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Staff Attorney


Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) 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, for-profit firms).

Position 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 primarily individual damage actions, but also may include major class action cases. The daily responsibilities include 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:

  • Act as lead counsel on 3-5 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 Uptown People’s Law Center and to meet the legal needs of our clients, primarily those who are inside Illinois prisons
  • Supervise, coordinate, and evaluate legal work on prisoners’ rights cases performed by other staff members, volunteers, and interns
  • Assisting in supervising law student interns and recently-graduated legal fellows 
  • 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
  • Read and respond to letters from people who are incarcerated who are seeking representation
  • Build and maintain working relationships with incarcerated individuals and their loved ones and advocacy networks
  • 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 in Illinois within a reasonable time
  • A minimum of 3 years of experience 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
    • 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 both the clients of Uptown People’s Law Center, many of whom have experienced trauma and/or crisis, and 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, approximately twice a month.  

Required Hours

Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 5:00pm, approximately 38 hours per week.

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).

This is a full-time, exempt position. Non-traditional hours—weekends and evenings—may be required on occasion.

Salary & Benefits

Salary depends on experience and starts at $65,000/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, and generous paid time off to its employees. 

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 of kind people who are passionate about their work. 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 38 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 August 3, 2022 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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