Elizabeth Kinney received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1968, where she transferred after 2 years at George Washington University Law School. In 1965, as a law school student, Kinney was selected to work for the Neighborhood Legal Services Project in Washington DC. In Washington Kinney assisted Brian Olmstead in the landmark retaliatory eviction case, Edwards v. Habib. This case argued that a tenant could not be evicted from his/her dwelling for reasons of retaliation against the tenant for reporting housing code violations.
During the summer of 1966 working with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Kinney set-up a program to train law students in neighborhood legal services; later she opened and directed a neighborhood legal services office in Cleveland.
In Ann Arbor (1970), as a Reggie, Kinney worked with the Public Housing Tenants Organization to secure an agreement with the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. The agreement forced the Housing Commission to recognize the Tenants Organization and extend to them certain rights.
Around 1970, Kinney extended her Reggie Fellowship for a second year and moved to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles she was assigned to work with the Western Center on Law and Poverty; and while with the Western Center her work, again, focused on housing issues. In terms of legislation, Kinney worked on behalf of the California Housing Coalition in an attempt to create a state housing finance agency. The legislation passed through the State Assembly and Senate but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Reagan.
Kinney was involved in the case Francois v. EYOA, which argued that community representatives should be allowed to enjoin an election, electing representatives to sit on a board which allocated OEO anti-poverty funds. Kinney, on behalf of Francois, argued that the election procedure was unfair.
She was also involved in the case Moore v. Johnson, a lawsuit attempting to prevent veterans from being evicted from domiciliary facilities. In 1972 Kinney helped to establish the National Senior Citizens Law Center, whose mission was to provide legal services to the elderly.