PILI Announces its 2020 Pro Bono Recognition Roster

On June 16th, as part of our Virtual Annual Pro Bono Reception, PILI honored 47 law firms and corporations named to the 2020 Pro Bono Recognition Roster.

Congratulations to those named, whose substantial pro bono contributions are making a difference in addressing the legal needs of low-income and underrepresented Illinoisans!

2020 Pro Bono Recognition Roster

Allstate Insurance Company
Baker McKenzie
Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP
Barnes & Thornburg LLP
Boodell & Domanskis, LLC
Brinks Gilson & Lione
Chapman and Cutler LLP
Charles River Associates
Deere & Company Global Law Services Group
Dent Law Offices, Ltd.
Dentons US LLP
DLA Piper
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath
Foley & Lardner LLP
Haynes and Boone, LLP
Jenner & Block LLP
Jones Day
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
King & Spalding
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Lane & Waterman LLP
Latham & Watkins LLP
Mayer Brown
McDermott Will & Emery LLP
McDonald’s Corporation
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Much Shelist
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg
Nixon Peabody LLP
Paul Hastings LLP
Pepping Balk Kincaid & Olson, LTD
Perkins Coie LLP
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
Reed Smith LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP
Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter
Schiff Hardin LLP
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Sidley Austin LLP
State Farm
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
United Airlines
Winston & Strawn LLP

View the 2020 Recognition Roster »

Statement from Board President and Executive Director of PILI

Racism in America is real. It is systemic. It is pervasive. Like George Floyd, too many people of color have paid dearly for the racism that we as a nation have failed to address throughout our history. We stand with all of those who fight every day to end racism in all of its forms. And, in this moment we recommit ourselves to this fight.

Our ongoing and redoubled commitment will take many forms, including:

  • Supporting, and whenever possible partnering, with our partner public interest law organizations in Illinois to address racism and its effects on equal access to justice;
  • Providing educational programming to our Law Student Interns, Graduate Fellows and pro bono attorneys to train them on implicit bias, the impact of systemic racism on our legal institutions and other issues relating to diversity and inclusion;
  • Continuing to explore how our pro bono efforts, both on our own and collaboratively, can be used to address racism and to ensure equal and accessible justice for all;
  • Ensuring that race and equity are always on the agenda for our programs and meetings as we work to ensure equal access to justice for all; and
  • Most importantly, listening to people of color to truly hear their experiences and perspectives, in order to better inform PILI as to what we can do to support them and to engage them in our work.

As writer Mychal Denzel Smith wrote, “How we define ‘justice’ will determine the work that we do to achieve it. And unless we do the work to define ‘justice,’ we never will.” We stand at the ready to define justice, intent on it being not just accessible but equitable for all. We hope we can count on you to join us.

If you have any feedback on any of the above commitments, or ideas for how PILI can better support the fight to end racism and promote racial equity, please contact us.

Sarah M. Bernstein
President, Board of Directors

Michael G. Bergmann
Executive Director

PILI Welcomes Jessica Schneider as New Managing Attorney

PILI is excited to welcome Jessica Schneider as our new Managing Attorney!

Jessica is responsible for helping to expand and enhance pro bono legal assistance across Illinois by overseeing the work of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees, Illinois Free Legal Answers, and PILI’s participation in the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN). For the last two years, Jessica worked as a Staff Attorney in the Special Education Clinic at Equip for Equality. Before that, Jessica worked as a Staff Attorney at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for seven years, practicing in both their Fair Housing and Education Equity Projects. In law school, Jessica was a PILI Law Student Intern at MALDEF. She also interned at Chicago Legal Clinic and Centro de Derechos de la Mujer de Chiapas.

Jessica has been an active member of PILI’s Alumni Network Leadership Council, including having served as chair. Jessica has also volunteered with CARPLS and the Latino Union of Chicago, where she addressed wage theft issues for day laborers and other community members. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from Washington University in St Louis and her Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. She is a member and former board member of the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, a member of the DePaul Alumni Engagement Board, Associate Board member of Legal Prep Charter Academy, and a member of the inaugural cohort of the Racial Justice Institute by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, a groundbreaking program to further race-equity as an essential part of anti-poverty advocacy. In 2014, Jessica received the Chicago Bar Foundation Sun Times Public Interest Law Fellowship. In 2017, she completed the Chicago Bar Association Leadership Institute. Jessica is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Illinois.

You can reach Jessica by email or by phone at 312-832-5125.

Meet the rest of PILI’s staff »

PILI Welcomes 2020 Interns and Fellows at Virtual Orientation

On Thursday, May 28th, PILI welcomed summer 2020 PILI Law Student Interns and Graduate Fellows as well as other interns from public interest law organizations and government agencies. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, PILI hosted this year’s Orientation over Zoom. Over 130 law students and recent graduates logged in to learn how to better serve their clients and organizations this summer.

The program would not have been possible without the help of PILI Alumni, professors and public interest law attorneys presenting several sessions throughout the day. Topics included getting to know the communities you will serve, understanding and addressing vicarious trauma, using conflict management and making the most of your Internships & Fellowships.

Thank you to all who participated and contributed to the fruitful discussions throughout the day. Even though we couldn’t meet in person, we received overwhelming positive feedback about the program.

We hope these discussions will better prepare our Interns and Fellows for their summer positions as well as their lifetime of public interest law and pro bono service.

Learn more about the PILI Educational Seminars »

View past seminars on PILI’s youtube channel »

Are you a public interest law intern or fellow in Illinois this summer? Sign up for updates and register for our virtual Educational Seminars here »

Guest Post: The State’s Responsibility to Equal Justice

This is a guest post from Leslie Corbett, Executive Director of Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF). IEJF distributes funding appropriated by the State to support not-for-profit legal aid programs. PILI receives funding from IEJF to support our Pro Bono Program.


Keeping people in their homes. Reducing domestic violence. Helping veterans access hard-earned benefits. Protecting seniors from fraud.

Every day, Illinois’ legal aid providers help level the playing field for people fighting to make ends meet. And for the past 20 years, the IL Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) has been proud to support them. The IEJF distributes the State of Illinois’ annual budget appropriation for civil legal aid to nonprofit programs across the state.

Housed in the Attorney General’s budget, the state appropriation for civil legal aid stands at $1.4 million. The high water mark for the appropriation was $3.5 million in 2007, which was slashed 50% in 2010. State funding was then cut an additional 20% in fiscal year 2013 to the current level of $1.4 million.

In the face of this underfunding, the IEJF has worked hard to maximize its impact – and our grantees reflect that. By supporting both large legal aid programs that provide a breadth of services, as well as community-based groups that bring the law to where people live, we help more people access the justice system to improve their lives. In fact, in FY 2018 and 2019, IEJF-funded programs secured more than $29M in financial benefits for struggling Illinoisans.

But we now face perhaps the greatest challenge in protecting the legal rights of vulnerable Illinois families, seniors and veterans.

A Crisis in Our Courts

The COVID-19 Pandemic has led to surge of legal problems in every community across our state.  Over the last month, our grantee Illinois Legal Aid Online reports a 1040% increase in use of its unemployment tools and a 1084% increase in use of emergency food stamp resources.

And beyond these statistics, we see stories like these: Parents skipping meals so their children can eat after being wrongfully denied benefits. Families living in fear of losing their homes over missed rent payments. And partners and children victimized by increased violence while isolated at home.

However, we fear the current need for legal assistance may just be the tip of the iceberg. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead to a crisis in our court system that will overwhelm Illinois’ already overburdened, and underfunded, legal aid programs.

A Critical Part of Illinois’ Pandemic Response

That’s why we are calling on the IL General Assembly to protect the current IEJF appropriation of $1.4 M in the FY 2021 budget. 

It’s clear legal aid is an essential part of Illinois’ response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic. From identifying workers’ eligibility for unemployment and family-leave benefits to helping families deal with disputes over medical or consumer debt, only legal aid can help solve many of the problems caused by illness and business closures. Without access to legal assistance, people struggling to make ends meet may never be able to recover from the fallout from this pandemic.

Illinois’ front-line legal aid providers have quickly adapted to serve as many people as they can through remote client consultations, representation in telephonic emergency hearings and expanded hotline and online resources. A list of available legal aid resources can be found here.

But even before the outbreak, these programs were only able to help one in every six Illinoisans facing a life-changing legal problem. And now, with so many more Illinoisans in need, we must redouble our commitment to justice for all.

Your Call to Action

The Illinois General Assembly will be reconvening this week to begin final budget negotiations. Please contact your state legislators as soon as possible and urge them to protect the civil legal aid appropriation in the FY 21 budget. Our advocacy tool makes it quick and easy.

For more about why legal aid must be part of any comprehensive pandemic solution, view our COVID-19 & Legal Aid one-pager here.

You can also learn more about two other State-funded programs the IEJF manages – the IL Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN) and the Cannabis Expungement Program.

Every Illinoisan facing a serious civil legal problem during this crisis deserves to access the legal help and information they need.

Meet the 2020 Class of Summer Interns and Fellows

Meet the 2020 Class of Summer Interns and Fellows

News Post 7

PILI is excited to welcome the 2020 class of summer Interns and Fellows! This year, 48 summer Law Student Interns and 63 Graduate Fellows will provide 38,100 hours of legal services.

Summer 2020 Law Student Interns come from 19 law schools and include rising 2Ls and 3Ls. They will each provide 400 hours of legal services at 30 legal service agencies, for a total of 19,200 hours served.

[button href="https://pili.org/internships/current-pili-interns"]Meet the 2020 Interns[/button]

Our 2020 Graduate Fellows come from 20 law schools and are sponsored by 16 law firms. They will each provide 300 hours of legal services between graduation and joining their firm, for a total of 18,900 hours served at one of 60 legal service agencies.

[button href="https://pili.org/fellowships/current-pili-fellows"]Meet the 2020 Fellows [/button]

Each summer, PILI organizes the Educational Seminar Series for Interns and Fellows. This year, these seminars will be virtual and they are open to any intern working in public interest law or at a government agency, regardless of whether they receive PILI funding. You can find more information and receive updates about these programs here.

We look forward to meeting our summer class on Thursday, May 28th for the virtual Intern & Fellow Orientation. This program is also open to all interns and provides a solid foundation from which PILI Interns and Fellows can better serve their clients and organizations this summer.

Learn more about the Law Student Internship Program »

Learn more about the Graduate Fellowship Program »

Hosting Remote Internships & Fellowships: Highlights from the 2020 Legal Service Agency Roundtable

On May 13th, representatives from Illinois legal service agencies met over Zoom for the Legal Service Agency Roundtable. This year, the group discussed hosting remote internships & fellowships during the pandemic.

PILI Senior Managing Attorney Brent Page started out by giving an overview of the feedback given by 2019 PILI Interns, Fellows and Supervisors. He noted that several Interns and Fellows expressed the need for clear deadlines and the desire for more context around how their work fits into the agency. Brent noted that these items will be especially important this year since interns and fellows will be spending at least a portion of their summer working from home.

Onboarding Interns and Fellows remotely

Andrew Sharp of Illinois Legal Aid Online then talked about how he was planning to do a virtual orientation with ILAO’s interns and fellows. He recommended tools to share presentations and make them more interactive, including recommending Loom to record presentations and share them. He talked about the importance of readying staff for incoming interns and fellows and to make sure to not forget the basics of onboarding that would typically be done in the office, like introducing staff to new interns and fellows.

Establishing your role as a manager and effectively supervising remotely

Ruth Edwards from Legal Council for Health Justice talked about how their agency uses a spreadsheet to give interns and fellows projects and to keep track of their ongoing projects. She also went into detail about virtual check-ins and one-on-one meetings to establish a strong relationship between supervisors and their interns and fellows remotely.

Providing feedback remotely and monitoring progress remotely

Hilda Bahena from Catholic Charities talked about using different approaches and technology to provide feedback. She mentioned considering how to provide feedback carefully and whether over phone or video. She also encouraged incorporating both positive and critical feedback, but to be truthful and straight with feedback. She also suggested including interns in staff meetings and check ins.

Developing and updating materials for remote work

Elisabeth Hieber from Center for Disability and Elder Law discussed how to update training materials and suggested going through all the different training processes to update them to be virtual. She talked about how her agency went through their internal procedures and created step-by-steps protocols to help interns and fellows get familiar with how to do tasks virtually.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Legal Service Agency Roundtable. We look forward to seeing you at our Illinois Forum on Pro Bono, this fall, which brings together law firm pro bono leaders as well as corporate, agency and law school pro bono leaders.

View more resources for agencies »

Learn more about PILI’s Roundtables and Forums »

Jerome Mirza Foundation Renews Grant to PILI

The Jerome Mirza Foundation has granted PILI $30,000 to support our efforts to promote public interest law and pro bono service in Illinois outside of Chicago. Jerome Mirza, a 1963 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, was a leader in the field of trial advocacy and in the legal profession throughout his long career.

This grant supports PILI’s Law Student Internship Program across the state, as well as the work of our Pro Bono Program to promote and expand pro bono across Illinois.

PILI is grateful to the Jerome Mirza Foundation and our other supporters for helping us cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community.

Learn more about PILI’s Named & Honorary Interns »

Support PILI with a donation »