Public Interest Law Initiative

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights


100 North LaSalle Street, Suite 600
Chicago, Illinois 60602

Contact: Bonnie Allen


Program: ,

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is the leading legal non-profit in the Chicago metropolitan area with a focus on civil rights. Established in 1969, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee is civil rights lawyers and advocates working to secure racial equity and economic opportunity for all. We provide legal representation through partnerships with the private bar and we collaborate with grassroots organizations and other advocacy groups to implement community-based solutions that advance civil rights.  We identify and disrupt patterns of discrimination. Through longstanding partnerships with member law firms, we provide high quality legal assistance to clients and communities in litigation and transactional matters. We collaborate with community leaders, advocacy organizations, and attorneys to craft and implement community-based solutions and policy reform. We use a broad range of advocacy tools that include direct legal services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, community education, and coalition building. PILI Fellows and Interns have the opportunity to collaborate with staff attorneys in litigation, policy advocacy, and community lawyering in the following areas:

  • Hate Crime Project –This project implements a comprehensive strategy that addresses hate incidents and hate crime on many levels. While we are acting quickly, we want to act the right way—working with communities affected by hate, rather than imposing solutions from outside.
  • Housing Opportunity Project –This project combats housing discrimination by investigating complaints of discrimination throughout Chicago, educating people about fair housing rights and obligations, providing pro bono legal services to individuals and communities affected by housing discrimination, and advocating for policies that affirmatively further fair housing.
  • Education Equity Project –This project protects and promotes access to education by addressing the individual and systemic barriers that disproportionately impact historically disadvantaged communities. We work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and address educational disparities in other key areas.
  • Settlement Assistance Program – This is the only program in Chicago offering free legal assistance to pro se plaintiffs (individuals representing themselves) in civil rights cases in federal court for purposes of settlement.
  • Voting Rights Project –This project eliminates barriers to voting and civic participation, especially in communities of color and low-income communities, ensuring that each citizen can cast a ballot and make her voice heard.
  • Community Law Project – This is the only program in the region offering pro bono transactional legal services specifically to nonprofits, first-time home buyers, and low-income individuals using small businesses/micro-enterprises as strategies to promote economic development in low-income communities. This project helps to build, strengthen, and support community-based organizations that are focused on economic development in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods and that offer the delivery of social services to residents of these areas.

Police Accountability Project – This project focuses on improving Chicago Police Department’s practices and their relationships with communities within Chicago, as well as advocating for increased police accountability in suburban communities.

Recent Organization Highlights

  • In 2016, our Voting Rights Project fielded over 1,000 calls during the Presidential election and led a team of hundreds of attorneys and advocates who protected the rights of voters across Illinois and Indiana and, in 2017, worked with the Just Democracy Illinois coalition to successfully advocate for the passage of automatic voter registration.
  • In September of 2017, our Education Equity Project filed a lawsuit alleging that school administrators acted with deliberate indifference to racial harassment and deprived a black student in Illinois of her right to an education. In December 2016, we successfully advocated to the Illinois Principals Association and Illinois State Board of Education to revoke approval for and stop offering a professional development course based on the controversial and improper Reid Technique of Interrogation.
  • In 2014, our Housing Opportunity Project influenced fair housing policy through participation in a campaign to amend the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance and add housing choice vouchers as a protected source of income.

PILI Interns & Fellows will be engaged in assignments including legal research and writing, intake interviews of prospective clients, on legal and fact investigations, community education on legal rights, and relationship-building with community organizations. PILI Interns & Fellows may draft memos and court filings, attend court hearings and depositions, assist with advocacy to government officials and the media, and participate in coalition meetings and other opportunities to see civil rights work in action in the community. The goal with each of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s programs is to provide participants with a meaningful and challenging civil rights learning experience, while obtaining high quality work product in order to fulfill the Committee’s goal of securing racial equity and economic justice.

Fellowship candidates must have excellent legal research and writing skills, communication skills, and a demonstrated commitment to public service. Experience in racial justice work, policy advocacy, or community organizing is a plus. Skills in Spanish or other languages other than English are also a plus. Chicago Lawyers’ Committee is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages students of all backgrounds to apply, including people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, people who speak languages in addition to English, and others whose background and experiences would help our organization better understand and serve our clients and community members.

This agency is approved to host a Law Student Intern during the summer. They are also approved to host Graduate Fellows.


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