Public Interest Law Initiative

2017 Distinguished Public Service Award: Bernard H. Shapiro

Posted on: December 11, 2017

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Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. hired Bernie Shapiro as Director of Litigation just a few months after opening its doors in 1977. Since then, Bernie has worked closely with the Executive Director to grow the organization and has launched several new initiatives to improve services.

Bernie’s kindness is apparent in his legal work and this spirit is reflected in all that Prairie State does. Bernie has conducted, supervised, or represented clients in cases regarding housing, custody of children, protection from family abuse, public benefits, medical assistance, tax relief, appropriate education for children and many other issues.

In addition to his practice, Bernie has trained and mentored hundreds of Illinois attorneys. Brilliant, yet approachable, Bernie helps experienced and novice staff alike feel comfortable reaching out for help with issues both big and small. Bernie is always available and supportive.

Bernie’s work and mentorship have helped to advance the mission of Prairie State and has helped to decrease the justice gap throughout the state. Over the past 40 years, Prairie State staff and volunteers have helped thousands of low-income people with important legal problems that affect their basic human needs, and Bernie’s hand can be felt in every single one of these cases.

Prior to working at Prairie State, Bernie worked in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. His mentor there and the person most influential in shaping him as a lawyer became one of the pillars of legal services: John Rosenberg who became the longtime director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Eastern Kentucky. Bernie is grateful to him for his mentorship.

“Bernie’s accomplishments and leadership are remarkable. He is the soul of our organization and a role model for not only our staff, but for all legal aid staff.” – Sarah Megan, Director of Litigation, Prairie State Legal Services

Learn about the recipients of PILI’s other 2017 Awards »

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