A Day in the Life: Non-Profit Executive Director

by Rachel Marx Boufford | August 10, 2012

Julia Wilson, Executive Director, One Justice and the Legal Aid Association of California

Julia Wilson is the Executive Director of OneJustice and the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC), where she is responsible for leading statewide advocacy efforts on behalf of the legal services delivery system, statewide strategic planning initiatives, and serving as a liaison for the legal services community. Julia started her legal career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and now supervises Equal Justice Works Fellows on OneJustice’s Justice Bus Project, which drives law student volunteers to rural parts of California in order to provide pro bono legal advice to those who have great need but often cannot access that legal advice of their own accord.

5:00 a.m. I like to get work done in the morning before waking up my kids. At 5 a.m. here, it’s already 8 a.m. on the east coast, so I can get some morning phone calls and emails in. As the Executive Director of two statewide non-profit legal organizations, my days are extremely varied. Besides all the pieces of being an ED—supervising staff, overseeing programs, administrative tasks, fundraising, and working with the board—I also work on the programs side of both non-profits. This morning I was wearing my LAAC hat. LAAC is a trade association for the 100 non-profits around the state that do free legal work for low-income people. I do a fair amount of legislative work for them regarding legal services funding and other bills that could help or hurt our member organizations. Today I was on the phone with staff at the assembly judiciary committee about ideas LAAC has been floating about how to increase funding for legal services.

7:00 a.m. Wake up my two daughters and spend time with them before they head to school.

9:15 a.m. Arrive at the office and put on my OneJustice hat. OneJustice works with all different sectors within the legal profession in California to get more free legal help for Californians in need. We have a huge focus on pro bono, and we support over a hundred nonprofit legal organizations, law schools and law firms to help them provide pro bono services. We also work a lot on improving board governance for legal nonprofits, so this morning I prepared for a board meeting for a nonprofit that I’m facilitating next week. We train board members and executives on “Board Governance 101,” the special considerations for a legal nonprofit, and how boards can improve their performance.

12:00 p.m. Over lunch, my staff and I had a brainstorming meeting around the ABA’s standards on the delivery of pro bono services. I’m involved in the ABA’s committee on revising the standards, so OneJustice staff is doing some big picture thinking about how the standards should be updated so that we can best serve clients while incorporating best practices on a national level.

2:00 p.m. OneJustice sponsors the Justice Bus Project, which trains and organizes law students and then buses them to rural California, where they provide essential legal assistance. This summer, my staff and I are putting together several law firm and in-house legal department trips. The trips are a full day program—participants do training on the bus, do a full or half day clinic, then debrief on the bus ride home. Many rural legal aid offices don’t have the same access to volunteers as urban programs, so when we show up with 20 volunteers, we can accomplish in one day what it sometimes takes six months to do. We work with our local nonprofit partners to do a wide range of intake work for clients with legal needs in housing, family law, seniors’ issues, public benefits, veterans’ issues, and immigration.

4:00 p.m. A couple years back, OneJustice launched an Executive Fellowship program to respond to the needs of nonprofit legal organizations to train and develop nonprofit directors. The idea came about from a foundation that was funding legal services. They had noticed that some legal nonprofits’ business practices could be improved and asked us if we had thought of running a training program where executives could earn a certificate in non-profit management. We put together a planning committee, brought in an MBA consultant and developed an intensive ten-month curriculum. A lot of nonprofit directors are lawyers who are good advocates, but might not know how to run an effective fundraising campaign or do a budget with rolling or multi-year projections. Today, I was working with our faculty consultant on revising our curriculum for the program’s third year which starts this fall.

6:00 p.m. Leave the office and head to my daughter’s soccer game. Depending on how the game goes, I might get in a few more emails or catch up on work while watching the game. Blending my work and personal lives makes things less stressful for me: even when my schedule gets busy, by combining the two, I get to be with my family as much as possible.

Filed Under: Law | Workplace Issues


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