San Francisco, California

Legal Advocate

Justice and Diversity Center -- San Francisco, California

1- or 2-year term
Ages 20+
Mennonite Voluntary Service



Job Description
The Legal Advocate will provide direct service to homeless and at-risk single adult and family clients of the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP), and will perform administrative tasks to further project goals. With training and supervision by HAP attorney staff, the Intake and Clinic Assistant [hereafter the volunteer] will interview clients at HAP's legal clinic one day a week. After undertaking a "comprehensive legal needs assessment," the volunteer will then assist the client by providing advice, advocacy and or other direct assistance, referral to an expert attorney or an appropriate agency, or assistance in locating shelter, housing, or other needed social services. Assistance might include helping with an application for public benefits, negotiating with a current or potential landlord, helping a client gather or replace relevant documents, and many other tasks, including the possibility of representing clients at administrative hearings. If the volunteer is an attorney, the duties expected will be more advanced, and if the attorney is licensed to practice in California duties would include some direct representation of clients in Court.

The administrative duties might include assisting with the preparation of training materials, registering volunteers for trainings, compiling community resources, and other office projects as they arise. The volunteer may also act as a representative of HAP to community groups or at meetings, providing an opportunity for community involvement and policy work.

Skills required
The Legal Advocate must possess strong oral and written communication skills and should have an interest in law or social work, particularly related to low-income and disabled persons. He or she should be independent and assertive, willing to learn, and willing to work cooperatively with office staff. Many HAP clients have serious mental disabilities or substance abuse problems, and the volunteer must have the patience and sensitivity to work with sometimes difficult and frustrated people. No prior legal experience is necessary. (A law graduate would, of course, be welcome. The job description for an attorney would include more advanced advocacy work and actual legal representation of clients in some circumstances.) Computer literacy is required. Conversational ability in Spanish is of great benefit, but is not required, and conversational ability in Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, American Sign Language, or other dialects would also be helpful.

Population: As the job description indicates, the volunteer will provide direct service to indigent and homeless clients. He or she will interview clients, negotiate on their behalf, prepare documents for them, and engage in client advocacy. The volunteer will also undertake some administrative tasks to help the HAP office function effectively, and may participate in some community or policy work. 75% direct service; 25% administrative duties, including community meetings. Because the volunteer will provide on-going representation and assistance to clients, it is usually the case that the volunteer builds relationships with many clients, some of which last at least the entire year of the placement.

Hours: Generally a 35 hour work week, excluding lunch. The work day runs from 8:30am-5:45pm Tuesday through Friday. Our office is closed on Mondays. Occasional evening or weekend assistance may be requested, but the work week will never exceed 35 hours.

The volunteer will be trained and supervised by Senior Supervising Attorney Katie Danielson.

We provide extensive training on working with homeless persons and related psychosocial issues, and on the relevant substantive areas of the law (including public benefits, landlord/tenant law, immigration law, family law, and criminal law). Additional training for the volunteer is provided as needed throughout the year.

Within a week of arrival at the HAP office, the volunteer will begin undertaking some of the job responsibilities. Concurrently, they will be viewing and reading training materials, and sitting in with HAP staff. Within a month, we usually expect the volunteer to be assuming full job responsibilities, with an understanding that he or she may need support and supervision as s/he develops knowledge and experience.

The volunteer is immersed in and educated about the lives of the clients through hands-on service as well as by establishing relationships with clients over a long duration. During an intake interview, the volunteer takes a comprehensive look at the client's current situation, including the legal, social and relational aspects of their lives. As indicated above, assistance is provided in a holistic, complete manner - volunteers are not limited to assessing only the legal needs of each client.

 Program info



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Constituent ID: 538622