Public Interest Law Initiative

Jerome Mirza Foundation Awards PILI New $30,000 Grant

Posted on: September 3, 2015

The Jerome Mirza Foundation, located in Bloomington, Illinois, has awarded PILI a new grant of $30,000. This grant will support PILI’s efforts to promote public interest law and pro bono service in Illinois outside of Chicago.

Specifically, the grant will fund two new PILI Law Student Interns, one in Alton at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and one in Rock Island at Prairie State Legal Services. PILI has operated a Law Student Internship Program since 1977, and in 2013 funded its first Interns outside of Chicago, one in Peoria and one in Champaign.

“PILI’s establishment of an Internship in Land of Lincoln’s Alton office will enable our organization to serve an even greater number of low-income individuals with civil legal problems in Central Illinois,” says Clarissa Gaff, Managing Attorney at Land of Lincoln. “The Internship is invaluable in ensuring that low-income citizens of our community are represented in the judicial system.” Gretchen Farwell, Managing Attorney at Prairie State in Rock Island, says that “as a non-profit law firm, Prairie State does not have funds available to pay interns and most law students do not have the ability to take an unpaid internship. PILI’s funding ensures that Prairie State’s clients will get the benefit of a highly-qualified intern who is dedicated to providing equal access to justice.”

In addition to funding these two new Internship positions and supporting the growth of PILI’s Internship Program overall, this new grant from the Jerome Mirza Foundation will also support PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees project, which in recent years has established and developed Pro Bono Committees in six of Illinois’ judicial circuits.

Judge Barbara Crowder, Circuit Court of Madison County, chairs the Pro Bono Committee in the Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Alton, Edwardsville and the surrounding areas. “The partnership between the Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee and PILI has helped to expand pro bono legal services in our community by encouraging more lawyers to volunteer in our projects,” she says. “Our entire committee is grateful.” Recently, PILI hosted a Forum on Pro Bono in Edwardsville, the first of its kind, which attracted over 40 attorneys wanting to learn more about how to get involved in pro bono. The Pro Bono Committee holds monthly CLE programs on topics related to pro bono and also hosts a Legal Advice Conference Center at the courthouse, staffed entirely by volunteers, to provide brief advice and information to pro se litigants. PILI’s other Pro Bono Committees are in the Fifth, Sixth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth Judicial Circuits.

Michael Bergmann, PILI’s Executive Director, said that PILI was extremely grateful for this new grant award and excited about growing PILI’s statewide work. “We are committed to expanding public interest law and pro bono service across Illinois,” he said. “This generous support from the Jerome Mirza Foundation will help us realize this goal.”

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