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Delivery Of Legal Services Spotlight On Pro Bono

By Susan L. Zielke

November marked the official launch of a statewide hotline and network of civil legal services providers for veterans, service members, national guard, reservists, and their spouses and dependents. The hotline, 855-IL-AFLAN (855-452-3526), provides legal information and advice, brief services including the preparation and review of legal documents, and referrals to network partners. The hotline is staffed by attorneys who handle issues of discharge upgrades, benefits appeals, and civil legal problems like housing, consumer, and family.

The statewide network is using uniform eligibility guidelines of 80 percent of the Chicago Area Median Income; for a household of one, that figure is $44,250. Besides the hotline, the network includes CARPLS, Center for Disability & Elder Law, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS), The John Marshall Law School, LAF, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, Loyola Law School, Prairie State Legal Services, and SIU Law School. This network provides coverage for qualified individuals throughout the state.

In Illinois, there are approximately 750,000 veterans, 20,000 active service members, and 13,000 members of the Illinois National Guard. There are over 20,000 dependents of service members deployed between 09/11/01 and 05/31/15 alone. The top civil legal needs include housing, family, and consumer issues, and specialized issues with VA benefits, appeals, and discharge upgrades.

By Sandra Crawford, JD, Mediator, Collaborative Process Professional, Trained Circle Keeper

No matter where on this planet our ancestors hailed from, it is safe to say that at some point in history all of them sat around a fire either for heat, nourishment, storytelling, entertainment, community, support, and most likely to do some problem solving. From these ancient beginnings has grown what is now generally known as the Circle Process — a problem resolving or peacemaking model that can be used in a variety of settings for a variety of purposes. “The philosophy of Circle acknowledges that we are all in need of help and that helping others helps us at the same time." The Little Book of Circle Processes by Kay Pranis, page 6. (Hereinafter "the Little Book").

There are various types of circles. All share key elements and draw on indigenous tribal traditions mixed with contemporary concepts of democracy, inclusiveness, and multi-cultural integration. The shared key elements of all circles are: Ceremony, Guidelines, Talking Piece, Keeping/Facilitation, and Consensus/Decision Making. Briefly, the different types are:

By Sandra Crawford, JD, Mediator, Collaborative Process Professional, Trained Circle Keeper

No matter where on this planet our ancestors hailed from, it is safe to say that at some point in history all of them sat around a fire for heat, nourishment, storytelling, entertainment, community, support, or to do some problem solving. From these ancient beginnings has grown what is now generally known as the Circle Process – a problem resolving or peacemaking model that can be used in a variety of setting for a variety of purposes. “The philosophy of Circle acknowledges that we are all in need of help and that helping others helps us at the same time." Kay Pranis, The Little Book of Circle Processes, A New/Old Approach to Peacemaking (Good Books, 2005), page 6 ("Little Book"). 

By John E. Brennock

It is an unfortunate fact that some people are unable to obtain legal representation because of limited financial resources or the inability to qualify for or obtain pro bono representation. Those people likely would benefit from at least some attorney involvement in their matter, but often are forced to proceed pro se, and without legal knowledge and training, struggling to successfully handle their legal problem.

Likewise, attorneys naturally want to engage clients who can pay for all of the services connected with a given legal matter. But when faced with a prospective client of limited financial means, attorneys either are forced to reduce their fees, risk nonpayment from a financially challenged client, or simply turn down the representation.

Limited scope representation1, when done correctly, may provide a workable solution to these problems. And for attorneys who want to offer pro bono representation but cannot commit to full representation because of financial or time constraints, limited scope representation can be utilized to provide at least some pro bono service for indigent prospective clients an attorney might otherwise turn away.


By Susan L. DeCostanza | Director, Guardian ad litem for Adults Program

You may not have realized that you can visit an elder in your community and log pro bono hours at the same time, but you can. And the need for both is great! In Cook County, when a petition for guardianship of an adult is filed, the court will appoint a Guardian ad litem to complete an investigation in all cases in which the Respondent will not appear in court. The Guardian ad litem visits the Respondent at his or her residence, interviews the Respondent and ultimately reports back to the court regarding the results of the GAL investigation.

By Teri Ross, Program Director / Attorney, Illinois Legal Aid Online

Every year, tens of thousands of people in Illinois are forced to resolve their legal issues unassisted. On the one hand, they are unable to afford private legal counsel; on the other hand, they are unable to get help from the overburdened, underfunded legal aid system.

Pro bono is an important solution to this problem. October was national pro bono month, focused on recognizing the impactful contributions of pro bono attorneys and engaging more attorneys to help. Although there are more than 90,000 attorneys registered in Illinois, studies show that 60% or more of lower-income Illinoisans are forced to resolve their legal problems alone. Why the gap? Pro bono opportunities are limited by when, where, what and how they operate:

By Marisa Wiesman, Director of Volunteer Services, Prairie State Legal Services

Are you looking for something to do on October 13? I thought so. The ISBA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services is pleased to invite you to its annual CLE in honor of Celebrate Pro Bono Week. This year’s CLE, Limited Scope Representation: When Less is More, will be held on October 13, 2016 from 12:50 pm - 4:45 pm. Participants may attend in person at the ISBA regional office in Chicago or via live webinar from the comfort of your desk. Registration is free to attorneys who agree to accept one pro bono matter in the next year.

YES, WE ARE TALKING TO YOU![1]

By Hon. Barbara Crowder, Judge, Third Judicial Circuit

When the Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(f) was first amended to require lawyers to report any pro bono services intentionally provided and voluntary monetary donations to legal service providers, one would have thought it was a menacing Robert DeNiro asking for the information based upon the hue and cry raised by some attorneys. Lawyers were reminded that the primary goal was to address the unmet legal needs of those residents with limited income. Reporting pro bono hours is viewed as a way to increase the delivery of legal services provided directly to persons of limited means. Although the rule also asks about efforts that assist local communities and organizations along with time spent training others and any monetary contributions, the goal of the mandatory reporting requirement was proclaimed as a way to help lawyers remember to do pro bono directly. The comments suggest that those who are prohibited from providing direct services should donate money and their time to help train volunteer attorneys. Since the ARDC has issued the Annual Report of 2015, it seems an appropriate time to see how the lawyers of Illinois are doing.

Karen Munoz
Karen Munoz
By Karen Munoz, ISBA Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services

I am wrapping up my first year as a member for the Delivery of Legal services committee. Over the last year I have been exposed to some incredible lawyers and organizations throughout the state that do what they can each day to level the playing field of justice.

I have barely begun to scratch the surface of how important these organizations are in our society. I have been an attorney in the private sector for my entire career. Despite volunteering for different bar associations, this is really my first exposure to the provision of legal services to the indigent and it truly has been eye-opening.

Even though the work that I do is in many ways relatable (the client pays nothing up front in most cases, thus allowing access to a lawyer not ordinarily found in most areas of law), it does not compare to the needs I have witnessed over the last 12 months. I also have recognized that as our haves and have nots have drifted further and further apart, the need has only deepened.

Without many of these organizations operating at low to no cost in our state, many people would be left with absolutely no legal recourse. Obtaining these services can sometimes be the difference between becoming homeless, bankrupt, or worse in continuing physical danger.

By Teri Ross, Program Director / Attorney, Illinois Legal Aid Online

The legal system is scary, confusing, and nearly impossible to navigate without an attorney. Yet every year millions of people in Illinois face serious legal problems on their own because they can't afford to hire a lawyer. In some rural counties of the state, there are only a handful of attorneys, and no legal aid lawyers, which compounds the problem and makes it less likely that people will be able to solve their legal problems.

Enter the ‘Legal Answers’ program. Legal Answers uses technology to help people with civil legal problems to overcome barriers presented by geography and scarcity of local legal resources. It offers a way for lawyers to virtually lend their expertise to people in need, on a question-by-question basis. It allows for lower-income people to consult with an attorney on a limited scope basis when they would otherwise have no access to counsel.