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Legal Director, Return to Freedom Project

The Return to Freedom Legal Director oversees NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project, an umbrella that currently includes seven NACDL’s pro bono back-end relief initiatives. Working with internal and external stakeholders, the project manager leads NACDL’s efforts to recruit, train, and support volunteer attorneys to help individuals seeking assistance through the clemency, compassionate release, and expungement initiatives and supervises staff, contract, and volunteer resource counsel.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has long advocated for the relief for individuals serving over harsh sentences and those suffering life-altering consequences from contact with the criminal legal system. The Return to Freedom Project (R2F) helps impacted individuals by recruiting, training, and supporting volunteer attorneys to assist those individuals seeking clemency, compassionate release, and expungement. The R2F unites projects such as the Excessive Sentence Project, the Trial Penalty Clemency Project, and other clemency and compassionate release efforts under a single banner at NACDL. Learn more about the Return to Freedom Project at

The Return to Freedom Legal Director will ensure applicants to the R2F initiatives receive the best chance at relief possible by supporting the work of the volunteer attorneys and by recruiting additional volunteers. The Legal Director will also seek new opportunities to provide relief through pro bono endeavors.

Since the launch of the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project in 2017, these initiatives have:

  • received over 9,000 applications,
  • recruited and trained over 1,700 attorney volunteers,
  • placed nearly 1,300 cases with more than 480 firms and other organizations,
  • filed for relief on behalf of more than 1,200 individuals along with defender partners,
  • gained freedom for more than 240 individuals, and
  • reduced incarceration by more than 1,000 years.

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Essential Functions and Responsibilities:

  • Oversee and support NACDL’s pro bono back-end relief efforts under the Return to Freedom moniker
  • Respond to questions from staff, volunteer, applicants, and other stakeholders including family and friends involved with the cases
  • Collect and prepare resource materials for an online reference library
  • Craft and review communications to current and potential volunteers and impacted individuals across initiatives
  • Work with existing partner organizations and foster new relationships
  • Develop and execute webinars related to the projects
  • Recruit volunteers
  • Manage the Return to Freedom Project budget
  • Cultivate relationships with firm pro bono coordinators
  • Work with the First Step Act Project Director to support the Federal Compassionate Release initiatives
  • Work with Communications and Marketing teams on public education campaigns
  • Work with the Director of Development to ensure grant deliverables are met, explore new funding opportunities, and assist with proposal development
  • Prepare reports for internal and external stakeholders
  • Supervise Project Resource Counsel, volunteer counsel, and contract attorneys

Education, Experience, and Competencies:

  • A J.D. degree and a minimum of 4 years of litigation experience, including a focus on defending criminal cases or relevant civil rights cases
  • Past work with compassionate release and clemency preferred
  • Experience interacting with and managing volunteers
  • Ability to lead teams
  • Excellent research, writing, and public speaking skills
  • Complex legal analysis and fact-finding skills
  • Ability to manage competing priorities and rapid response demands
  • Capacity in cultivating relationships with outside individuals and legal organizations, and ability to collaborate with them to achieve NACDL goals

Benefits and Application Process

We value the collaborative work environment in our Washington, DC office, however, due to the COVID-19 virus, employees are working remotely. There are remote opportunities available for this position. NACDL employees enjoy a generous package of employee benefits, including subsidized health, dental and vision insurance, company-paid life and disability insurance, flexible spending accounts, a pre-tax commuting subsidy, a 401(k) plan with generous company contributions, paid time off and paid holidays.

To apply, please upload your cover letter, resume, and salary requirements via form or in an email to

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