Staff Counsel: Criminal Legal System

Location: Chicago, IL

BPI, a highly regarded and impactful public interest law and policy center, seeks a dynamic and experienced attorney to help advance an ambitious agenda to decrease the footprint of the criminal legal system in Illinois and mitigate the harms experienced by those who encounter it.


BPI is a public interest law and policy center that has been at the front lines of the fight for social justice in the Chicago region for over 50 years. Known for its innovative and effective advocacy for racial and economic equity, today BPI is deeply engaged in advancing systemic change in policing, the criminal legal system, housing, and early learning.

With collaboration as a core value, BPI partners with people directly impacted by racial and economic injustice and the community-based organizations that serve them. The organization’s tenacious lawyers and policy staff employ a combination of legal tools, policy research, organizing, advocacy, and convening to achieve transformational change. BPI works to develop nuanced policies and programs, advance effective strategies, catalyze strong coalitions, and advance progress toward its overarching vision of a state where every person has the right and opportunity to live their fullest life in a thriving community and free of systemic barriers. A collaborative and stimulating workplace, BPI is committed to offering opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute meaningfully to work that advances racial, economic, and social justice.

BPI’s team focused on the criminal legal system advocates for policies and practices that create and protect alternatives to, promote justice and accountability in, and seek equitable outcomes for those impacted by the criminal legal system in Illinois. Our work currently focuses on reexamining traditional responses to crime, dismantling entry points into the criminal legal system, decarcerating prisons, and expanding services and programming, transparency, and accountability mechanisms to mitigate harms people experience during incarceration. Over the years, BPI has focused on juvenile justice, community supervision, and reentry. BPI helped create a detailed operating plan for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, worked to expand community supervision through Adult Redeploy Illinois, and advocated for increased access to affordable reentry housing and reentry supports.

The Position

BPI seeks a dynamic and experienced attorney with a demonstrated commitment to racial and social justice to join our Criminal Legal System team as Staff Counsel. The successful candidate will be flexible, creative, and comfortable working independently and within a team on multiple projects of varying complexity. This mid-level attorney will work with colleagues and partners to explore, develop, and implement advocacy strategies that promote “no entry” into the criminal legal system, support decarceration, increase transparency and accountability, address discrimination and institutional racism in the criminal legal system, and/or advance holistic views of community safety.

This is an exciting opportunity to provide vision, leadership, and support on some of the most vital social justice issues of our time.


The Staff Counsel will have the following primary responsibilities:

  • Explore, develop, and implement advocacy strategies and projects to address inequities within the criminal legal system, informed by legal and policy research, data analysis, and the expertise of directly impacted people and communities;
  • Build and maintain a deep working knowledge and professional expertise on priority legal and policy issues and the policy landscape;
  • Conduct legal, policy, and other forms of research and analysis, including on a short timeframe in response to emerging issues, to support the development and implementation of laws, policies, and programs;
  • Participate in and/or build coalitions, partnerships, and task forces, working to strategize, engage collaboratively, and advance changes to the criminal legal system;
  • Support efforts led by people directly impacted by injustice, including our community partners, community leaders, and grassroots advocacy groups;
  • Work collaboratively with BPI staff to write, publish and widely disseminate fact sheets, talking points, infographics, letters, testimony, reports, white papers, issue briefs, op-eds, legal and policy memoranda and other documents that will educate community-based stakeholders, legislators, agency officials, and others about issues impacting the criminal legal system;
  • Develop and maintain strong, collaborative relationships with a broad range of stakeholders, including impacted individuals, community members and leaders, community-based and ally organizations, policymakers, professional subject matter experts, and funders;
  • Coordinate and facilitate meetings and collaborate with key stakeholders, ally organizations and coalition partners to strategize on criminal legal system initiatives;
  • Monitor key developments in assigned issue areas and identify opportunities for engagement and advancing the Criminal Legal System team’s priorities;
  • Engage in cross-team collaboration and support and supervise fellows and interns on discrete projects;
  • Work with communications staff and colleagues to help develop and implement communication strategies and messaging to elevate BPI advocacy efforts and serve as spokesperson upon request;
  • Consistently integrate equity concepts into projects and interactions by addressing structural implications and disproportionate impacts of policies, activities, and decisions based on race, socioeconomic status, and other historically marginalized group identities;
  • Exemplify BPI’s core values and advance BPI’s mission and vision in all aspects of the work; and
  • Travel in Chicagoland, Illinois, and to national conferences and meetings as needed.


The ideal candidate will bring the following knowledge, skills, and experiences:

  • At least 4 years of relevant legal experience;
  • Knowledge of and/or experience working on an issue or issues related to the criminal legal system;
  • Exceptional legal and policy research skills;
  • Exceptional oral and written communication skills, including the ability to convey complex information effectively to a wide range of audiences;
  • Experience engaging in creative problem solving, including an ability to craft novel and successful advocacy strategies, including policy advocacy, legislative advocacy, and/or litigation;
  • Knowledge and experience with Illinois and local legislative processes, a plus;
  • Ability to develop complex projects and establish a systematic course of action to ensure successful project completion with a high degree of independence;
  • Ability to synthesize a lot of information, juggle multiple projects and priorities, think strategically and creatively, adjust to changing circumstances, remain attentive to details, and meet deadlines in a creative, deadline-driven and collegial environment;
  • Strong interpersonal skills and sound judgment, including the ability to build trust and credibility with diverse partners;
  • Demonstrated ability to build relationships with a broad range of stakeholders, including impacted individuals, community members and leaders, community-based and ally organizations, policymakers, professional subject matter experts, and funders;
  • Capacity to facilitate meetings with stakeholders, coalition members, and partners;
  • Experience working with directly impacted people, community-based organizations, community organizers, and/or coalitions, a plus;
  • An enterprising mindset, a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a passion for social justice and BPI’s mission;
  • Juris Doctor degree; and
  • Admission to the Illinois Bar or willingness to take the Illinois bar exam within 12 months of hire.

To Apply

Please email a cover letter explaining your interest and qualification for this position, a resume, and a writing sample. If your candidacy advances to the final round, you will be asked to provide a list of four professional references. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Please note that BPI requires all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Accordingly, successful candidates must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and submit proof of vaccination prior to the commencement of employment, unless they qualify for a reasonable accommodation for bona fide medical or religious reasons.

BPI is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. We strongly encourage applications from people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with lived experiences of poverty, and people from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups.

Reasonable accommodation will be made so that applicants with disabilities may participate in the application process. Please advise in writing of special needs at the time of application.

The salary for this position is commensurate with experience with a likely range between $70,000-$90,000.

Benefits include: PTO and paid leave; health, dental, and vision plans; and a retirement savings plan.

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