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Free legal clinic inside Little Village high school provides access to justice for kids, families

Illinois Bar Foundation's big boost to provide "springboard to success"

Chicago history teacher Dennis Kass, 37, puts his law degree to use at the school where he teaches – Infinity Math, Science and Technology High School in Little Village – by providing free legal information and services to students and their families at after-school clinics.

During the 2012-2013 school year alone, he handled more than 125 cases through the nonprofit he established in 2010, the Chicago Law and Education Foundation (CLEF), on legal matters that run the gamut from orders of protection for victims of domestic violence and immigration issues to help in avoiding mortgage foreclosure and expunging of criminal records.

Now, his fledging foundation, with an annual operating budget of about $21,500, is getting a big boost, thanks to the Illinois Bar Foundation (IBF), the fundraising arm of the Illinois State Bar Association. For every new or increased dollar pledged through a matching grant campaign from June 1 through September 30, the bar foundation will match it up to $5,000. That’s on top of a $6,000 grant The IBF already awarded CLEF in April.

The money will go a long way towards helping the Chicago native expand the legal clinics to other schools and ultimately enable him to pay the salary of a full-time lawyer. Down the road, he dreams of offering legal clinics in every public high school.

“Dennis has a sincere commitment to providing access to justice to low-income individuals who need it the most,” said David M. Anderson, IBF executive director. “We hope these funds will be a springboard to further growth and success.”

Currently, clinics are held at the school each Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. Student volunteers manage the front desk, help clients fill out forms, and serve as Spanish translators when needed. Kass, who uses a law student to maintain the foundation’s bilingual website (www.lawclef.org), refers some clients to organizations, including Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and First Defense Legal Aid.

The Illinois Bar Foundation raises funds which it distributes to legal aid organizations as well as attorneys and their families in need. In 2012, the IBF will distribute more than $400,000 in 44 grants to legal aid organizations. The Illinois Bar Foundation is located at 20 S. Clark St., Suite 910, Chicago, IL 60603. For information, call (312) 726-6072 or visit www.illinoisbarfoundation.org.

Posted on Jun 04, 2013 by Chris Bonjean | Comments (0)
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