Ascend Justice (Formerly the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and the Family Defense Center)

Ascend Justice (formerly known as the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and the Family Defense Center) provides free legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence and families impacted by the child welfare system.  Our Emergency Services Division provides same-day services for Orders of Protection at our Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse location (555 W. Harrison Street, Chicago). Ascend Justice staff attorneys go on to represent some of these clients seeking an Emergency Order of Protection and continue to represent them for the duration of their cases, while others are offered representation at a later date. Our Extended Services Division also provides comprehensive services in the following areas: family law, immigration, child welfare, housing and employment issues, crime victim compensation applications, and other economic justice issues. Ascend Justice also partners with the Domestic Violence Division in the DV Pro Bono Project, a volunteer effort aimed at large firm and corporate attorneys.

PILI Fellows and Interns are an integral part of our agency during the busy summer months and help to provide direct legal services for clients in Ascend Justice’s Emergency Services Division and Extended Services Division. Fellows and Interns may work in one or more of the following divisions:

Emergency Services Division – Fellows and Interns will spend part of their time working with pro se litigants seeking to file civil emergency orders of protection in the Domestic Violence Courthouse. Their duties include conducting client intakes and explaining the court process to clients, preparing court documents and client communications, accompanying pro se litigants to court, and performing legal research. If they receive their 711 License, Fellows and Interns may act as counsel under the direct supervision of an attorney. Spanish language proficiency or 711-License eligibility are both helpful, but not required.

Family Law Division – Ascend Justice’s Family Law Division represents domestic violence survivors in divorce and parentage actions to help them achieve safety from abusive relationships. Fellows and Interns will interview and communicate with clients, prepare pleadings and other court documents, and perform legal research on related issues. Spanish language proficiency or 711-License eligibility are helpful, but not required

Independence Project (Immigration) – Ascend Justice’s Independence Project helps undocumented survivors of domestic violence gain legal status by either applying for a U-Visa or self-petitioning under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Fellow and Intern duties include interviewing clients, preparing immigration paperwork, and document gathering.  Spanish language proficiency is highly preferred.

Economic Justice Project – Fellows and Interns working with the Economic Justice Project will assist clients with employment law issues under the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA), housing law issues under the Illinois Safe Homes Act, Crime Victims Compensation, and consumer debt issues. Spanish language proficiency is helpful, but not required.

Family Defense Project– Ascend Justice’s Family Defense Project helps families and individuals who are under investigation by the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) or who are appealing DCFS indicated findings. Ascend Justice advocates for the value that parents should not be punished for difficult life circumstances, such as poverty or being a victim of domestic violence, or for everyday parenting decisions when children are not at risk. The Family Defense Project’s work includes direct representation in child welfare cases, affirmative civil rights litigation, legislative advocacy, and a pro bono program with area law firms. Fellows are expected to: (a) handle initial client screening and follow-up; (b) investigate the merits of child protection cases; (c) work on legislative initiatives; (d) draft and file motions; (e) under supervision, advise clients and provide brief services; and (f) conduct extensive legal research, including research in the areas of juvenile law, administrative law, civil procedure and constitutional law.  Spanish language proficiency or 711-License eligibility are helpful, but not required.

Fellowships and internships may be remote, depending on current conditions. Interested applicants should specify their area(s) of interest in their cover letter.

This agency is approved to host a Law Student Intern during the summer. They are also approved to host Graduate Fellows.