ABOUT PUBLIC COUNSEL
Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.
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 Supervising Staff Attorney and Directing Attorney, the Litigation Fellow 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 Fellow will work in 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 Fellow will work with Public Counsel’s pro bono partners on some of this litigation, and will be responsible for carrying out the work of the SLU, in collaboration with the Supervising Staff Attorney and other members of the SLU.
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, grant reporting, meeting with clients and community partners, and court appearances. The position has the following responsibilities:
- With the rest of the SLU team, participate in discussions with internal and external partners about program design and priorities;
- Serve as co-counsel on 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, with supervision;
- Assist with preparation of quarterly grant reports regarding case outcomes;
- Participate in 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;
- Administrative work related to litigation, 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
- Awaiting results from the February 2023 California Bar Exam, or registered for the July 2023 California State Bar Exam; (if registered for the July 2023 Bar Exam, position would begin in August 2023)
- Demonstrated commitment to serving the needs of low-income people;
- Knowledge of landlord-tenant, housing law, and the eviction process preferred, but not required;
- Superior legal research skills;
- Excellent writing, organizational, and public speaking skills;
- Desire to learn as well as share knowledge with other team members;
- Work well as part of a team, but also be able to work independently with minimal to moderate supervision.
- Comfort with trauma-informed legal advocacy: empathy, responsive listening, restraint from judgment, and demonstration of authentic care and concern;
- Excellent attention to detail, as well as time management and communication skills;
- Ability to commute throughout Los Angeles County if needed.
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 is $75,000 for a recent grad or someone with 0-1 year experience.
- 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
- On-site parking or public transportation reimbursement available
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.