Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Pledge
This pledge reflects the principle that members of the legal profession have an obligation to provide legal services to those who are under-represented in or lack access to the legal system. The preamble to the Supreme Court of Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
It is the responsibility of those licensed as officers of the court to use their training, experience and skills to provide services in the public interest for which compensation may not be available. An individual lawyer’s efforts in these areas is evidence of the lawyer’s good character and fitness to practice law.
Thirty-three percent of Illinoisans, or just over 4 million people, live near or below the federal poverty level. Yet, there are only approximately 350 full-time legal aid attorney across Illinois. Despite this drastic need and the limited resources, in 2012, legal aid funding was cut by the state twenty percent and federal funding cut fifteen percent. Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation is the local legal aid organization providing free civil legal services to the poor in the Third Judicial Circuit. Catholic Charities Legal Services has also recently begun a pro bono program covering multiple counties in central Illinois that offers free legal assistance to the poor. These two programs alone are unable to meet the demand for legal services. The rapidly growing gap between the legal needs of those who cannot afford legal services and the resources available to meet the needs must be bridged, and pro bono attorneys are extremely necessary to close that gap.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(f) defines pro bono as “legal services to persons of limited means; legal services to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental or educational organizations in matters designed to address the needs of persons of limited means; legal services to charitable, religious, civic or community organizations in furtherance of their organizational purpose; or training intended to benefit legal aid organizations or lawyers who provide pro bono services.” In recognition of the responsibility of all members of the legal profession – from corporate lawyers to law firm lawyers to solo practitioners to legal staff – to increase access to our legal system, we are asking law firms and corporate legal departments to pledge the following:
- To encourage their attorneys and legal staff to provide pro bono legal services and in doing so provide an environment which is hospitable to the rendition of such services;
- To designate a primary pro bono point of contact within the firm or corporate legal department;
- To consider adopting a written pro bono policy; and
- To recognize attorneys and legal staff who participate in pro bono services, as appropriate.
If you wish to take the pledge, fill out the form below. Please direct any questions to:
Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee
Honorable Barbara L. Crowder
155 North Main Street
Edwardsville, IL 62025