The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the Massachusetts public defender agency, is seeking a skilled and experienced child welfare attorney to serve as the Trial Panel Director for its Children and Family Law Division (CAFL). The Trial Panel Director will manage CAFL’s Trial Panel Support Unit. The unit provides leadership, oversight, and support to the 800-plus private attorneys who represent CPCS clients in state intervention/child welfare cases and other civil matters involving children, young adults, and their families. The Trial Panel Director is also part of CAFL’s leadership team and helps promote the division’s mission and helps identify and promote its goals.
CPCS is the state agency in Massachusetts responsible for providing an attorney when the state or federal constitution or a state statute requires the appointment of an attorney for a person who cannot afford to retain one. The agency provides representation in criminal, delinquency, youthful offender, child welfare, guardianship, mental health, sexually dangerous person, and sex offender registry cases, including appeals and post-conviction and post-judgment proceedings.
THE CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW DIVISION
CPCS’s Children and Family Law Division provides attorneys to children, young adults, and indigent parents in care and protection (C&P), termination of parental rights (TPR), child requiring assistance (CRA), and guardianship-of-a-minor cases, as well as in other civil matters involving children and young adults in which there is a right to counsel. The vast majority of CAFL clients are represented by trial panel attorneys. Most CAFL cases are heard in the Juvenile Court. CAFL assignments, however, also require a significant amount of out-of-court advocacy, primarily with the Department of Children and Families, but also with schools and with other state and private agencies. There is substantial diversity – racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and otherwise – among CAFL clients. Hence, CAFL attorneys must be attuned to cultural nuance and a range of complex relationships involved in their cases.
The CAFL attorney plays a critical role in cases involving families. When the government removes a child from the custody of a parent in a C&P case, having a skilled CAFL attorney can mean the difference between the family’s prompt reunification, on the one hand, and the termination of parental rights and the permanent dissolution of the family, on the other. For a teenager who is the subject of a CRA case, the attorney may secure the special education services that enable the client to succeed in school and avoid being placed in a foster home. For siblings looking for stability after the court has freed them for adoption, the CAFL attorney will fight to ensure that they are provided a permanent home that allows them to stay together. These are just a few examples of the important work that CAFL attorneys do in advancing the objectives and protecting the rights of their parent and child clients.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION MISSION STATEMENT
CPCS is committed to protecting the fundamental constitutional and human rights of its clients by providing zealous advocacy, community-oriented defense, and excellent representation. In fulfilling its mission, CPCS is committed to fostering diversity at all levels of the agency. We are dedicated to building a strong professional relationship with each of our clients, to understanding their diverse circumstances, and to meeting their needs. In striving always to achieve those goals, CPCS embraces diversity and inclusion as core values and is steadfast in our commitment to: (1) ensuring that CPCS management and staff members represent a broad range of human differences and experiences; (2) providing a work climate that is respectful and that supports success; and (3) promoting the dignity and well-being of all staff members. CPCS’s leadership is responsible for ensuring excellence, diversity, and inclusion. Our ability to achieve these goals depends on the efforts of all of us.
The Trial Panel Director position will provide a dynamic leader an opportunity to shape how parents and children are represented in child welfare/state intervention cases in Massachusetts for years to come. Panel attorneys, most of whom are sole practitioners, represent the vast majority of parents and children in these cases. As the head of the Trial Panel Support Unit, the Trial Panel Director will use her/his leadership, management, and legal skills to ensure that panel attorneys provide high-quality, client-centered, and culturally humble representation to parents, young adults, and children in all of their cases. The Trial Panel Director achieves this through the leadership and management of the Trial Panel Support Unit, a team of seven skilled staff members which supports and oversees attorneys on CAFL’s private counsel trial panels.
In addition, as a member of CAFL’s leadership team, the Trial Panel Director works with other CAFL Directors to help promote the division’s mission and develop and promote the division’s goals. These include identifying and addressing court and child welfare agency policies and practices that adversely affect CAFL clients; exploring legislative, regulatory, and practice changes to improve outcomes for CAFL clients; and working to ensure that CAFL attorneys are provided the resources and tools they need in doing battle with the state on behalf of their clients. The Trial Panel Director also works with other CPCS leaders to promote agency-wide goals.
The Trial Panel Director reports directly to CAFL’s Deputy Chief Counsel.
Leadership for the panel
Lead and manage CAFL's Trial Panel Support Unit in creating and maintaining a robust system to secure high-quality, client-centered representation of CAFL clients by private attorneys throughout the state
Work with CPCS’s Equity and Inclusion Director and its Human Resources Department to recruit a diverse set of applicants for the C&P/TPR, CRA, guardianship-of-a-minor, and Mary Moe trial panels and manage the selection and certification of attorneys for those panels
Collaborate with CPCS’s Training Department to ensure delivery of appropriate training for panel attorneys and present and facilitate at trainings
Oversee CAFL’s Resource Attorney and trial panel attorney mentor programs
Work to provide other resources and support to panel members to help them manage the challenges of child welfare practice
Manage statewide performance review systems for trial panel attorneys
In partnership with CPCS’s IT staff, develop and utilize data systems regarding attorney assignments, performance, and billing to promote effective advocacy and (in partnership with CPCS’s Audit and Oversight Department) the efficient use of CPCS resources
Investigate and address complaints regarding attorneys’ failure to comply with CPCS performance standards, the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, and agency policies and procedures
Oversee partnerships with other organizations relating to the representation of clients in Mary Moe cases
Leadership for the Trial Panel Support Unit
With input from team members, establish overall work plan for Trial Panel Support Unit
Coach and mentor Trial Panel Support Unit team members, provide them regular performance feedback, and plan and provide opportunities for their professional development
Foster an equitable and inclusive work culture for team members
Ensure effective communication with and among staff, with other CAFL and agency staff, and with panel members
Leadership for CAFL and CPCS
Represent CPCS and CAFL in interagency groups
In collaboration with CAFL’s Managing Directors, develop and maintain a leadership role and professional relationships with courts, the Department of Children and Families, and other agencies and organizations
Collaborate with other CPCS leaders, particularly its Trial Panel Directors, to address cross-divisional issues and to promote consistency and advance the agency’s goals across all of CPCS’s practice areas
Work with CAFL’s Deputy Chief Counsel and other CAFL Directors to identify and advance the division’s goals
The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran or military status, genetic information, gender identity, or sexual orientation as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other applicable federal and state statutes and organizational policies. Applicants who have questions about equal employment opportunity or who need reasonable accommodations can contact the Director of Human Resources Management, Lisa Bacon, at email@example.com.
MINIMUM ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS
Applicants for this position must have a demonstrated commitment to providing high-quality representation to poor, culturally diverse, and marginalized individuals. In addition, applicants must have a minimum of eight years of experience as a practicing child welfareattorneyand a minimum of four years of managerial experience or a comparable mix of relevant legal, managerial, and oversight/supervisory experience. Applicants must also have access to reliable transportation throughout the state.
The Trial Panel Director must have excellent interpersonal skills, outstanding written and oral communication skills, solid analytical ability, and the capacity to manage multiple projects simultaneously. The Trial Panel Director must also be creative and pragmatic. The ideal candidate will appreciate the importance of data in assessing attorney performance and in identifying and understanding problems in the child welfare and court systems. In addition, the Trial Panel Director should have an understanding of how structural and individual biases, explicit and implicit, affect people and communities of color and other disadvantaged individuals and groups, be committed to promoting cultural awareness and humility among panel members, and be able to think and act strategically in promoting diversity within the panel. Finally, the Trial Panel Director must be committed to attracting a diverse workforce within the Trial Panel Support Unit and be able to create and maintain an equitable and inclusive work environment.
Candidates for the position must submit a cover letter, a resume, and a writing sample. The writing sample should demonstrate your analytical and legal reasoning skills.
This position will remain open until filled. Preference will be given to candidates who apply before January 13, 2020.
About Committee for Public Counsel Services
The Committee for Public Counsel Services provides legal representation in Massachusetts for those unable to afford an attorney in all matters in which the law requires the appointment of counsel. This includes representation in criminal, delinquency, youthful offender, child welfare, mental health, sexually dangerous person and sex offender registry cases, as well as related appeals and post-conviction matters.
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