General Counsel

General Counsel

General Counsel

General Counsel

January 4, 2024
New York City or Washington, DC, United States of America
Position type
Experience (minimum)
10+ Years
Education (minimum)
Travel required?
Base salary (minimum)
Above $180,000


Church World Service is seeking a General Counsel to direct and advise on the legal affairs of CWS and its affiliates. Reporting directly to the President and CEO, the General Counsel is a member of the executive leadership team.

Position Title: General Counsel

Reports To:             President and Chief Executive Officer

Salary range:         $176,000 – $220,000

Location:                 New York City or Washington, DC hybrid


Church World Service (CWS) is a faith-based, non-profit organization transforming communities around the world through just and sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement, and disaster. CWS’s programs are both international and domestic with headquarters support in New York City, Washington, DC and Elkhart, IN.


The General Counsel is a mission-driven and strategic individual whose principle responsibilities include providing legal and strategic advice to the President and CEO and the Executive Leadership Team; coordination of CWS’s enterprise risk management function; contract review; country and other corporate registrations; insurance; general corporate advice; advice and counsel to the Board of Directors; selection and supervision of outside counsel (domestic and international) as appropriate.  The General Counsel does not lead the legal work related to personnel and employment matters.

The General Counsel reports to the President and Chief Executive Officer and shall have a dotted line reporting to the CWS Board’s Audit and Risk Committee.  The General Counsel shall lead and/or participate in other CWS teams at the direction of the President and Chief Executive Officer.

CWS works in 24 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, as well as with refugee resettlement and assistance to immigrants in the United States. Given the complexity of CWS’s working environments, the General Counsel and team will directly provide many of the legal services CWS requires, while overseeing external counsel to supplement as necessary.  For counsel in the countries where CWS works outside the US, the General Counsel will take into consideration the recommendations of the responsible field-based staff.

Overall, the General Counsel will provide leadership and timely, forward-thinking counsel on all legal and enterprise risk issues related to CWS.


  • Serve as the internal legal counsel on organizational matters and ensure that CWS’s policies, procedures and practices comply with federal, state, local and international laws (not including service as counsel with regard to employment law). Provide legal advice, guidance and interpretation on a wide range of governance, corporate, contract, non-profit law, corporate registrations (in the US and overseas), and compliance.
  • Provide legal guidance to the Board of Directors as appropriate and at the request of the President and Chief Executive Officer. Along with the Vice President for Governance, provide support to the Governance Committee of the Board of Directors.
  • Ensure that relevant board and staff (Programs, Operations, etc.) are oriented on legal matters.
  • Lead enterprise risk management efforts under the guidance of the President and Chief Executive Officer and in consultation with the Audit and Risk Committee of the Board of Directors and CWS’s independent auditors. Coordinate and facilitate enterprise risk management efforts across the organization in alignment with the defined risk appetite as determined by the Board of Directors. Risk-management functions in other departments (e.g., security and cybersecurity, development, data privacy, program compliance) report up through their usual departments but operate in coordination with the Office of the General Counsel.
  • Use insurance strategically as a component of enterprise risk management; oversee the negotiation of coverage of insurance policies, except for employee-benefit related insurance.
  • Serve as legal advisor on operational and business transactions and manage the impact of external factors on these matters; evaluate the merits of court cases filed against or on behalf of CWS and work with the President and Chief Executive Officer and Executive Leadership Team to define legal strategy and approve any settlements of disputes as appropriate.
  • Identify issues requiring specialized outside counsel; oversee the selection, retention, management and evaluation of all outside counsel. For overseas legal counsel, do so with input from the relevant regional representative or country director.
  • Coordinate overall compliance functions of the organization as part of risk management and mitigation, with matrixed management links to compliance management staff outside the Office of the General Counsel.
  • Advise the People and Culture Department as requested on employment-related legal issues in the US and in global offices. The General Counsel will be informed of any employment-related legal claims against the organization.
  • In overseeing the contract function, set standards for CWS legal documents, agreements including program and partner agreements, Memoranda of Understanding, vendor agreements, grant and donation agreements, including federal and state cooperative agreements, confidentiality agreements, affiliate agreements, intellectual property licensing agreements, real estate leases, and other general business contracts both domestically and internationally.
  • Delegate contract review authority, as appropriate, to the Contract Specialist, Director of Procurement and others, with directions on managing exceptions to policy or procedures.
  • Supervise the Internal Auditor, Contract Specialist, Senior Director of Compliance and the Senior Paralegal.
  • Identify active and potential legal issues and suggest alternatives that lead to the best available solutions.
  • Oversee the development and dissemination of policies and procedures across the organization in alignment with best practice, regulatory requirements, requirements of funders, and risk appetite.
  • Provide counsel to the development team on legacy gifts and donor bequests made to CWS and other fund development matters.
  • Advise CWS on legal aspects of organizational development and structure, including assessing and advising on current and future organizational structures and legal entities as well as interpretation and updating CWS affiliate agreements.
  • Other duties as may be assigned by the President and Chief Executive Officer.


  • Excels at and enjoys both strategic and tactical involvement in developing legal strategies to support the CWS mission, balancing nimbleness and mitigation of risk.
  • Skilled in seeing opportunities in complex legal environments.
  • Excellent skills in using influence with colleagues when there is not a direct reporting relationship to the General Counsel
  • Possess personal qualities of integrity, credibility, and commitment to the mission.
  • Natural leadership, strong relationship building skills, and the ability to engage teams and build a culture of excellence.
  • Strong communicator with ability to drive clarity and solutions; experience in working virtually and in person with colleagues who are remote, hybrid or in an office.
  • Demonstrated resourcefulness in setting priorities and guiding investment in people and systems.



J.D. and a member in good standing of the State Bar of New York or a member in good standing of the Bar in a state with reciprocal privileges in New York.


Service as General Counsel or Associate General Counsel of an international NGO or a voluntary agency is strongly preferred.

Minimum of 15 years of practical experience working in a global and cross-cultural setting and environment, preferably in the not-for-profit sector.

5-10 years of supervisory experience in the legal field, and experience managing and coaching staff across an organization.



Leadership: Provide leadership to CWS in a function that has heretofore been outsourced, and more recently used a wide range of legal advisors. Create a strategy and structure to coordinate and streamline legal services. Exemplify CWS values in representing the organization in all activities.

Job Knowledge:  Apply legal knowledge and wisdom in managing CWS’s legal portfolio across multiple functions in the organization.  Use concepts of enterprise risk management to support the definition of CWS’s risk appetite. In addition to directly managing CWS’s legal risk, coordinate enterprise risk management across all functions of the organization. Ensure the integration of CWS’s mission and vision, with risk levels as defined in the risk appetite.  Use effective business management practices to ensure that the Office of General Counsel functions effectively. Extensive knowledge of and experience applying the principles, procedures and best practices in not-for-profit operations

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving:  Recognize both long-range and short-term challenges, including the organizational challenges in working in new ways in a new department. Develop strategies to address and minimize potential risks in meeting organizational challenges, with respect and care.  Demonstrate wisdom and fairness in weighing recommended solutions to problems, considering core values, risk, opportunity, financial resources, and organizational impact. Assure that the Office of General Counsel has the resources necessary to support legal problem-solving. Promote an environment in which staff are empowered and supported in responsible problem-solving.  Demonstrate the ability to balance, negotiate and work with a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders.  Strong analytical and problem-solving skills with impeccable attention to detail.  Resourceful and strategic problem-solving ability; takes initiative and offers solutions.

Planning and Management: Proven track record as a team leader with an understanding of management practices.  Demonstrated project and budget management skills.  Demonstrated resourcefulness in legal strategies.  Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail.  Consistently deliver on deadlines with the ability to take on multiple projects and tasks.  Experience successfully building and scaling teams and systems.  Support and hold the Office of General Counsel team responsible for developing, implementing, communicating, and evaluating their work and services.

Communications:  Demonstrate leadership in communicating personal commitment to CWS values, and motivating others to share those values. Communicate organization-wide strategies, priorities, policies, programs and services to staff and stakeholders, as well as Office of General Counsel strategies, priorities, and services to staff. Be an active listener.  Reinforce an organizational culture that values transparency, collaboration, nimbleness and mutual support.  Excellent verbal and written communications skills.

Collaboration and Teamwork: Build and maintain relationships with key staff colleagues to allow the early surfacing of legal risks. Build upon the contextual knowledge of staff to identify the best available legal strategy.  Determine where teams are appropriate to meet strategic goals. Model collaboration and team values in personal and group interactions. Establish opportunities for cross-departmental, cross-functional, and problem-solving teams across CWS. Provide critical oversight and feedback to teams to ensure achievement of organizational goals. Hold teams accountable for producing results as assigned within CWS goals and annual plans. Recognize and communicate successes among teams and identify needs for team management training. Excellent people skills, with experience collaborating in a multidisciplinary, diverse and dynamic team.

Adaptability and Learning:  Flexible and adaptable.  Open to feedback, learning and improvement with a positive and humble attitude.  Comfortable with and embraces organizational change. Establish a work environment that promotes learning and ensures opportunities for learning to occur.


Other Skills:

Skills in managing a department in a complex and diverse organization that often works under the pressure of responding to urgent human need or institutional requirements. Understanding of finance, contracts, compliance, procurement, best practice in not-for-profit policies.  Visionary leadership to unite people in a common purpose. Strong interpersonal skills with the ability to collaborate, facilitate discussion and build a consensus in a complex, sometimes siloed, environment.  Computer literacy, including word processing, database, spreadsheet, collaboration and internet applications (Microsoft Office Suite).

Physical Requirements:

  • Prolonged periods of sitting (or standing) at a desk and working on a computer.
  • Up to 10 percent of time travelling (domestically and internationally)


CWS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, or veteran status in employment or in the provision of services.

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