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PILI: 45 Years of Impact

Click the image above to learn more about PILI’s major accomplishments over the last 45 years.

In 1977, PILI and its Law Student Internship Program were established thanks to the visionary leadership of our founders. The idea was elegant in its simplicity – as was explained in the annual report for PILI's 25th anniversary, it was “to improve awareness of public interest law and provide access to justice for those without resources.” In 1983, this vision led to the establishment of the Graduate Fellowship Program.

In 1993, PILI officially took the name it uses today as the mission and work of the organization continued to evolve and grow. In the 1990s and 2000s, PILI's growth continued by adding in a Pro Bono Program and formalizing our Alumni Program structure.

Over this last decade, PILI has continued as a leader nationally in the funding of law students working in the public interest law sector, funding more Interns than ever and placing them all across the state. Our pro bono efforts continues to grow and adapt based on the unmet legal needs of communities across the state. And now, nearly 5,000 Alumni span the profession and the globe.

With all that growth and change, one might think PILI is very different today than we were in 1977. One might even think our founders would not even recognize PILI today. Though our logo has evolved, the scope and location of our work has expanded, and the world around us has changed, PILI is today as it was in 1977 still about the very same work: “to improve awareness of public interest law and provide access to justice for those without resources.”

Today, our formal mission statement is to engage, inspire and empower those advancing equal access to justice. Through our programs, we’ve created cross-state, grassroot collaboration to address critical gaps within the legal system across the state. PILI is working to build a legal community with a deeply rooted culture of service, where law students, lawyers and legal professionals at all stages of their careers engage in public interest law or pro bono work, and remain committed to addressing the unmet legal needs of low-income and marginalized Illinoisans.

As we celebrate our 45th anniversary in 2022, we've adopted "Take the Initiative" as our theme. Through this theme, we will focus on emulating the example of our founders by taking the initiative and helping more people in need of civil legal aid. We hope you will join us and Take the Initiative by getting involved with PILI. Our yearlong celebration will culminate with our 45th Anniversary Awards Gala on December 1, 2022 and we'd love for you to join us!

To learn more about PILI’s 45th Anniversary celebration and how your support can increase our impact today and for the future, contact PILI Executive Director Michael Bergmann by email or at 312-832-5129.

Check out our video introducing this year's theme below or on our YouTube channel.


PILI engages, inspires and empowers those advancing equal access to justice.


We envision making equal access to justice a reality through a legal community with a deeply rooted culture of service, where pro bono and public interest law engagement is optimized to best serve people, families and communities in need.


We believe equal access to justice is a fundamental right. We believe serving those in need through public interest law and pro bono service is the key to ensuring that right. We believe the Illinois legal community should work together to provide these services, and that it is PILI’s role to facilitate this collaboration. We expect our work to result in a more accessible justice system for all.