The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) works through a robust network of staff, pro bono attorneys and law students to fill a major gap in access to legal aid for refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced people. IRAP has become the first advocacy organization to provide comprehensive legal representation to refugees throughout the registration, protection and resettlement processes. As fear, division, hatred, and economic uncertainty persist in the global consciousness and manifest in discriminatory policies, speech, and actions, individuals across the world must respond by demanding and upholding commitments to justice. IRAP is leveraging its volunteers and resources to fight back and ensure that we continue to uphold the humanitarian tradition of welcoming those who need refuge.
IRAP’s Legal Services Department is growing in response to the increased demand to protect those whose rights are being threatened and is now seeking nominations and applications for the position of U.S. Legal Director, within its Legal Services Department.
Since its founding in 2008, IRAP has used legal aid, litigation and advocacy to protect and advance the rights of refugees, both domestically and internationally; the organization has also remained committed to developing the next generation of human rights attorneys through its work with law students. The global turn against refugee resettlement coupled with IRAP’s highly effective model has led to a period of rapid expansion to meet new levels of demand. In the past two years, IRAP’s annual budget has increased from $2 million to $9 million, and over the past six years, its staff has grown from ten to seventy-five.
IRAP’s U.S.-based staff assist individuals navigating the refugee recognition, resettlement, and visa application processes through their mentorship of pro bono teams, in-house representation, and legal information and pro se materials. Reporting to IRAP’s Legal Services Director, the U.S. Legal Services Director will lead a team of talented attorneys, intake caseworkers, and legal assistants who provide individual legal assistance to refugees and other displaced people around the world. Once hires are completed, the Director will supervise 14 IRAP staff and support a national pro bono network of over 1,000 attorneys and law students.
The ideal candidate will demonstrate a deep connection to IRAP’s mission to use legal advocacy to find safe places to live and safe passage for the world’s most persecuted individuals. S/he/they will be an inclusive, passionate leader committed to combatting inequitable policies impacting refugees and other displaced people and to delivering the highest quality legal and advocacy services. S/he/they will be an experienced manager who excels at supporting, mentoring, and motivating legal staff; developing processes that facilitate the efficient and effective delivery of direct legal services by staff and volunteer lawyers; and leading teams that work closely with individuals who have experienced trauma.
The U.S. Legal Services Director must have a law degree and be admitted to practice law in the United States.
This search is being conducted by Meredith Horton, Allison Kupfer Poteet, Hallie Dietsch, and Javier Garcia of the national search firm NPAG. Application instructions can be found at the end of this document.
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a dynamic and growing legal, policy, and advocacy organization that works to develop and enforce a system of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced people around the world. We are the first organization to provide free and comprehensive legal representation to refugees throughout the registration, protection, and resettlement processes. Since IRAP’s establishment, we have helped to resettle more than 3,800 individuals to 18 countries.
IRAP operates offices in the U.S. (New York), Jordan (Amman), and Lebanon (Beirut). Our legal services are supplemented by a corps of pro bono lawyers from leading U.S. and international law firms and multi-national corporations, and by law students who have created IRAP chapters across the United States and Canada. Through this work, we aim to assist refugees and other displaced people to find safe passage and to transform the landscape of refugee rights in the U.S. and internationally. We are a growing, nimble organization staffed by an innovative and collaborative team that is committed to high standards of quality and close partnerships with our clients, peers, and colleagues.
IRAP has developed an innovative legal aid and advocacy model that defends the rights of refugees and assures their passage to safe destination countries. IRAP’s approach is grounded in three distinct but interrelated strategies:
- IRAP has created a “virtual public interest law firm” that defies geographical boundaries and provides high quality representation to refugees by a cadre of 1,200 law students and over 800 pro bono attorneys. This model is scalable and allows IRAP to take on an increasing number of urgent refugee cases, as well as respond to immediate crises.
- Through extensive litigation and systemic advocacy, IRAP brings legal challenges to refugee rights violations in the courts, creating solutions to overcoming the legal and bureaucratic impediments in the resettlement process, and developing an enforceable system of legal and procedural rights for refugees and displaced persons worldwide. As the only organization that guide refugees through every step of the resettlement process, IRAP is often able to identify obstacles of which other institutional players are unaware. This unique model utilizes lessons learned in individual casework to advocate for systemic changes that benefit broader refugee populations.
- IRAP trains the next generation of international human rights advocates through its law school chapters. These advocates are essential to assuring fairness, decency, and adherence to the rule of law throughout the refugee resettlement process and promoting pro-refugee policies through the country.
This comprehensive advocacy network was successfully activated on January 27, 2017, when President Trump signed an Executive Order implementing the first travel ban. IRAP immediately mobilized lawyers across the country to travel to airports and other ports of entry to prevent them from being turned into prisons or black sites. IRAP filed suit demanding freedom for more than 2,000 travelers imprisoned at airports around the country simply because they were traveling from Muslim-majority countries. In total, it took only 27 hours from the signing of the Executive Order to the emergency court decision demanding that these thousands of people not be deported. IRAP’s ability to rapidly mobilize a nationwide network of attorneys and advocates and secure an important legal victory was pivotal – the organization’s actions created a movement and ensured that the public was made aware of the chaos and injustice taking place behind closed doors.
IRAP’s Legal Services, Litigation, and Policy Departments work together to deliver direct services to refugees and other displaced people, litigate to change the systems and structures that create obstacles to refugee resettlement and the securing of safe passage for those in need, and advocate for U.S. policies that help create and expand pathways to safety for refugees and displaced people.
Opportunities and Challenges Facing the New U.S. Legal Services Director
The new U.S. Legal Services Director will:
Directly oversee the casework of attorneys in the U.S. Legal Services Department, including those handled in-house and those assigned to pro bono teams. When necessary, s/he/they will take on a small number of cases to assist in the management of the U.S. Legal Services Department’s docket. The U.S. Legal Services Director will stay abreast of the latest changes to international and U.S. refugee policies and provide guidance and professional development opportunities to supervising attorneys, staff attorneys, caseworkers, and other support staff on the team.
Lead and nurture a skilled, effective and dedicated team that values collaboration and creativity. The new Director will work proactively to understand staff needs in the midst of a period of rapid growth and increasingly urgent demand for legal services for refugees and other displaced individuals. S/he/they will provide consistent, clear communication to build trust and promote team morale and transparency and will be able to balance being collaborative and seeking input with being decisive and needing to execute.
Regularly evaluate and thoughtfully implement new initiatives and partnerships. The new U.S. Legal Services Director will be required to strategically assess proposals for new programs and collaborations with partner organizations, NGOs, and other stakeholders in the humanitarian assistance community. S/he/they will be able to build new projects or scale up existing programs, being mindful of staff capacity, mission alignment, organizational reputation, and potential impact. The new Director will be expected to serve as an advisor to IRAP leadership on proposals related to the U.S. Legal Department’s work.
Review and refine existing processes and tools for delivering high quality legal services. The new Director will continue the effort to streamline and enhance the Department’s systems, tools, and processes for legal case management, intake, volunteer management and other key functions. S/he/they will be thoughtful about collecting input from relevant staff and building support for the adoption, use, and training on such systems.
Ensure that the Legal Services department offers a supportive, equitable, and inclusive work environment and upholds principles of anti-oppression in all its work. Taking into account the unique challenges inherent to this work, the new U.S. Legal Services Director will work closely with IRAP leadership to make available resources, programming, and ongoing support to staff who are vulnerable to or are experiencing vicarious trauma. This individual will ensure that the U.S. Legal Services Department offers a supportive, equitable, and inclusive work environment and upholds principles of anti-oppression in hiring, staff support, client relationships, outreach, and coalition building. S/he/they will support IRAP’s work to reflect the communities it serves and build a culture of inclusion, continuous learning, and trust.
QUALIFICATIONS OF THE IDEAL CANDIDATE
The ideal candidate will be deeply committed to IRAP’s mission and understand the critical role that legal aid, litigation and advocacy plays in advancing the rights of refugees worldwide, particularly those seeking resettlement in the United States. S/he/they will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes and experiences:
- Demonstrated record of successful management experience, with a minimum of four years of programmatic and supervisory experience;
- Relevant legal experience working with refugees and displaced people or immigrants is required, expertise regarding refugee resettlement policies in the United States is a plus;
- Commitment to and experience in successfully employing an anti-racist/anti-oppression lens to foster a diverse, equitable working environment and creating diverse teams that reflect communities served;
- Success in managing, training, developing, and directing legal staff and/or volunteer lawyers;
- Sensitivity to client empowerment and to working with clients of all backgrounds, including LGBTI clients, survivors of trauma, and other vulnerable populations;
- Highly organized and flexible; able to multi-task and manage a high-volume workload; excellent time management skills;
- Strong interpersonal and communications skills and the ability to understand and handle sensitive and confidential information;
- Experience developing or improving organizational capacity, with an eye toward opportunities for process improvement;
- Excellent writing, analytical, and oral communication skills;
- An optimistic outlook and the humor, integrity, patience, and perseverance necessary to advance efforts to ensure displaced persons have greater access to services;
- A law degree and admission to practice law in the United States are both required;
- Additional languages (Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Kurdish, Pashto, Somali, and/or Spanish) are strongly preferred;
- Must be based in New York City (or willing to relocate).
The midpoint of the salary range is $137K and is commensurate with experience. IRAP offers an excellent benefits package, including healthcare and retirement plans, a flexible work schedule, and vacation and sick leave.
More information about IRAP may be found at: https://refugeerights.org/.
This search is being conducted with assistance from Meredith Horton, Allison Kupfer Poteet, Hallie Dietsch and Javier Garcia of NPAG. Due to the pace of this search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Applications including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, your resume (in Word format), and where you learned of the position should be sent to: IRAP-USLD@nonprofitprofessionals.com. In order to expedite the internal sorting and reviewing process, please type your name (Last, First) as the only contents in the subject line of your e-mail.
IRAP believes that diversity is critical to fostering a strong workplace and serving our clients well. We strongly encourage applications from people with lived experiences in the communities that we serve, members of other marginalized communities, and individuals whose identities are underrepresented in the legal profession.