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Career Opportunities

Fair Housing Testing and Outreach Coordinator
Location: Rockford
Hours: full-time


Staff Attorney
Location: Joliet
Hours: full-time


VISTA positions
Location: various locations


PRAIRIE STATE LEGAL SERVICES IS A GREAT PLACE TO WORK.

Prairie State Legal Services is a not-for-profit law firm, offering new and experienced lawyers a challenging career addressing the critical civil legal needs of low-income individuals and families, the elderly, people with disabilities, and children.  As a Prairie State attorney, you will represent clients in individual cases, complex cases and appeals. Your responsibilities will include:

  • Conducting intake interviews with clients, participating in case acceptance meetings and engaging in case planning.
  • Providing legal advice, brief services or extended representation, including negotiation with adverse parties and attorneys and litigation at all stages before state and federal courts and before administrative agencies.
  • Providing direct advocacy that addresses systemic problems, including litigation, as well as legislative or administrative advocacy, as appropriate.
  • Participating in program-wide or state-wide task forces and/or working groups focused on specialized areas of law.
  • Engaging in community legal education. 
  • Working with community groups and social service agencies to address client needs and protect their legal rights. 

You will also have the benefit of working for an organization that has all the advantages of a large law firm with the intimacy and immediacy of a small firm.  You will be part of a select and close-knit group of dedicated professionals providing high quality legal services.  There are 12 Prairie State offices, each ranging in size from three to eight attorneys, with a support staff of secretaries and in some offices, paralegal assistants.  Yet, each of our offices are bound to each other by a common mission and a passionate commitment to principles of equal justice.

All Prairie State attorneys benefit from a strong and experienced leadership.

As Executive Director, Michael O’Connor has ultimate responsibility for the work of all programs and projects within PSLS.  Mr. O’Connor is a 1989 graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, and earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts in 1986 from the University of South Dakota.  He has worked with Prairie State Legal Services since 1989 as a staff attorney, managing attorney, and now as Executive Director.  He is admitted to practice in Illinois and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. 

Associate Director David Wolowitz has chief responsibility for operations and day-to-day management or supervision of key functions within the organization. Mr. Wolowitz joined PSLS when it was founded in 1977, having previously been Executive Director of the Legal Aid Bureau of Kane County.  He received his J.D. (1975) and B.A. (1971) from the University of Illinois. He previously served Prairie State in different roles as Director of Special Projects, Deputy Director of Litigation and Managing Attorney and has served on the adjunct faculty at Northern Illinois University College of Law.

Bernard Shapiro and Sarah Megan, who together have approximately 70 years of litigation experience, serve as Prairie State’s two Directors of Litigation.  They provide litigation assistance for staff at all levels (administrative, trial or appeals courts), helping staff to identify legal issues, engage in legal analysis, determine objectives and strategies, as well as help with client counseling, pleadings, discovery, motions, negotiation, trial or hearing practice, enforcement of orders, and appeals.  They also provide assistance with non-litigation advocacy efforts and transactional matters and work with staff to identify laws, policies, and practices that have a detrimental effect on low-income clients. Mr. Shapiro is a CPA and trained as a tax lawyer for Mayer Brown, a global law firm operating in major cities world-wide.  His experience also includes years at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he litigated school de-segregation cases.
Each office is supervised by an experienced Managing Attorney.

Opportunities for Training and Professional Growth.   Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. offers outstanding career growth opportunities. You will gain immediate experience with clients and in the courtroom. You will receive supervision from experienced attorneys and the Directors of Litigation.  You will also receive excellent training, and many training opportunities are available every month.  Linda Rothnagel, our Director of Training Advocacy, will arrange or make available or personally supervise much of your professional training.  A highly experienced and talented lawyer, Ms. Rothnagel served many years in Prairie State as both a Managing Attorney and staff attorney. In addition, new attorneys receive an intensive Basic Litigation Skills Training.   Prairie State provides desktop Internet, e-mail and Westlaw access.

Benefits. Our starting salary is comparable to other Illinois public interest firms. We also offer excellent benefits including medical insurance, group dental, a 403(b) retirement savings plan with an employer match, parental leave; 12 holidays and liberal sick leave and vacation policies; and 3 days of personal leave each year.

Organizational Stability. PSLS has a proven record demonstrating the ability to properly generate and expend revenue. It enjoys an economic environment whereby it can plan for the future, where growth and employment prospers, all with a reasonable degree of openness and predictability. Prairie State has consistently: 1) provided to its Board, staff and funders a clear description of how public funds will be used and accounted for; 2) obtained funding sources that can be used to serve particular client needs and leverage resources; 3) developed sound financial plans that demonstrate managerial and fiscal competence; and 4) shown a history of performing in a financially competent manner.  We have always maintained our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, and are currently maintaining 12 field offices serving clients in 36 counties. The Executive Director has always ensured the fiscal stability of PSLS by preparing and presenting organizational and program budgets to the staff and the Board, and has worked with the Board to ensure financing to support short and long term goals.

Each year, PSLS completes or “closes” over 16,000 cases, typically serving households containing nearly 40,000 persons.  Our annual revenues have steadily increased every year – for example, in years 2004 through 2008, respectively: $6,055,888; $6,562,268; $7,121,522; $8,142,965; and $9,839,060.  Expenditures have never exceeded revenues, and since 2006, reserves have been at least a quarter million dollars.  We have multiple revenue sources, including two sources over two million dollars annually apiece (2008:Legal Services Corp. $2,678,285 and Lawyers Trust Fund $2,342,310), both of which are stable, long-term sources of revenue, committed to funding legal services for our target populations, and which have funded this organization for many years. Other reliable and long-term sources of annual funding ($100,000 to $750,000), include Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, Area Agencies on Aging, Community Development Block Grant funds, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Office of Justice Programs, Illinois Dept. of Human Services, United Way, and individual contributions.  We presently have over 64 funding sources, not counting contributions. Our staff has grown, too. Including part-time telephone counseling attorneys, we presently have 74 attorneys, up from 58 attorneys in 2004.

Office Locations.   Prairie State’s twelve offices serve northern and central Illinois.  With the exception of our Wheaton (DuPage) and Joliet (Will) offices, each office serves a multi-county area. Offices are located in Bloomington, Galesburg, Joliet, Kankakee, Ottawa, Peoria, Rockford, Rock Island, St. Charles, Waukegan, Wheaton, and Woodstock. 

For more information about current opportunities at Prairie State, contact Mike O’Connor at Prairie State Legal Services, phone 815-965-2134 or e-mail at moconnor@pslegal.org

Or click on the following link for current legal services and public interest positions in Illinois:
http://www.illinoislegaladvocate.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=jobs.showJobs