Organization: Legal Assistance Foundation (LAF)

Location: Chicago, IL

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About LAF:

LAF is the largest civil legal services organization in the Midwest and among the largest in the country. For the last 50 years, LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago) has provided high quality and free legal aid to the most vulnerable people living in Chicago and suburban Cook County. By helping clients address critical legal problems that consign people to poverty, LAF has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals get their lives and families ‘back on track’.

Through advocacy, education, collaboration and litigation, LAF empowers individuals, protects fundamental rights, strengthens communities, creates opportunities and achieves justice. In some of its cases, LAF represents groups of people (although it cannot pursue class actions) to achieve results with broader impact, and it frequently partners with private law firm attorneys on special projects (e.g., veterans’ assistance and community legal clinics). LAF also works with administrative agencies and task forces to advance simpler, clearer and fairer policies for many government programs. Finally, LAF provides education, outreach and training to many community groups and social service agencies around Cook County.

LAF’s work starts by making the legal system accessible to clients and concludes with a resolution that changes their lives. With more than 150 full-time employees providing LAF clients with comprehensive legal services, LAF’s advocacy results in such successes as gaining custody of a child, obtaining an order of protection against an abusive spouse, preventing an unfair eviction or getting justice for a victim of consumer fraud. Simply put, LAF helps vulnerable clients in all areas of civil law achieve access to justice.

LAF focuses on five Practice Areas: Children & Families, Consumer, Housing, Public Benefits and Immigrants & Workers Rights. LAF’s reach extends past the individual clients with its additional focus on advocacy and precedent setting in the courts.

In 2015, LAF touched more than 40,000 people across Cook County and closed more than 15,000 cases. LAF’s successes in 2015 include:

  • Helping more than 4,400 people keep their homes through foreclosure defense, bankruptcy protection and perseveration of public housing units and housing choice vouchers;
  • Keeping 6,400 people from homelessness by preventing unfair evictions or saving subsidized housing vouchers;
  • Keeping more than 400 families together through means such as adoption, custody, arrangements and parental visits;
  • Protecting the rights of more than 800 workers and students, through employment protection, fair wage defense and specialized education plans; and
  • Assisting over 9,000 women and children to begin new lives free from abuse, thanks to the orders of protection, child custody, child support, divorces and other supports LAF obtained for them.

LAF Clients are:

  • 79% racial minorities;
  • 65% women;
  • 50% families with children;
  • 13% seniors;
  • 4% veterans; and
  • 100% living in poverty.

LAF’s annual budget is around $14 million, with just under half coming from the Legal Services Corporation (the primary federal funding source for civil legal aid). The rest comes from other governmental grants, foundations, donations from law firms, the Chicago legal community, the Board of Directors and other individual donations. Fundraising has become increasingly important as government support has declined.

LAF is governed by a 34-member Board of Directors, which is made up of 2/3 attorneys and 1/3 community members. LAF is also supported by a vibrant 19-member Young Professional’s Board. LAF staff has been unionized with the National Organization of Legal Services Workers since the early 1980s. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends in March 2018.

For more information on LAF, please visit

The Opportunity:

Following on LAF’s celebration of its 50th anniversary as the leading legal aid organization in Metropolitan Chicago, the organization is seeking a strategic, collaborative and engaging Executive Director to lead the organization to new heights in this next chapter.

The new Executive Director will work with the Board of Directors and staff to articulate the future vision for the organization while remaining focused and committed to LAF’s clients and mission.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will have overall strategic, operational and managerial responsibility for LAF. S/he will work proactively with the Board and staff to diversify and expand funding streams and revenues, lead and manage teams, promote professional staff development, evaluate programs, understand, prepare and manage budgets, understand and drive strategic plans, raise LAF’s brand and cultivate relationships with other organizations and leaders in the legal aid community in Chicago and at the regional and national level.

S/he will spend substantial time on fundraising initiatives and ambassadorship, including spreading the word about the work LAF does for clients, meeting with and cultivating donors, attending professional and social events where new supporters can be found and being the agency spokesperson at site visits and donor-sponsored forums. This work is not limited to interactions with other lawyers or legal aid funders – LAF’s future depends critically on broadening its appeal to civic-minded laypeople who see the value of effective legal aid for the whole community.

Candidate Profile:

The Executive Director will be an inspiring leader who is passionate about fulfilling LAF’s mission and has a personal commitment to LAF’s clients. S/he will have the character, confidence and personality to work successfully in a highly visible role and to interact effectively with a broad range of constituents. The Executive Director will be a strategic leader with a proven track record of leadership and management. S/he will excel as the external face of LAF and will have experience with branding and marketing.

The ideal candidate will have the following qualities and characteristics:

The Executive Director will be a strategic and results-oriented leader who, along with the staff and Board of Directors, will articulate and implement a plan for increased impact in LAF’s next chapter. S/he will motivate others, both internally and externally, to engage in LAF’s vision and achieve new heights for the organization. Internally, the Executive Director will be a strong manager who engenders trusts in the staff. S/he will have the ability to strengthen teams, deepen staff engagement and raise morale. S/he will be an innovative and energetic individual who encourages staff to take ownership of their work and holds people accountable. The Executive Director will have a strong track record of management and leadership and will understand the importance of that side of the role.

An ‘Ambassador’ for LAF

The Executive Director will be a high-energy, charismatic leader who will serve as an ‘Ambassador’ for LAF. S/he will be a confident public speaker who inherently enjoys the external side of the role. S/he will represent LAF locally and nationally in legal, civic, philanthropic and advocacy arenas and will utilize brand and marketing strategies to elevate LAF’s recognition. The Executive Director will be effective at conveying LAF’s mission and priorities to a range of constituents, including the staff, Board of Directors, donors, clients and community leaders. S/he will have an inspirational approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support from all stakeholders.

Fundraising and Development

The Executive Director will be a demonstrated or emergent leader in the field of development. S/he will embrace the current funding landscape and work to continue to attract government support for LAF. Concurrently, s/he will enthusiastically work to expand LAF’s funding streams, with a focus on individual and corporate philanthropy. With a business mindset, s/he will flourish in a mission-driven environment and be energized by the prospect of building a culture of philanthropy in the organization, founded on the successes of the last 50 years.

A Passion for the Mission

The Executive Director must be passionate about the clients that LAF serves and will be able to speak to LAF’s mission from the heart. Although having practiced law is not a requirement for the position, s/he must have deep respect for lawyers and will be successful in a working environment comprised primarily of lawyers. S/he will enjoy the engagement of a spirited working environment with deeply committed and passionate colleagues. The Executive Director will be an inspirational and team-focused leader, who treats others with respect. S/he will be able to listen, evaluate and learn from criticism and maintain an even and optimistic disposition, while remaining calm, but determined in times of difficulty. S/he will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation. A J.D. and experience practicing law is preferred, but not required.


Alison P. Ranney, Alexandra N. Corvin and Anny K. Chou of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please email Alison, Alex and Anny directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit