South Coastal Counties Legal Services
Fall River, Massachusetts
South Coastal Counties Legal Services (SCCLS) seeks an extraordinary leader who is committed to the mission of providing justice through community based legal advocacy to serve as its next Executive Director (ED). This leader will have the opportunity to oversee one of the most respected legal service organizations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, collaborate with an engaged and committed access-to-justice community, and continue the expansion of critical civil legal aid to vulnerable residents of Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, & Islands. SCCLS is a leading provider of free legal support to income-eligible and older residents in areas of housing, public benefits, family law, immigration, education, senior law, consumer debt, employment, and civil legal aid for certain victims of crime. The new executive director will be instrumental in the continuation and growth of the SCCLS mission.
For more than 50 years, SCCLS has served thousands of community members by providing high quality legal assistance and educational programming. Through the highly successful efforts of its outgoing executive director, resourceful Board of Directors, and talented staff, SCCLS has achieved financial stability; a diverse and collaborative team of advocacy and administrative staff; a network of pro bono volunteers; and an enviable reputation and demand for superb legal support for the community members who most need the aid of South Coastal Counties Legal Services.
The Executive Director serves as the chief executive of South Coastal Counties Legal Services and reports to the 15-member Board of Directors (The Board). The Executive Director oversees operating revenue of approximately $11.5 million and staff of 75 that includes professional staff in administration, finance, program management, attorneys and other advocacy staff who spearhead SCCLS’ legal work. SCCLS seeks an executive director who can provide exceptional vision, leadership, and management for the staff; serve as an effective representative and spokesperson to further SCCLS’ reputation amongst the advocacy community; help set a vision with and cultivate strong partnership with the Board of Directors, and increase financial contributions and grants to support the overall growth and demand for services placed on SCCLS.
South Coastal Counties Legal Services has retained Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist in this search. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in strict confidence to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.
SOUTH COASTAL COUNTIES LEGAL SERVICES
South Coastal Counties Legal Services, Inc. is a private, non-profit law firm which provides free legal help in civil matters to qualified residents of Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket and Plymouth counties and the towns of Avon and Stoughton in Norfolk County. Together with its wholly owned subsidiary, the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts (The Justice Center), SCCLS operates fully staffed, community-based law offices in Fall River, New Bedford, Hyannis, and Brockton with an administrative office located in Fall River, Massachusetts. For more than 50 years, SCCLS and its predecessor organizations have been providing free, quality, legal assistance to the community.
On average, SCCLS provides approximately 11,000 low-income individuals and families, elders, and people with disabilities with legal help in over 5,000 cases. Typically, to qualify for legal assistance from SCCLS, clients must have income below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. For residents of the SCCLS community over the age of 60 who are economically or socially disadvantaged, and victims of crime who are facing legal problems as related to their victimization, there are no financial eligibility requirements.
The mission of South Coastal Counties Legal Services is to achieve justice for eligible clients through community based legal advocacy. The advocates at SCCLS provide quality legal assistance to eligible clients in high priority civil cases. Through their myriad of practice areas, SCCLS advocates for people struggling economically to help protect their homes, their families, their health, their livelihoods, and their rights.
While direct services are the mainstay of the organization, community based legal educational programming is an additional component of SCCLS’ work. When the team at South Coastal Counties Legal Services notice statistical trends in clients’ legal problems which arise from wrongful private or governmental conduct, the advocates locate the root cause of the issue and make a concerted effort to raise awareness around these issues through programming and continued education. To that end, the SCCLS team participate in state-wide access to justice efforts through their services on various task forces organized around substantive and service delivery issues.
South Coastal Counties Legal Services skilled advocacy teams serve a diverse array of practice areas. As of the publication of this document, the practices areas represented are as follows:
- Housing – Advocates can help tenants facing eviction, termination of a rent subsidy, or bad housing conditions, people experiencing denials of admission to public or subsidized housing, homeowners threatened with foreclosure, and others seeking help to overcome barriers to safe, affordable housing.
- Public benefits – Advocates can help with Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSDI), unemployment, emergency or transitional assistance, MassHealth and SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits.
- Family Law – SCCLS advocates helps families who qualify achieve family and economic stability by offering legal advice and/or representation in divorce, child custody and support, and abuse prevention cases, primarily to those experiencing domestic or sexual violence.
- Immigration – The Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts, an SCCLS subsidiary, offers legal representation to individuals in need of immigration assistance on a wide range of cases. The immigration team helps survivors of domestic or sexual violence, victims of crime and human trafficking, and those eligible for asylum, temporary protected status, or special immigrant juvenile status achieve the humanitarian-based relief to which they are entitled. SCCLS also represents individuals in family-based immigration cases, removal proceedings, and other types of immigration petitions. The immigration team regularly provides trainings, community outreach and education, and community clinics, and engages in systemic advocacy on behalf of client communities.
- Education – SCCLS is committed to ensuring that low-income students are afforded the quality education to which they are entitled. This can mean advocating for special education services and supports, representing students who are facing exclusion from their education, and addressing the underlying policies and practices that interfere with students remaining in school and having the opportunity to learn.
- Senior Law – SCCLS’ Senior and Elder Law Projects provide legal assistance to individuals aged 60 and older who are economically or socially disadvantaged. Priority is given to income maintenance issues, health care, long-term care, nutrition, housing, utilities, protective services, defense of guardianship, abuse, neglect, and age discrimination.
- Consumer Debt – SCCLS hosts educational clinics at which clients struggling with consumer debt can obtain the information and advice they need to avoid harassment from creditors, understand protections afforded by bankruptcy and present defenses in debt collection cases. In limited situations, SCCLS can also help eligible clients discharge debt through bankruptcy proceedings.
- Employment – Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SCCLS has helped hundreds of residents obtain the unemployment assistance they needed to survive. SCCLS’ advocates also help recover wages wrongfully withheld by an employer in violation of federal or state labor laws.
- Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime – SCCLS has special funding from the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) to help victims of crime with civil matters relating to certain crimes. For example, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are often left with significant civil legal needs beyond those addressed by the criminal justice system.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
SCCLS has established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council to ensure the organization fosters a healthy, inclusive environment where all staff, clients, and community members are valued, empowered and recognized, especially individuals who identify with and who come from marginalized communities that are often under-resourced, underserved, and underrepresented. SCCLS is committed, in partnership with its DEI Council, to effecting structural changes within the organization and to institutions that impact the communities SCCLS serves.
In 2017, SCCLS’ Diversity Working Group was created to address hiring, retention, and professional development of staff with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2019, the group evolved into its next iteration, the DEI Council, to expand the scope of the group’s initial mission. In 2020, SCCLS and its DEI Council partnered with a consultant to conduct an internal equity audit as well as multi-session training initiatives to strengthen SCCLS’ commitment to racial equity. Each of the SCCLS offices as well as The Justice Center are represented on the DEI Council.
Since 2005, South Coastal Counties Legal Services and the Justice Center have operated a statewide AmeriCorps program which places college or law graduates in legal aid programs throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to support the legal assistance provided to income-eligible families and older residents. The AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts (ALA-MA), was created to foster the growth of the next generation of public leaders while opening doors and creating access to justice for clients. SCCLS has secured more than $8M in federal funding to recruit and train this next generation of leaders since the program was created.
In 2010, the program was named one of the most innovative new AmeriCorps programs in the United States by America’s Service Commissions and Innovations in Civic Participation. In 2016, Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) nominated the program for a 2016 Excellence in AmeriCorps Programming and Service Award.
With a high demand for its services, SCCLS offers a Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) program in which private attorneys volunteer their time to SCCLS and the communities it serves. In the last year, private attorneys volunteer time aided over 120 clients who may not have received legal assistance otherwise. Volunteer attorneys have offered support to SCCLS and its clients through full representation referrals, Pro Se family law workshops, consumer debt clinics, and estate planning workshops. Additionally, The Compensated Attorney Program (CAP) provides an opportunity for private attorneys to receive “low bono” compensation to help cover the costs of overhead and time with no charge to clients.
Funding and Budget
SCCLS is a financially stable organization with $11.5 million in revenue for the 2021 fiscal year. Projections of future revenue and income streams predict that SCCLS’ budget will stay in the $11 million range. The work at SCCLS is largely supported with funds from the state and federal government, private foundations, and individual and corporate donors. Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), is the largest funder of SCCLS, providing approximately 60% of funding for the organization. Additionally, SCCLS is a grantee of the federal Legal Services Corporation. For a full list of SCCLS funders, please follow this link.
Leadership & Governance
The Executive Director will lead a management and administrative team that operates across SCCLS’ 4 offices, including The Justice Center. In partnership with the ED, the management and administrative team provides oversight to internal and external functions including, organizational development, DEI efforts, annual budgeting and forecasting, human resources, grants management, supervision of managing attorneys, community partner engagement, fundraising, intake and referral processes, and private attorney pro bono and volunteer projects.
In total, South Coastal Counties Legal Services has approximately 75 employees across its 4 offices and the Justice Center. Like many civil legal aid programs, the SCCLS staff is unionized. SCCLS leadership maintain a collegial relationship with the union.
SCCLS is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors that is composed of attorneys, client-eligible, and at-large representatives. The composition of the Board is established in conjunction with federal and state funders.
SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS, CAPE COD & ISLANDS
South Coastal Counties Legal Services name is derived from the picturesque and historic geographic location in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that it serves. Southeast Massachusetts is defined as bordered by Boston to the north and Rhode Island to the west. Among the main urban areas are Fall River, New Bedford, Plymouth, Brockton, and Hyannis.
The history of Southeastern Massachusetts can be traced back 12,000 years to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light. The Mashpee Wampanoag were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007. In 2015, the federal government declared 150 acres of land in Mashpee and 170 acres of land in Taunton as the Tribe’s initial reservation, on which the Tribe can exercise its full tribal sovereignty rights. Southeastern Massachusetts residential communities also features one of the largest Portuguese/Azorean and Cape Verdean populations in the country. For the last 106 years, The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament has been an opportunity to share Madeiran culture and has become the largest Portuguese Feast in the world. The Zion Union Heritage Museum in Hyannis celebrates the African American, Cape Verdean, and Wampanoag people of Cape Cod. In fact, Portuguese is the third most spoken language in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Southeastern Massachusetts also boasts several historic landmarks, including Plymouth Rock and the National Monument to the Forefathers, events like the annual New Bedford Folk Festival, eclectic art at galleries such as Gallery X and the New Bedford Art Museum, and of course a deep devotion to maritime experiences. Located in Fall River, Battleship Cove is a maritime museum and war memorial featuring the largest collection of World War II naval vessels, including the USS Massachusetts. Cape Cod is home to rolling sand dunes, New England Villages, and at the northern tip, Provincetown. Kayaking, restaurants and bars, and museums are just some of the adventures one can find on The Cape. The Islands, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, offer visitors a getaway that is only a ferry-ride away to some of New England’s most beautiful beaches, wildlife refuges, and whale watching venues.
THE ROLE OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Executive Director of South Coastal Counties Legal Services is the chief executive of the organization and reports directly to the Board of Directors. The ED will be a mission-driven leader with proven success in driving strategy to meet the needs of an in-demand and growing legal aid organization. The ED will be responsible for overseeing the strategic and physical growth of SCCLS, through visionary leadership and people management, strong communication, and a deep understanding of the legal aid funding environment, and expansive knowledge of the legal practice areas of SCCLS. Externally, the Executive Director will represent the organization with existing partners across the state, foster new partnerships, steward fundraising opportunities and the management of $11 million in state, federal, city, and foundation grants, and strengthen relationships with the communities that SCCLS serves.
KEY OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
Work collaboratively with the Board of Directors to further the vision and mission for South Coastal Counties Legal Services
The volunteer Board of Directors at South Coastal Counties Legal Services are a dedicated group of individuals who are committed to the continued success of the organization. Acting in partnership with the Board, the ED will ensure careful stewardship of the organization by leveraging the Board’s experience and connections to their local, state-wide, and national networks. As seats on the Board become vacant, the Executive Director will use their critical thinking abilities to assess the needs of the organization from the Board’s perspective and cultivate a Board of Directors that continues to support the mission of SCCLS and innovate for the organization’s future.
Oversee the growth of South Coastal Counties Legal Services organization-wide
Over the last few years, South Coastal Counties Legal Services has grown considerably with its staff almost doubling in size to 75, to meet the increasing need for their services. Recently, 10 law graduates were hired to join SCCLS in a cohort model; a first for the organization. As the demand for SCCLS services and staff increase, so too must their physical spaces. SCCLS is in development to open a new office space in Brockton, MA, in the same building as The Justice Center. SCCLS is aiming to have this office opened in early 2023. Through data analysis, assessment, and trend forecasting, the Executive Director will need to develop an effective business strategy to meet the exceptional need for legal services in Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod & Islands.
Serve as an effective external representative and spokesperson for South Coastal Counties Legal Services
The Executive Director plays a pivotal vital role in connecting the work of SCCLS to a multitude of stakeholders in the region. They must continue to sustain and foster new connections where appropriate with the broader legal community, civil rights and social justice organizations, and policymakers at the city and state level, including three new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funded Medical Legal Partnership (MLP), Department of Children and Families (DCF), and education projects. This also includes revisiting previous partnerships with various organizations and state entities.
Provide exceptional vision, leadership, and management to South Coastal Counties Legal Services staff
While leveraging the institutional knowledge of its managing attorneys and senior staff members, the Executive Director will ensure organizational effectiveness through streamlined and clarified processes, hiring staff for vacant roles, developing retention tools for experienced staff, and professional development opportunities for junior staff. Working closely with the staff, the Executive Director should determine what will be the best organizational structure to meet the coming needs of SCCLS. With the goal of adding staff in the near to medium term future, thinking strategically about SCCLS’ staffing structure will become more critical.
Increase financial resources to support South Coastal Counties Legal Services’ mission
Fundraising will be a critical task for the next Executive Director to ensure that SCCLS has the financial resources to respond effectively to the legal needs of its communities. SCCLS seeks to grow its staff size thoughtfully and sustainably in the future and financial support from a variety of sources will be essential to achieving that. Strong financial acumen and an understanding of the funding landscape for legal aid will be critical for the next ED to maintain SCCLS’ varied revenue streams, including state and federal dollars, grants, and its partnerships, like ALA-MA funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
THE SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE
While no one person will embody all of them, the successful candidate will exemplify many of the following qualifications and attributes:
- A track record of providing exceptional visionary, motivational, and highly effective strategic leadership that connects vision and resources to implementation and drives measurable outcomes;
- Experience managing or working in an organization with geographically dispersed teams and offices; managing a unionized staff or administering an organization with distributed leadership, are all desirable attributes;
- A proven track record of hiring, managing, and mentoring a diverse staff, and motivating, developing, and retaining high-performing staff members and teams;
- Highly effective communication skills; the ability to build strong relationships, collaborations, and partnerships across a broad range of constituencies;
- An approachable, collaborative, and accessible leadership style with a high degree of emotional intelligence and personal integrity;
- A demonstrated ability to work with complicated legal issues and explain them to a wide range of audiences;
- Experience working with vulnerable populations and understanding the effects of poverty, trauma, and systemic discrimination on impacted persons and community level change is highly valuable;
- A personal commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and demonstrated ability to build relationships and successfully advance diversity, inclusion, and positive change through community involvement;
- Experience working effectively with and cultivating a Board of Directors;
- A proven track record of hiring, managing, and mentoring a diverse staff, and motivating, developing, and retaining high-performing staff members and teams;
- Strong financial acumen and an understanding of the funding landscape for legal aid, including oversight of grant-writing, cultivating and sustaining individual donors, and philanthropic partnerships;
- A Juris Doctor with experience in the practice areas covered by SCCLS and/or social justice issues is preferred; active license to practice preferred.
South Coastal Counties Legal Services has retained Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist in the Executive Director search, including identification and review of candidates. For timely and comprehensive consideration, applicant materials should be received no later than October 1, 2022. Application reviews will begin immediately and continue until the completion of the search process. Inquiries, nominations/referrals, and applications (including resumes and two- to three-page letters of interest to the search committee, responding to the challenges and opportunities outlined above), should be sent electronically and in confidence to the following individuals through the link below:
SCCLS is an Equal Opportunity Employer and we welcome applicants from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. We strive to foster a healthy, inclusive environment where all staff, clients, and community members are valued, empowered and recognized, especially individuals who come from marginalized communities that are often under resourced, underserved, and underrepresented.