During the annual Clio Cloud Conference, a legal education and innovation event that was recently held in Nashville, Brian Banks, an NFL player who was wrongfully accused of a crime as a teenager, urged attorneys to think of themselves as agents of justice and creators of fairness.
He encouraged lawyers to work toward ensuring justice is a “fundamental right for all” rather than an “elusive dream,” which Banks noted that it is for many.
This request echoes the theme of National Pro Bono Week 2023, which will be held October 22 – 28, 2023. The annual event, coordinated by the American Bar Association, will center on “Voices of Democracy: Ensuring Justice for All,” or the role equal access to legal representation plays in making sure all are heard in our democracy.
Most importantly, Pro Bono Week aims to inspire pro bono participation in a climate where the number of Americans dealing with legal issues is 55 times higher than the number of lawyers in the U.S., according to the Institute for Advancement of the American Legal System.
Midwesterners face access to justice issues
The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct charges lawyers with “us[ing] their training, experience, and skills to provide services in the public interest for which compensation may not be available.”
The Justice Gap Report, conducted by the Legal Services Corporation in 2022, found that low-income Midwesterners did not receive any or enough legal help for 93% of their civil legal problems. And, of the 9.2 million people in the Midwest who qualify as low-income, 75% of households had at least one legal problem in 2021.
Illinois attorneys are answering the call. In Illinois, lawyers reported an average of 58 hours of pro bono time per lawyer in 2022, compared to an average of 56 hours in 2021. This exceeds the national average of 54.5 hours and the ABA’s goal, according to the ARDC.
Interested in getting involved? Here is how you can participate in Pro Bono Week activities in Illinois.
Pro Bono Week Events in Illinois
Wednesday, October 18
The Fifth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers, and celebrate the Pro Bono Service Award Recipients.
Michael Bergmann of the Public Interest Law Initiative and Susan Zielke of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid will be the special guest speakers at this event.
Tickets are $45 per person; tickets are covered by the Vermilion County Bar Association for members. The event will be at the Danville Country Club, 2718 Denmark Road, Danville, Illinois, 61834, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Register here.
Thursday, October 19
Join the Second Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee for a dinner to commemorate Pro Bono Week and recognize the commitment of committee members and local pro bono volunteers.
This dinner will be held at Rare Chop House, 224 S. 10th Street, Mount Vernon, Illinois, 62864, from 4 to 6 p.m. The Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) will provide appetizers, and attendees will be responsible for the cost of their main course. Register here.
Friday, October 20
The NSLAC invites attorneys near and far to join their team for a unique opportunity to learn about the meaningful impact you can make by contributing your time and skills to cases in the areas of domestic violence law, housing law, immigration law, and POA clinics.
Retired attorneys are also welcome.
The event will be held at the NSLAC offices at 3500 Western Avenue, Suite 2A, Highland Park, Illinois, 60035, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Register here.
Monday, October 23
The Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the efforts of local pro bono volunteers, and celebrate recipients of pro bono service awards.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White will speak at this event.
The event will be held at the Renaissance Room at the Janssen Law Center, 333 Main Street, Peoria, Illinois, 61602, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Register here.
Tuesday, October 24
Learn about a variety of accessible and flexible pro bono opportunities that you can get involved in and hear from volunteer attorneys who have done pro bono work with each program.
This event is an in-person panel discussion including panelists from Equip for Equality, Legal Aid Chicago, and the Center for Disability and Edler Law, among others.
The event will be held at The Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL, 60604, from 3 to 5 p.m. Register here.
The Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the efforts of local pro bono volunteers, and celebrate its Pro Bono Service Award Recipient.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice David K. Overstreet will speak at this event.
The event will be held at the LeClaire Room at Lewis and Clark Community College, 600 Troy Road, Edwardsville, Illinois, 62025, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register here.
The Twentieth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers, and celebrate the Land of Lincoln Pro Bono Award recipient.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice David K. Overstreet and Twentieth Circuit Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson will speak at this event.
Drinks and light appetizers will be provided. The event will be held at MG+M The Law Firm, 1405 N. Green Mount Road, O’Fallon, Illinois, 62269, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Register here.
Wednesday, October 25
Learn about the current state of migrants nationally and in Chicago. Hear stories of people who have come to the U.S., learn about their available legal avenues for relief, and learn how you can help.
Panelists include leaders from the National Immigrant Justice Center, Legal Aid Chicago, and the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services.
The event will be held in person at The Chicago Bar Association from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Register here.
Join your Chicago legal community colleagues for this annual fan-favorite celebration to commemorate Pro Bono Week with an evening of networking and justice-themed stories told by audience volunteers.
Interested in telling a story? Sign up and come prepared with a five-minute story to share. Storytellers and listeners alike are encouraged to attend!
A project of the American Bar Association, Illinois Free Legal Answers is a secure website where low-income Illinoisans can ask a lawyer for help with a civil legal issue. Volunteer lawyers then log onto the site at their convenience and answer questions waiting in the queue. It is a virtual walk-in legal clinic.
The clinic will start with a short training on the platform and CLE over lunch and then break into small groups to answer questions on Illinois Free Legal Answers. 0.5 hours of Professional Responsibility CLE credit is anticipated.
The event will be held at the Southern Illinois University School of Law, Room 164, 1150 Douglas Drive, Carbondale, Illinois, 62901, from 12 to 2 p.m. Register here.
Thursday, October 26
The CBA Young Lawyers Section will present this in-person fair featuring more than 30 of Chicago’s legal aid, pro bono, community service, and mentoring organizations. Hear directly from legal aid and pro bono attorneys about how you can make a difference. There’s an opportunity available to fit everyone’s schedule, interests, skills, and goals!
The event is co-sponsored by the Chicago Bar Foundation and McDermott Will & Emery, and will take place at McDermott Will & Emery, 444 W. Lake St, Chicago, IL 60606, from 5 to 7 p.m. Register here or email email@example.com to RSVP.
The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers and celebrate the Pro Bono Service Award recipient.
Illinois State Bar Association President Shawn Kasserman will speak at this event.
The reception will be held as part of the DuPage County Bar Association monthly Unwind Happy Hour, held at Woodside Pavilion at Cantigny Golf, 27W270 Mack Road, Wheaton, Illinois, 60189, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Register here.
The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, in partnership with Rock Island County Bar Association, will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week and recognize the efforts of local pro bono volunteers whose work has helped to expand and enhance access to justice in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit.
Anyone is welcome to attend the reception portion of the event if they register in advance. For the dinner portion, non-members will pay $40 per person to the Rock Island County Bar.
The event will be held at Old Oaks Winery, 10814 1st Street W., Milan, Ilinois, 61264, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Register here.
Friday, October 27
Talk with state and federal judges about pro bono over breakfast in small roundtable conversations. One hour of PR CLE credit, subject to approval.
This CLE presentation will be live via Microsoft Teams from 12 to 1 p.m. NSLAC Pro Bono Manager Nicole Minnis and Pro Bono Coordinator Ian Turnipseed will present on ethical quandaries that can arise in each of their pro bono practices—housing, immigration, and domestic violence—and how the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct guide pro bono attorneys on navigating those issues. Register here.
Wednesday, November 1
Join PILI for a demonstration of how to use the Illinois Free Legal Answers site and answer 1-2 questions for those in need through this virtual legal clinic hosted by PILI’s Alumni Network Leadership Council and Young Professionals Board. After answering questions, stay for an informal reception and networking. 0.5 hours of General CLE credit is expected upon approval.
This event is open to all attorneys and will be held at Sidley Austin LLP, 1 South Dearborn, Chicago, Illinois, 60603, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Register here.
Wednesday, November 8
The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event and reception to commemorate Pro Bono Week and recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers in increasing access to justice. This event is co-sponsored by the McLean County Bar Association.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White will speak at this event.
The reception will be held in the Bell Tower Room at Epiphany Farms Restaurant, 220 East Front Street, Bloomington, Illinois, 61701, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Register here.
Thursday, November 9
The Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers and provide an opportunity to do some pro bono work.
This event is an opportunity for attorneys and NIU law students to jointly answer questions for people in need on Illinois Free Legal Answers. Attendees will receive a brief demonstration of how to use the site to answer civil legal questions, and then attorneys and law students will pair up to answer questions.
Immediately following the event, there will be a reception and happy hour to celebrate the pro bono work being done in the Twenty-Third Circuit.
This event is supported by the DeKalb County Bar Association and Kendall County Bar Association and will be held at Fatty’s Pub & Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, Illinois,nah
60115, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Register here.
Ongoing Pro Bono Opportunities
You can continue contributing to access to justice in Illinois beyond National Pro Bono Week by getting involved with the following organizations or another local Illinois legal aid organization.
- Pro Bono Opportunity Guide by Paladin and the Chicago Bar Foundation
- American Bar Association – Illinois opportunities
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Illinois Legal Aid Online
- Prairie State Legal Services
- Land of Lincoln Legal Aid
- Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
Join the pro bono conversation on social media. Share your experience using the hashtag #CelebrateProBono.
Did we miss any Illinois pro bono opportunities? Share them in the comments.
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