Public Interest Law Initiative


Michael G. Bergmann, Executive Director

Michael has served as PILI’s Executive Director since 2010 and is based in our Chicago office. Under his leadership, PILI has grown its Law Student Internship Program by 64 percent and increased the Intern stipend for the first time in over a decade. He has overseen the development of innovative pro bono committees at the judicial circuit level across Illinois and the expansion of PILI into providing direct services, as well as the launch of an active and robust Alumni Network. Michael originally joined PILI in 2006 as Pro Bono Initiative Director and more recently served as Director of Programs. Prior to joining PILI, Michael served as the Guardian Ad Litem Program Director for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

Michael is a frequent speaker on issues relating to legal aid, pro bono and public interest law, including the Illinois Legal Advocates Conference, the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Annual Conference, the Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair, the NALP Annual Education Conference and the National Pro Bono Conference of Canada. During his tenure at PILI, Michael has also handled pro bono matters through Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Michael is an Adjunct Professor at the DePaul University College of Law, where he also serves on the Dean’s Council and on the Advisory Board for the Center for Public Interest Law. He also serves on the Advisory Board for the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University. Michael also serves on the Advisory Board of the Chicago Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society and the National Association for Law Placement’s PSJD Advisory Group. He also served on the Cook County Elder Justice Center Task Force for the Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division for the Circuit Court of Cook County. Michael also served as a Commissioner on the City of Evanston’s Human Relations Commission.

An active member of the American Bar Association, Michael is currently serving in the ABA’s House of Delegates and as Chair of the Section Officers Conference (SOC). He previously served as Chair of the ABA’s Judicial Division during the 2015-2016 bar year; only the third non-judge to hold that post. He is also a past chair of both the ABA Young Lawyers Division and of the Lawyers Conference of the Judicial Division. Michael is also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association where he serves on and is a past chair of the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, and serves on the Bench & Bar Section Council and the ISBA Assembly. He is also a member of the Chicago Bar Association, currently serving as Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee.

Frequently recognized for his contributions to the bar and the public, Michael was named one of “40 Under 40 Illinois Attorneys to Watch” in 2013 by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company. Michael was the recipient of the 2011 Young Alumni Merit Award from The Catholic University of America.  He was also the 2007 recipient of both the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from DePaul University College of Law and the Illinois State Bar Association Young Lawyer of the Year Award. Michael was also the 2005 recipient of the Kimball and Karen Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship from The Chicago Bar Foundation.

Michael attended The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Politics. He received his Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. Prior to and during law school, Michael was a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. He is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Illinois, and before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Rebecca Fernández, Administration & Finance Assistant

Rebecca joined PILI in November 2018 and is based in our Chicago Office. She ensures the efficient day-to-day operations of PILI and provides support for our programs and staff. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa with a minor in Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. She previously served as an Intensive Case Management Intern at RefugeeOne and wrote a weekly opinion column in the Daily Iowan. Before coming to PILI, she was a visuals lead at Warby Parker.

Lauren Harper, Communications & Events Manager

Lauren has served as PILI’s Communications & Events Manager since June 2017 and is based in our Chicago office. She is responsible for developing and executing PILI’s marketing and communications efforts, as well as planning and executing all of PILI’s special events. Lauren originally joined PILI in March 2015 as the Development & Communications Associate.  She attended Utah State University where she was an Undergraduate Research Fellow and co-authored an article titled “Understanding what it Means to Be Business-Like in the Nonprofit Sector: Toward a Communicative Explanation” published in November 2015. She served as an intern at Oxfam America, the Obama 2012 Campaign, and Autism Speaks.

Sang Yup Lee, Development Manager

Sang joined PILI in July 2017 and is based in our Chicago office. He is responsible for PILI’s fundraising efforts with law firms, corporations, foundations and individuals. He previously worked as a Development Specialist at the Youth Leadership Academy in Elgin and as the Volunteer Engagement and Events Manager at Literacy DuPage in Naperville. He attended the University of Notre Dame for both undergraduate and law school, where he completed internships with St. Joseph County Public Defenders at the Juvenile Justice Center, Indiana Legal Services, Bet Tzekek Legal Services in North Hollywood, California, and the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic. He also worked as a Judicial Extern for the Honorable Judge Mary Yu of the Washington Superior Court in Seattle. Prior to transitioning to nonprofit development, Sang worked as an attorney for Progressive Law Group LLC in Chicago, where he concentrated his practice on class actions in consumer and employment rights matters.

Brent Page, Program Manager

Brent joined PILI in March 2017 and is based in our Chicago office. He is responsible for overseeing the Law Student Internship Program, Graduate Fellowship Program and Alumni Network. He previously worked as the Supervising Attorney for Community Engagement at the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and as a staff attorney at Katz Law Office. While in law school, he completed several public interest law internships and fellowships including an internship at Equip from Equality, a Coles Fellowship at the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and a judicial externship for the Honorable Mary K. Rochford. He also worked with Family Rescue servicing victims of domestic violence in the court house. An Alumni of PILI’s Internship Program himself, Brent served as a PILI Law Student Intern at AIDS Legal Council, now known as Legal Council for Health Justice, in 2010. He received Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Michigan and his Juris Doctor from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Outside of work, Brent is an active volunteer with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS). He also serves on the board of directors for the Bleeding Disorder Alliance Illinois.

Shelby M. Smith, Equal Justice Works Fellow

Shelby joined PILI in September 2018 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Deere & Company, Lane & Waterman LLP, and Riley Safer Holmes & Cancilia LLP. She is based in our Chicago office. As part of her Equal Justice Works project, Legal Help Within Reach, Shelby is in charge of recruiting and training attorneys and law students from urban areas to volunteer at free legal clinics for low-income Illinoisans living in rural and underserved communities. During law school, she interned with the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian, the Cook County State’s Attorney, a family law firm and LAF, where she assisted in coordinating a veteran’s legal clinic on the west side of Chicago. She received her Bachelors of Arts in English and Psychology at Wheaton College and her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Sarah J. Taylor, Program Manager

Sarah joined PILI in June 2018 and is based in our Champaign office. She is responsible for overseeing the Pro Bono Program and its related projects and pro bono opportunities. She previously worked as an Associate Attorney with the Carbondale law firm of Barrett, Twomey, Broom, Hughes & Hoke, LLP. Her practice areas have included probate, real estate, estate planning, family, civil litigation, property tax appeals, and small business representation. She has also represented the State of Illinois in eminent domain cases as a Special Assistant Attorney General. Additionally, she has been an Adjunct Professor of Law with Southern Illinois University School of Law since 2010. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Cinema & Photography and her Juris Doctor from the Southern Illinois University.

An active pro bono attorney, Sarah has been a court-appointed guardian ad litem and mediator and also regularly handles other pro bono matters. She has served on the board of directors for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and as president of Dispute Resolution Institute. She is also an active member of the Illinois State Bar Association and has been responsible for coordinating the annual statewide ISBA High School Mock Trial Invitational, planning and presenting CLE programs, and authoring. She is a past president of the Jackson County Bar Association. In 2016, she received the Board of Governors Award from the ISBA.

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