We see examples of it every day. Far too many in our most vulnerable populations cannot afford access to basic rights and justice.

This year, a report from the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation* indicated that low-income Americans do not get legal help for 92% of their non-criminal legal problems, up from 86% in 2017, in part because of the increased income and racial disparities in our country today. More than 600,000 low-income people in the Chicago area will face at least one critical legal need this year.

It’s not surprising that seeing so many people denied their rights and justice brings a sense of powerlessness to many of us. But we have reason to be hopeful. A pro bono lawyer can make access to justice possible, often bringing dramatic change to the lives of their clients. What’s more, attorneys who volunteer with Oak Park-based Pro Bono Network tell us how meaningful the work is to them, how it changes them as well, and brings them hope for the future.

The low-income clients we serve across Chicagoland include families, seniors, veterans, those with disabilities, and those who are or were incarcerated, among others. They may be experiencing violence, trying to obtain disability benefits, seeking documented legal status, or have housing problems.

Each year we train and support lawyers who want to be of service but have limited availability or opportunities to use their legal background. These include attorneys who are on career breaks, have retired, or are solo or part-time practitioners. Since 2011, we have created volunteer opportunities for over 425 volunteer attorneys to provide 28,000 pro bono legal service hours, which equates to $7 million in legal services.

PBN relies on volunteer attorneys, and we are committed to creating meaningful and workable opportunities to volunteer. We invite interested attorneys to learn more about our work and our upcoming trainings by emailing sheila.pont@pro-bono-network.org.

*Legal Services Corporation, “The Justice Gap,” June 2017, April 2022 https://justicegap.lsc.gov/

Linda Rio
Executive director
Pro Bono Network

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