The Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) has retained Major, Lindsey & Africa (“MLA”) on an exclusive basis to conduct a search for a Chief Legal Officer (“CLO”) to be located in its Atlanta, GA or Montgomery, AL offices. Remote work is a possibility with significant travel. The SPLC is an equal opportunity employer. Interested candidates, please send a resume (in MS Word) to Melba Hughes or Nancy Reiner or to the MLA recruiter who contacted you about this position. Please do not contact the SPLC directly; all resumes sent to the SPLC will be routed back to MLA for handling and may create delays.
Chief Legal Officer
Position Overview: The Chief Legal Officer (“CLO”) will serve as the principal legal officer for the SPLC, with overall responsibility for the leadership of the SPLC’s legal advocacy at a time when the work of the SPLC has never been more vital. Reporting to the President and CEO, and as a key member of the SPLC senior leadership team and leader of the Legal Department, the CLO will lead the SPLC’s litigation team, impact litigation strategy, direct representation, public education, legal advocacy, community engagement, and related operations in collaboration with legal leadership and staff. The CLO will be responsible as a thought partner and collaborative visionary for shaping, managing, and driving litigation strategy and managing a strategic, smart, and innovative litigation docket, surveys, and investigation matters for the SPLC at the federal, state, and regional level. Collaboration across issues, areas, and departments will be required. The CLO must be deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This position serves as a trusted advisor to the senior leadership team of a prominent social justice organization, with over 350 staff in five states and the District of Columbia.
Organization: The SPLC is dedicated to working side-by-side with the communities it serves to seek justice and fight hate and bigotry. Using litigation, legislation, public education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality. The SPLC has earned a reputation as a force among social justice organizations, safeguarding and defending crucial civil rights victories during some of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history. The SPLC’s work has become increasingly vital as our country becomes more diverse and hate and bigotry grow. In the face of new challenges, the SPLC has maintained an unwavering resolve to promote and protect our nation’s most cherished ideals.
Location: Montgomery, AL (preferred) or Atlanta, GA
Compensation: Competitive salary and benefits.
Experience: The successful candidate will have at least fifteen years of legal and management experience gained through an extensive career with a proven ability to co-create and execute a complex vision. Given the breadth of litigation and community issues that the SPLC addresses, a broad based complex litigation and advocacy background will be vital to supporting the SPLC. The CLO must have significant leadership and managerial experience leading a diverse legal team and be seen as a partner and collaborator committed to supporting the mission of the SPLC. A demonstrated commitment to working with and in diverse communities and supervising an inclusive staff is required. The CLO should have a highly strategic mindset and approach to litigation and demonstrated organizational and business acumen, strong analytical skills, and the ability to grasp important and complex legal and strategic issues facing the organization. The ability to manage competing priorities with challenging deadlines and to be courageous, especially regarding hard decisions, is critical. Personal qualities of humility, perspective, and a sense of humor under stress will be an advantage.
Relocation: Yes, this is a national search. Relocation assistance will be provided.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is one of the preeminent organizations in the United States dedicated to working side-by-side with the communities it serves to seek justice and fight hate and bigotry. The SPLC is a national civil rights organization with offices in five states and the District of Columbia. Over the last several years it has grown substantially, with staff nearly doubling in size. The SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.
For more than four decades, the SPLC has won landmark cases that that have led to systemic reforms — toppling remnants of Jim Crow segregation and dismantling white supremacist groups; working with people of color, women, children, the LGBTQ community, and the disabled to shatter barriers to equality; fighting alongside migrant workers against abuses; ensuring the humane treatment of people in prison; reforming juvenile justice practices; and more. To achieve its goals, the SPLC employs a variety of strategies, including litigation, legislative and media advocacy, research, and community education and mobilization.
Currently SPLC’s Legal Department is comprised of over 150 staff members, including 100+ lawyers and advocates, in the areas of Immigrant Justice; Children’s Rights; Economic Justice; LGBT Rights/Special Litigation; Criminal Justice Reform; and Voting Rights. The SPLC advocates on behalf of individuals and communities impacted by discrimination and/or poverty to bring about systemic reforms through high-impact lawsuits, limited direct representation, community engagement, and advocacy. In addition to its legal work, the SPLC, through its Teaching Tolerance project, combats prejudice among our nation’s youth while promoting equality, inclusiveness, and equitable learning environments in the classroom; through its Intelligence Project, monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists and exposes their activities to the public, the media, and law enforcement; and operates the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, AL.
The SPLC is led by internationally renowned human and civil rights leader Margaret Huang, who was recently hired as the new President and Chief Executive Officer of both the SPLC and the SPLC Action Fund, beginning in April 2020. Margaret was most recently the executive director of Amnesty International USA and has more than 25 years of experience in social justice organizations. With its main office in Montgomery and additional offices in Atlanta, New Orleans, Jackson (MS), Miami, Washington, and Tallahassee, the SPLC has over 350 staff and an $80 million operating budget.
The SPLC has substantially grown in budget and impact over the last four years, adding staff, taking on new initiatives, and expanding its reach as the nation’s core civil rights tenets have increasingly come under fire. Looking ahead, the SPLC has launched an extensive strategic planning effort in preparation for the new frontier of civil rights battles that will come and to ensure the organization embodies the spirit and principles of our country in the 21st century.
The SPLC is deeply committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. The organization recruits, employs, trains, compensates, and promotes regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status. The SPLC’s dedication to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is clearly reflected in its day-to-day work. DEI is more than a commitment at SPLC—it is the foundation of what it does and it welcomes inclusive leaders to join its team.
As a key member of the SPLC senior leadership team and leader of the Legal Department, the CLO will lead the SPLC’s impact litigation strategy and operations and related advocacy and community engagement. The CLO will have responsibility for setting and driving litigation strategy and managing the SPLC’s litigation docket, surveys, and investigation matters. The CLO will work strategically with the organization to shape, manage, and direct litigation and related operations, drive efficiency and cost optimization for the organization, and coordinate with other SPLC departments on a wide range of issues that impact the Legal Department and its litigation docket to advance the overall mission, vision, and impact of the SPLC. The CLO will oversee the litigation team --- to effectively and efficiently lead all of the organization’s high-impact litigation, direct representation, public education, and legal advocacy --- and will actively work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Technical legal skills are essential – but the successful candidate’s personal fit is critical to the success of the role and the SPLC. Because the CLO will interact with a wide variety of people, at all levels across the SPLC, outstanding communication, judgment, and interpersonal skills are necessary. The CLO must be a relationship builder who presents creative solutions to the President and CEO and senior leadership and is open to intellectual discussion and debate on a presented course of action. A candidate who is inflexible on approach will not match the internal environment of the SPLC. The right candidate will be a consensus builder, a team member, consultative, and think holistically about courses of action. Collaborative mindset is crucial. The successful candidate will have a high degree of ethics and integrity, be creative, forward-thinking, and self-motivated and have demonstrated strategic and conceptual thinking and collaborative, evaluative leadership in his or her prior roles.
In addition to exceptional legal expertise and excellent leadership and management skills, the CLO must be a practical problem solver with strong organization and business acumen. She or he must be able to see the big picture in determining and driving litigation strategy consistent with and in support of SPLC’s mission, vision, and values as well as successfully navigate in a geographically dispersed organization with multiple stakeholders.
This position requires an accomplished attorney with a distinguished professional record and a strong non-profit organizational orientation. Personal and professional alignment with the SPLC’s culture is of paramount importance. Candidates must exhibit a passion for the mission of the organization and for contributing in a meaningful way to its strategy, long-term goals, and impact. Successful candidates also must demonstrate an uncompromising commitment to racial equity and actively participate in work to promote justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion and incorporate a DEI lens to the Legal Department’s internal and external work.
Key qualifications of the CLO will include:
- D. from an accredited national law school and admission to any state bar in the United States.
- A minimum of 12 years of experience handling a broad range of large, complex litigation.
- Experience in social justice and civil rights litigation.
- A demonstrated commitment to working with and in diverse communities, supervising an inclusive staff, and promoting DEI in the workplace.
- Significant leadership and managerial experience leading a legal team.
- Highly strategic mindset and approach to litigation, looking for creative solutions and opportunities and anticipating future cases, advocacy, and practice areas.
- Demonstrated organizational and business acumen, strong analytical skills, and the ability to grasp important legal and strategic issues facing the organization.
- A strong, demonstrated interest in the SPLC’s work and its mission.
In a broad sense, the CLO will:
- Provide institutional leadership as a strategic thought partner on organizational objectives and priorities to the President and CEO, the senior leadership team, the Board, the Legal Department’s leadership team, and other members of the SPLC.
- Inform and lead SPLC’s litigation strategy.
- Actively participate in work to promote justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion and incorporate a DEI lens to the Legal Department’s internal and external work.
- Direct and supervise the operations of the Legal Department.
- Manage the litigation activities of the Legal Department and practice groups, comprised of 100+ attorneys and advocates, with the ability to roll-up-one’s-sleeves and provide direction to and oversight of the strategic direction of the SPLC.
- Build strategic partnerships and relationships with internal senior leadership and SPLC staff as well as outside partners, consultants, other human rights and social justice organizations, stakeholders, outside pro bono counsel, lobbyists, law fellows, and interns to further organizational objectives.
Organizational and Office Leadership
- Provide strategic advice, counsel, and legal guidance to ensure SPLC’s Legal Department provides the highest quality legal representation in support of and consistent with the organization’s mission, strategic framework, and values.
- Guide and collaborate with the Legal Department’s leadership in the strategic management of the litigation.
- Provide advice and input to the President and CEO and other senior leadership team members on a variety of issues that arise.
- Provide direction to and legal oversight of the Legal Department practice areas.
- Manage the organization’s litigation docket and investigative matters, working collaboratively and strategically with outside partners, pro bono counsel, internal legal teams and practice groups, and other SPLC staff to evaluate litigation cases and create and implement litigation strategies.
- Anticipate future legal and organizational issues, sharing such pertinent information with the President and CEO and senior leadership, as well as with other relevant stakeholders.
- Provide ongoing advice and counsel to the Legal Department’s leadership team and other legal staff on issues that arise during ongoing cases and legislative and media advocacy and on the development of new cases, initiatives, and advocacy.
- Develop and oversee any needed structural changes in the Legal Department, including areas of practice, new projects, and the size and locations of legal staff..
- Direct, supervise, coordinate, and review the activities of the legal and administrative staff, review financial reports, issue office policies, procedures, and guidelines, and create and oversee the annual budgets in compliance with the SPLC’s administrative and financial management policies and practices.
- Attend and represent the Legal Department at Board meetings, oversee the drafting of quarterly board reports, and meet regularly with the board strategic planning committee to provide legal advice and guidance.
- Participate in organization-wide strategic planning (in collaboration with board strategic planning), including developing and expanding new strategies, resources, and policy work.
- Develop, assess, create, and revise Legal Department and SPLC-wide policies, programs, and initiatives on a wide variety of issues.
- Recruit, hire, coach, develop, mentor, train, and motivate a team of highly-skilled litigation professionals, including attorneys and non-attorney professionals.
- Determine meaningful productivity and business metrics for the Legal
Department, and oversee reports on those metrics.
- Lead the Legal Department’s efforts to systemize work flows and assure provision of efficient and consistent services and positions.
- Foster a diverse workplace that enables all participants to contribute to their full potential in pursuit of organizational objectives.
- Identify areas and processes for improvement, make recommendations, and implement and communicate changes effectively.
- Collaborate with Development on relationships with major donors and grant requests.
- Keep the organization’s vision and values at the forefront of decision making and action.
- Create an entrepreneurial environment.
- Demonstrate effective change leadership.
Interpersonal Competencies & Success Factors
- Demonstrated leadership and management experience with professional and support staff including a successful track record in management and people leadership with the capacity to lead and motivate colleagues and other leaders confronting change and increased expectations in a highly visible organization.
- Ability to be viewed as a trusted, accessible advisor.
- Aligned with and committed to equity, inclusion, and diversity.
- Superior intellect, with the ability to think critically, strategically, and creatively to find solutions to complex legal issues while balancing organizational priorities.
- Demonstrated strong and pragmatic organizational and financial acumen (not solely focusing on the legal issues) with the ability to recognize the broader consequences of a course of action and its impact.
- Effective communication (both orally and in written form) in well-reasoned decisions and ability to adapt communications to the audience, simplifying complex legal matters as necessary.
- Exceptional interpersonal skills and the ability to work collaboratively and cooperatively as a strong team player (a roll up the sleeves attitude is required), while empowering others and emphasizing accountability.
- Demonstrated ability to establish credibility internally and externally.
- Gravitas, judgment, and self-confidence but also humility and respect for others regardless of position.
- Unquestioned ethics and integrity, emotional intelligence, strong moral compass, nimble, perseverance, strong attention to detail, unflappable, innovative, and courageous, especially regarding hard decisions.
- Ability to thrive in a fast paced, dynamic, innovative, and high-energy environment.
- An effective relationship builder with a willingness to lead by example, a service and mission mindset, a great sense of humor, open and flexible to new ideas, and highly developed diplomatic skills.
- Strong ability to listen, build consensus, support the SPLC’s work, and bring in new initiatives helpful to the SPLC’s internal and external partners on the ground.
- High sense of urgency and commitment to execution.
- High comfort levels in dealing with ambiguity, lack of clarity, and managing competing priorities with challenging deadlines.
Please submit a resume in Microsoft Word format to:
No telephone calls please. You may be required to complete additional documents to be considered for this position.