General Counsel

Executive Washington, District of Columbia Portland, Oregon


About Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible.  In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we collaborate to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future.

Department Summary

The Legal Department provides legal counsel and assistance to all areas of Mercy Corps, including executive and senior management, the Board of Directors, programs, ethics and investigations, social ventures, policy & advocacy, resource development, finance, and human resources, as well as, corporate governance services to the Board of Directors. 

The General Counsel Role

Reporting to the CEO, The General Counsel (GC) is a key member of Mercy Corps’ Executive Team and provides legal leadership across the organization. The GC is responsible for all legal affairs, including contracts, negotiations, structuring and compliance issues, corporate governance, enterprise risk management, intellectual property, commercial agreements and transactions, litigation management, employment matters and international entity formation. Mercy Corps works in over 40 countries, many of which are complex and where the application of the rule of law is inconsistent.  Mercy Corps also conducts significant operations in conflict zones in proximity to Designated Terrorist Organizations (DTOs). The GC  is responsible for guiding Mercy Corps’ approach to working in these complex areas to ensure we achieve our mission while remaining compliant with relevant law and regulation. The GC will also oversee the legal department and work with outside counsel. The GC will work closely with the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer.

Who We Are Looking For

Mercy Corps is looking for a globally strategic, thoughtful and inspiring leader who will work across all levels of the organization to contribute to Mercy Corps’ mission.  The GC will help the organization solve some of the world's most complex problems - which involves measured risk taking - while navigating a myriad of legal issues. The international relief and development sector is faced with increasing regulatory requirements and scrutiny from donors, regulators and host country governments. This requires constant vigilance and adaptation of policies, processes and practices to ensure compliance while at the same time maintaining space for innovation.  

Our ideal GC will invite and manage divergent views while managing productive conflict and difficult decisions. They will be an effective, high-stakes crisis manager and adept at guiding public crisis communications. The GC will be a strategic thinker while being able, and willing, to dive in and out of details. They will be able to apply sound business acumen with thoughtful and comprehensive legal advice while navigating a fast paced, high volume and collaborative working environment. The GC will have the utmost sensitivity and knowledge of cultural, political and religious environments in the regions where we work and have a strong commitment to teamwork and accountability.  

Essential Responsibilities

  • Provide guidance to the Board of Directors, Executive team, and senior team members on legal matters related to all aspects of Mercy Corps’ operations.
  • Maintain the highest level of professional and ethical standards, acting in compliance with both the letter and spirit of applicable laws and regulations.
  •  In partnership with the CEO and department leads, identify, prioritize, plan and implement risk management and compliance projects and strategies. Oversee Mercy Corps’ Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) processes.
  • Support Country and Regional Directors to ensure legal and ethical compliance with local, state and federal laws across international jurisdiction in which Mercy Corps operates.
  • Oversee litigation and dispute resolution.
  • Support and foster a culture of innovation, including facilitating legally complex and challenging innovations and investments, such as Mercy Corps social ventures fund.
  • Ensure legal services and advice to Human Resources in the U.S. and globally (working with outside counsel and internal stakeholders).  Issues include immigration law for employees, separation of employment, conflict of interest and general employment and labor law compliance.
  • In collaboration with other MC leadership, manage policies and procedures to support compliance with government grants and contracts and regulatory areas relevant to the humanitarian aid sector. 
  • Oversee protection of Mercy Corps intellectual property rights. Advise and negotiate commercial contracts and other operational agreements.
  • Serve as organizational representative and spokesperson at public meetings, formal and informal briefings, workshops, on issues complex legal issues related to our sector, particularly regarding operating in fragile states and dealing with sensitive issues including working in conflict areas and areas controlled by Designated Terrorist Organizations. Plan, organize, and coordinate briefings and information exchange opportunities.
  • Select, retain and manage legal services (including pro bono services) provided by outside counsel and technical consultants.  Act as a liaison with outside counsel and advisors.
  • Be an active and visible sponsor of our commitment to safeguarding and diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Inspire, lead and oversee the Legal team. Advise and move forward the optimal structure and workflow of the Legal department, in addition to ensuring appropriate management of the department, including budget and performance of the team members.
  • Help ensure compliance with IRS non-profit laws and governance best practices.

Ongoing Learning

In support of our belief that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities we serve, we empower all team members to dedicate 5% of their time to learning activities that further their personal and/or professional growth and development

Supervisory Responsibility

Deputy General Counsel, Legal Department Administrator, Legal Interns, Legal Externs and Law Clerks.


Reports Directly To: Chief Executive Officer

Works Directly With: The General Counsel will be accountable to internal clients throughout the Agency, both at HQ and in the field. The General Counsel will work closely with the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer advising and managing on organization-wide compliance issues.

Accountability to Participants and Stakeholders

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our program participants, community partners, other stakeholders, and to international standards guiding international relief and development work. We are committed to actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.

Knowledge and Experience

  • JD and 10+ years of experience practicing law.
  • Membership in State Bar of the state located or ability to practice as an in-house attorney.
  • Experience and knowledge of US Government grants and contracts, sanctions and counterterrorism and anti-money laundering laws is essential.
  • Understanding of private international law and U.S. laws related to international business, such as sanctions, foreign corrupt practices act.
  • Strong cultural sensitivity and experience in a global, geographically dispersed organization.
  • Good general knowledge of current events, particularly international affairs.
  • Experience with ethics, compliance and corporate transactions in an international and high risk context.
  • Previous foreign travel and willingness to travel.
  • Experience with international investigations in a regulated environment is a plus.
  • Experience with non-profit governance preferred.
  • Knowledge of one or more foreign languages is preferred.

Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions

The position is based in Washington DC as a preference and is open to Portland, OR. It requires up to 25-30% travel to the field and other HQ offices where living conditions may be exceptionally rugged or be in volatile environments where security protocols will need to be followed. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC's policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives. 

We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Mercy Corps is an equal opportunity employer that does not tolerate discrimination on any basis. We actively seek out diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills so that we can be collectively stronger and have sustained global impact. 

We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.

Safeguarding & Ethics

Mercy Corps is committed to ensuring that all individuals we come into contact with through our work, whether team members, community members, program participants or others, are treated with respect and dignity. We are committed to the core principles regarding prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse laid out by the UN Secretary General and IASC. We will not tolerate child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by or of our team members. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect local laws and customs, and to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct Policies and values at all times. Team members are required to complete mandatory Code of Conduct elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.