train staff attorney(s) and paralegals working on prisoner rights cases
  • Act as lead counsel on three to five individual cases
  • Coordinate as co-counsel with pro bono attorneys on an additional 5-10 cases
  • Help develop innovative litigation strategies to further the mission of UPLC and to meet the legal needs of our clients, primarily those held inside Illinois prisons
  • Assist in supervising law student interns and recently-graduated legal fellows
  • Participate, along with the Executive Director and Legal Director, in case development and selection
  • Carry out special projects and other directives as assigned by the Executive Director and Legal Director
  • Read and respond to letters from people who are imprisoned who are seeking representation
  • Build and maintain working relationships with imprisoned individuals and their loved ones and advocacy networks
  • Provide support as needed to the communications and fundraising work of UPLC


  • J.D., licensed to practice law in Illinois, or with the ability to become licensed in Illinois within a reasonable time
  • A minimum of five years of experience (may include law school clinical work, judicial clerkships, and similar) in civil rights litigation in one or more of the following areas (in order of importance):
    • prisoners’ rights,
    • police misconduct,
    • other civil rights,
    • other related complex federal class action litigation
    • other work related to prisoners and prisoners’ rights
    • criminal defense
  • Prior jury trial experience is strongly preferred, but not required
  • Ability to work effectively with clients who have experienced trauma, as well as attorneys at large firms
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences
  • Cross-cultural competencies and self-awareness around issues of power, privilege, and difference
  • All UPLC employees must be fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID, with exceptions as provided by law

Travel Requirements

Ability to drive and be available for out-of-town travel, primarily to downstate prisons and courthouses, for (typically) one to three days at a time, once or twice a month. 

Required Hours

Typically, Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 5:00pm, approximately 35 hours per week, with additional hours as is called for by the work. This is a full-time, exempt position. Non-traditional hours—weekends and evenings—may be required on occasion.

Flex time and remote work options are available; however, in-person attendance is often required due to the nature of the work (dependent on COVID-related restrictions).

Salary & Benefits

Salary depends on experience and starts at $80,000/year. UPLC provides up to $300 a month towards health benefits (depending on personal costs, and untaxed if you get BCBS insurance through UPLC), as well as 2% of your salary to a Simple IRA. UPLC provides generous paid time off to its employees, with three weeks’ vacation to start (four in your second year of employment), plus UPLC is closed for 12 holidays and the last eight days of the year.

Organization Background

Uptown People’s Law Center is a nonprofit legal aid 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 have other issues relating to their tenancy, and representing prisoners in civil rights lawsuits.

UPLC offers an entrepreneurial environment with a small staff who are passionate about UPLC's mission. The dress code is casual (except for court appearances and certain meetings/events), and we are conveniently located a short walk from the Wilson Red Line stop. Full-time at UPLC is typically 35 hours per week, including half-hour lunches daily.

UPLC has a long history of commitment to engaging with social justice work, and values the diversity of perspectives its workers can bring to the table. We have begun working to formalize our commitment to diversity/equity/inclusion and to integrate it more explicitly into our work and office culture. We look forward to this position's input and participation in that work.

In addition, we as an office have extensive experience providing accommodations as necessary in order to establish equity in our working environment. If you are interested in discussing accommodations for this position or for the interview process, please feel free to include your query with your application. We do not require a disclosure of disability in order to extend an accommodation.

To Apply

Send a cover letter and resume to Include “Prison Attorney” in the subject line. Job is posted February 21, 2023 and is available until filled. Please, no phone calls, emails, visits, or social media contact regarding the position.

UPLC is proud to be an equal opportunity employer, and as an organization committed to diversity and the perspective of all voices, we strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, and/or former prisoners to apply. Staff members are chosen on the basis of ability without regard to race, color, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, national origin, veteran status, disability, HIV status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, national origin, or prior record of arrest or conviction, in accordance with federal and state law.

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