Have you ever hesitated in accepting a pro bono matter that you believe would require significant research in order for you to help? Perhaps it is an area of law that you do not regularly practice, or the case includes a complex legal issue, or you’re just short on time. The Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) recently launched Illinois Pro Bono Research Alliance to provide support for just such occasions.
PILI’s Illinois Pro Bono Research Alliance matches student volunteers from Illinois’ law schools with attorneys from across the state in need of research assistance on pro bono legal matters. Law students will work directly with the pro bono attorney to assist on the research project. This program is totally free and is meant to be a useful resource to make pro bono work easier for attorneys, while simultaneously providing law students with valuable experience and an opportunity to build their professional network.
“PILI is pleased to offer this service in coordination with our law school partners to help further engage law students in providing pro bono services and to remove barriers for providing pro bono legal services to those in need,” said PILI Executive Director Michael Bergmann. The Illinois Pro Bono Research Alliance is modeled off of a similar program developed by the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Law students can sign up on PILI’s website and will be added to a listserv where they can volunteer for research projects as they become available. At this time, PILI is limiting participation to five students per Illinois law school, with all nine of the state’s law schools invited to participate. PILI plans to open up the project to more law students if the project garners enough interest in research assistance.
Attorneys can also request research assistance on PILI’s website. The project will then be reviewed and matched with a law student, if available. Research assignments can range from those taking only a few hours, to larger projects that may last the course of a semester. The Illinois Pro Bono Research Alliance can be used on any non-fee generating civil legal matter where legal services are being provided on a pro bono basis as defined in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(f)(1). The service is open to private pro bono attorneys, legal aid organizations or other nonprofits so long as a supervising attorney oversees the project.
Through this program, PILI hopes to ease and eliminate some of the barriers to volunteering to engage more attorneys and law students in pro bono legal work and, ultimately, help more clients in need gain access to free legal services. If you have any questions about the Illinois Pro Bono Research Alliance and would like to know more, please contact Senior Managing Attorney Jessica Schneider by email.