The Illinois Supreme Court is reallocating attorney registration fees to support organizations dedicated to attorney well-being and access to justice.
Last week, the Court amended Rule 756 and Rule 751 to provide $10 from Illinois attorney registration fees to the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) and an additional $10 to the Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission).
The $10 allocation to LAP will expand its programming that provides confidential mental health and substance abuse support to Illinois lawyers, judges, law students, and their families.
The $10 allocation to the ATJ Commission will provide long-term funding for Illinois Court Help, a free service launched during COVID-19 to connect court users and self-represented litigants with the information they need to go to court.
The reallocation will not increase attorney registration fees. Instead, these amounts will be redirected from the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission’s allocation. The amended rules will go into effect on July 1, 2021.
The reallocations come in response to the growing need for services for legal professionals and the public in the areas of mental health and access to justice.
“The demand for the services these two groups provide grew in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke in a press release. “The Court is delighted to allocate these funds so they can continue the excellent work they do and provide additional assistance to those in need.”
In a talk at The Future Is Now: Legal Services conference, Dr. Diana Uchiyama, Executive Director at LAP, said the organization has seen an increase in calls since the start of the pandemic. Her remarks are in line with recently released data from ALM that found that 71% of legal professionals said they experience anxiety in 2020 and roughly 31% of Black lawyers said they have contemplated suicide during their legal career.
Moreover, data published in the scientific journal PLOS One found that 25% of women surveyed had contemplated leaving the legal profession due to mental health concerns. [Learn more: Reimagining Law: How to Meet the Needs of a Post-COVID Workforce]
While attorneys are struggling with mental health challenges, the public is straining to afford legal help. The pandemic has led to an influx in the number of self-represented litigants and civil legal issues presented in court.
“Here in Illinois, half of all family law cases and 56% of domestic violence cases had at least one person representing themselves in 2020,” said Lisa Colpoys, Supervising Senior Program Manager for Illinois Court Help. “At the same time, less than a quarter of Illinois courts have dedicated self-help staff to assist people representing themselves.”
Illinois Court Help aims to fill this gap. The service provides trained court guides who help patrons, lawyers, and the general public understand and go through the court process in Illinois. The guides are available by calling or texting (833) 411-1121.
The last attorney registration fee reallocation came in 2015 when an additional $5 was provided to the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism to bring its total allocation to $25. The last increase came in 2017 when $3 was added to the registration fee for LAP to bring its total to $10.
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