The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDS) is a community-based, client-centered, holistic public defense office located in Harlem, providing criminal, civil, and family representation to residents of Northern Manhattan who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. NDS clients are represented by multidisciplinary teams including attorneys, advocates, team administrators and social workers. NDS is accepting applications for a Strategic Litigation Staff Attorney within our Family Defense Practice. 


The Family Defense Practice at NDS represents parents in family policing cases (sometimes called “child welfare” cases) filed by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) as well as related family court cases, including custody, visitation, and termination of parental rights proceedings.  Through our holistic approach to representation, the Family Defense Practice provides parents with the help they need—both inside and outside of court—to keep their families safe and stable. Parents are represented not only by a high-quality attorney, but also social workers, team administrators, and advocates.  NDS is committed to advancing due process rights for parents by fighting unwarranted state intervention in their lives and advocating for related systemic change.  The Strategic Litigation Staff Attorney will work closely with the Managing Attorney to develop special litigation, and provide support to Staff and Supervising Attorneys, Team Administrators, Parent Advocates and Social Workers to provide vigorous representation to clients in appeals and complex litigation.

Role and Responsibilities

  • Provide representation with energy, enthusiasm and a commitment to trauma-informed, anti-racist, intersectional, non-judgmental, and truly holistic advocacy;
  • Work with FDP staff to develop strategy in cases involving complex litigation, such as res ipsa loquitor/medically complex cases, cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, Termination of Parental Rights cases;
  • Meet regularly with FDP staff to assess the need for affirmative litigation and spearhead affirmative litigation efforts;
  • Collaborate with FDP attorneys on interlocutory appeals and ultimate appeals by writing and editing appellate papers, mooting attorneys, conducting oral argument;
  • Develop and maintain relationships with clinics, law firms and other family defense providers for collaboration on special litigation;
  • Engage in frequent court hearings and litigation, often on an emergency basis;
  • Provide effective oral advocacy in negotiation and argument in Family Court;
  • Be responsive to and communicate clearly with clients who are often under great stress;
  • Cooperatively and effectively work with NDS non-attorney advocates in order to provide clients with assistance both in and out of court;
  • Work under high pressure in an atmosphere of frequent emergencies and tight deadlines;
  • In addition to appeals and special/complex litigation, maintain a very limited Article 10 caseload.

Desired Capabilities and Qualifications

  • NDS is seeking an attorney with a demonstrated commitment to parents’ rights, indigent defense, social justice issues and/or the communities of Northern Manhattan;
  • Minimum 3 years’ dedicated experience in appeals, special litigation or complex litigation (or a combination of the three), preferably in Article 10 Abuse and Neglect or in another public defense setting;
  • Must be very flexible and possess a high level of organizational and administrative skills in order to handle multiple litigation streams;
  • Must possess strong writing and oral advocacy skills;
  • Experience supervising others preferred;
  • Experience in the Appellate Division 1st Dept preferred;
  • Applicants are expected to be admitted to the NYS Bar or sit for the next available NYS Bar exam or equivalent and pursue admission to the NYS Bar;
  • Bilingual attorneys are encouraged to apply.


NDS offers a generous compensation package, including a competitive base salary as well as health, 403(b) and vacation benefits. Salary is commensurate with experience and is in adherence to the NDS Collective Bargaining Agreement with ALAA-UAW Local 2325.

How to Apply

Interested applications should email a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Zainab Akbar at with the subject line, “NDS FDP Strategic Litigation Staff Attorney Posting.” Please send your application as one document, preferably PDF. Applications will be accepted until April 30, 2022 and candidates will be interviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem is committed to maintaining a diverse environment that reflects the community we serve. NDS is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer.  We strongly encourage candidates of all identities, orientations, experiences, and communities to apply.