Calling all Illinois attorneys. It’s time to give back during National Pro Bono Week!
Legal and civic organizations throughout the country will celebrate the annual National Pro Bono Week from October 23 – 29. The event is coordinated by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to inspire pro bono participation.
This year the theme “Law in Everyday Life” will highlight how legal assistance can help low-income or other marginalized individuals in all aspects of their lives.
A lawyer’s responsibility to pro bono
A lawyer’s responsibility to provide service in the public’s interest is identified in the Preamble to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. The Preamble says lawyers must “use their training, experience, and skills to provide services in the public interest for which compensation may not be available.” The Preamble goes on to say that “service in the public interest may take many forms. These include but are not limited to pro bono representation of persons unable to pay for legal services and assistance in the organized bar’s efforts at law reform.”
The need for pro bono work remains high. The Justice Gap Report, conducted by the Legal Services Corporation in 2022, said that low-income Americans did not receive any or enough legal help for 92% of their civil legal problems, and nearly 50% of those who did not seek legal help for one or more problems say that cost is the problem.
Illinois lawyers reported an average of 56 hours of pro bono time per lawyer in 2021, compared to an average of 60 hours per lawyer in 2020, according to the ARDC.
Looking to do your part in addressing these access to justice issues? Read on for how to get involved in Illinois during National Pro Bono Week and beyond.
Upcoming Pro Bono Week Events in Illinois
Tuesday, October 18
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.
The luncheon will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Leclaire Room at Lewis and Clark Community College. Illinois Supreme Court Justice David Overstreet will serve as the special guest speaker.
The First Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this CLE program and reception as part of the Pro Bono Week celebration to increase awareness about the need for pro bono legal services and how volunteers can help in the First Judicial Circuit.
Additionally, the Committee will celebrate those who have performed pro bono work over the last year.
This event will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the SIU School of Law.
Monday, October 24
The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the DuPage Judicial Center – Attorney Resource Center. The event will commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers and celebrate the Pro Bono Services award recipient.
Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to do some pro bono work at the event through Illinois Free Legal Answers.
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 its Pro Bono Service Award Recipient.
The reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Renaissance Room at the Janssen Law Center in Peoria. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White will serve as the special guest speaker.
Hear from the Center for Disability & Elder Law, the Legal Aid Society Communities Partnering 4 Peace Program, the Chicago Bar Association’s Lawyers in the Classroom program, and the Chicago Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section about how you can give back to your community.
The panelists will share the impactful work their organizations are doing, discuss how you can get involved as a pro bono volunteer, and provide details on a variety of bite-size in-person pro bono volunteer opportunities as well as opportunities for deeper levels of engagement.
The event will be held at noon virtually and in-person at the Chicago Bar Association.
Join your Chicago legal community colleagues for this annual fan-favorite evening of 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!
Tuesday, October 25
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.
The dinner will be held at the Mattoon Country Club from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Illinois Supreme Court Justice David Overstreet will serve as the special guest speaker.
Attorneys from Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Kirkland & Ellis, LLP will present on the history of voting rights and the current state of the law in Illinois and Indiana, as well as pro bono opportunities surrounding the midterm elections on November 8.
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee and Kirkland & Ellis together operate the Election Protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) for voters calling with questions from Illinois and Indiana.
Learn about what challenges and opportunities they expect in the upcoming election and hear about opportunities to volunteer to support the hotline as a call center volunteer or as an in-person field volunteer (poll-watcher). Please visit the event listing on the Chicago Bar Association for registration information for the live webinar held at noon.
Thursday, October 27
The Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will co-host this CLE program with the Champaign County Bar Association from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Regent Ballroom in Savoy, IL.
The event will commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers, and celebrate the Community Legal Services Award recipient.
The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, in partnership with the 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.
This event will begin at 5:30 p.m. at The Axis Hotel in Moline.
Wednesday, November 2
Join PILI’s Alumni Network Leadership Council and Young Professionals Board at PILI from 5 to 7 p.m. for a discreet pro bono opportunity to answer open questions on the Illinois Free Legal Answers site.
After answering questions, there will be an opportunity for networking and fun.
Thursday, November 3
The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this event to commemorate Pro Bono Week and recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers in increasing access to justice.
The reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Bell Tower Room at Epiphany Farms Restaurant in Bloomington.
Over 40 of Chicago’s legal aid, pro bono, community service, and mentoring organizations will gather at tables to meet with members of the legal community at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
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.
Friday, November 4
The Second Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee will host this virtual program from 2 to 4 p.m. to commemorate Pro Bono Week, recognize the commitment of local pro bono volunteers, provide CLE training, and introduce attendees to a virtual pro bono opportunity.
The program will explore the need for pro bono in the Second Judicial Circuit as well as provide an overview of Illinois Free Legal Answers – a virtual legal advice platform to help those in need of legal help – and guidance on how to answer frequently asked questions on the platform in the areas of expungement and sealing, wills and Powers of Attorney, and family law.
Please visit the event listing to register to receive the Zoom information.
Friday, November 18
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.
The breakfast event will be held from 8 to 9 a.m. at the DoubleTree in Collinsville in conjunction with the Family Law CLE program being held on Friday, November 18.
Ongoing Pro Bono Opportunities
Looking for ongoing pro bono opportunities beyond National Pro Bono Week? Check out the following organizations or another local Illinois legal aid organization to get involved.
- 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
One of the best ways to give back is to become a mentor. Participants in the Commission on Professionalism’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program help shape the future of the profession while gaining new perspectives and practice tools from lawyers of a different generation.
Mentors often report gaining more from the program than mentees. Attorneys who complete the program are eligible to receive 6 hours of professional responsibility CLE credit.
Join the pro bono conversation on social media. Share your experience using the hashtag #CelebrateProBono.
Did we miss anything? Share any additional pro bono opportunities in the comments.
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