I am an Attorney
Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Prairie State Legal Services! Each year Prairie State Legal Services is forced to turn down requests for legal assistance from some of the most vulnerable members of our community because our paid staff does not have the capacity to meet the demand. Without legal help, these people are left to navigate the legal maze by themselves and many simply give up.
Pro bono volunteers have been helping Prairie State close the justice gap since the 1980s. When you accept just one pro bono case from Prairie State, you ensure equal access to justice for that individual. Examples of types of cases you could assist with include helping a survivor of domestic violence get protection from her abuser; enabling a senior to take control of her financial and healthcare decisions by executing advanced directives; or protecting a person with a disability from an unlawful denial of public benefits.
How To Help
Prairie State offers many different civil pro bono opportunities for attorneys, ranging from advice clinics to extended representation to short-term transactional opportunities such as drafting powers of attorney and wills, or negotiations with government agencies. Areas in which clients need your help may include: divorce and custody; minor and adult guardianship; simple wills; criminal records expungement and sealing;and bankruptcy and other consumer issues.
The time commitment varies by case, and not all cases require court appearances. Volunteers can also mentor other pro bono attorneys and consult with Prairie State staff.
You do not need prior legal aid experience to volunteer. Pro bono work is a rewarding way to gain experience in a new area of law, or to mentor another attorney in your area of expertise. We will work with you to tailor a pro bono opportunity to your interests, skills, and availability.
Why Volunteer for Prairie State?
Performing your pro bono work through Prairie State Legal Services comes with added benefits:
- Prairie State prescreens cases for merit and financial eligibility.
- Pro bono cases are covered under Prairie State’s malpractice insurance.
- Prairie State offers free CLEs to pro bono attorneys.
- You can benefit from training and mentoring from experienced attorneys.
- Pro bono hours can be reported on your annual ARDC registration.
Retired, inactive, out-of-state, or house counsel?
Illinois Supreme Court Rules 716 and 756 allow retired, inactive, out-of-state, and house counsel to perform pro bono services for Prairie State Legal Services.
Pro Bono Projects
The telephone counseling pro bono program ("TC Pro Bono") offers a remote service opportunity for attorneys with limited time who prefer maximum flexibility to balance their pro bono service with other obligations. TC pro bono attorneys provide one time, individualized telephone advice to PSLS clients on a variety of civil legal issues, such as landlord tenant, consumer debt, family law, small claims, contracts, and employment law. Clients are prescreened for eligibility, and consultations take about an hour. Calls must be made during regular Prairie State business hours, Mon-Fri. 9 am- 4 pm. No legal aid experience is required, and training and real time support are provided.
If you would like more information or are interested in joining this project, please contact Cindy Matre, Pro Bono Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Remote; General civil law; Advice/Brief Service; No experience required; Training provided
Prairie State Legal Services’ Eviction Project was created during the pandemic to assist low-income families in danger of losing their housing. It has been estimated that over 1 million people in Illinois faced evictions as a result of the pandemic. For this project, PSLS provides training to volunteer pro bono attorneys on the basics of eviction law and negotiating settlements between a landlord and tenant. Pro bono attorneys are then connected with clients facing eviction who would not otherwise be able to obtain legal assistance. Volunteers are asked to advise clients on their options and, where possible, negotiate with the landlord to avoid eviction, agree on a payment plan, or otherwise settle issues between the landlords and their tenants. All work on this project is over the phone and no court appearance is required. In addition to the recorded training, volunteer attorneys have access to resources, templates, and subject matter experts at PSLS to answer any questions that arise during the case.
If you would like more information or are interested in joining this project, please contact Wendy Crouch, Pro Bono Project Lead, at email@example.com.
Tags: Remote; Housing; Advice/Brief Service; No experience required; Training provided
PSLS created this special project specifically for family law attorneys to provide virtual advice to clients in one-hour time slots using a virtual clinic model. There is no commitment of continuing representation or in-court representation. Moreover, the clients are vetted, registered and confirmed before they even get to you. This means all you have to do is show up (virtually) at your designated time and provide domestic relations advice to clients during your meeting. You are not expected to go beyond providing one-time advice to these clients, but you may find that taking further steps in a particular case is of interest to you.
Clients will be those who live within PSLS’ 36 county service area and are qualified to receive free legal aid through PSLS and its' respective funders' policies. Accepted cases will be both pre and post-decree, and may or may not involve divorce, children, assets and/or liabilities, support questions, contempt and enforcement issues, and other domestic relations issues that you as a family law professional know but clients may not.
Involvement in the project includes signing up for one or more one-hour slots during our clinical hours. We plan to hold monthly clinics (currently scheduled for the 4th Friday of each month) but hope to increase the frequency based upon firm and individual attorney involvement.
If you would like more information or are interested in joining this project, please contact Jacqueline Correa, Pro Bono Project Lead, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Remote; Family Law; Advice/Brief Service; Substantive Experience Required; Legal Clinic
Powers of Attorney
This project is dedicated to ensuring that low income and vulnerable seniors have the opportunity to gain peace of mind knowing all of their affairs are in order and their wishes will be honored in the event of an emergency, illness, or death. Volunteers will conduct an initial appointment with a client over the phone to discuss the client’s wishes and help determine what documents are appropriate to meet their needs. Volunteers will then prepare the documents prior to a scheduled clinic date. Documents may include simple wills, powers of attorney, and transfer on death instruments. At the clinic, the volunteer will meet virtually with the client to go over the documents so that the client can execute them in the presence of PSLS staff. Estimated time required is 3-4 hours per case, including the phone consultation, document preparation and final meeting with the client to review the documents. Experience with estate planning is a plus, but training will also be provided.
If you would like more information or are interested in joining this project, please contact Laurie Bell, Pro Bono Project Lead, at email@example.com.
Tags: Estates/probate; Remote; Transactional; Legal Clinic; Training provided
How To Get Involved
Prairie State is always looking for attorneys to represent clients in a variety of civil legal matters, particularly in family, consumer, and elder law cases. Many of our opportunities are listed below, however we are always open to discussing other ways you can get involved, based on your interests and expertise. If you have questions or would like more information about our current pro bono opportunities, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our Volunteer Interest form.
Pro Bono work means you’re helping someone who needs help and does not have the means to hire a private attorney. But it’s also a chance to make a positive impact in the community where we live.
Bozeman Neighbor Patton & Noe, LLP (Moline, IL)
It is very satisfactory to me. It helps me help people because I enjoy helping people. And when I help a person and at the end of a case they give me a hug or they smile and say thank you very much for helping me, hopefully I am able to help them in their life and get them away from a situation.
J. Brick Van Der Snick
Van Der Snick Law Firm, Ltd. (St. Charles, IL)
Whatever you’re willing to do or can do, even if it’s to take a phone call or answer questions. It’s a very rewarding job when you do it and you help these people who need the help.
Jennifer L. Johnson
Zanck, Coen, Wright & Saladin, P.C. (Crystal Lake, IL)
I find the work to be incredibly fulfilling, especially the work I’m doing. There are people who are trying to get a second chance in life and they’re very appreciative in anyone who takes an interest in them and the results have been very satisfying.