Eight attorney and paralegal volunteers staffed a free Legal Advice Clinic on the morning of Saturday, February 11th at Prairie State Legal Services in Peoria. They provided free legal advice to close to 40 clients with family law issues, housing issues, debt issues, expungements and other civil legal matters. Clients applied for services through Prairie State Legal Services ahead of time.
“We basically provide a voice to people who are not able to advocate for themselves for a basic human needs issue,“ Denise Conklin, Managing Attorney of Praire State Legal Services.
The clinic was featured on the local news station WMBD.
For poor and underrepresented people, families and communities, financial difficulties often go hand-in-hand with legal problems. When basic fundamentals like health care, housing, food, safety and employment may be out of reach, instances of workplace discrimination, denial of benefits, disability, evictions or domestic violence might push an already struggling family over the edge.
While there is a constitutional right to legal representation in criminal matters, no such protection exists for civil legal matters. Receiving legal assistance allows people to rise out of poverty and live more healthy, prosperous and fulfilling lives. Addressing legal issues is also a critical preventative measure, keeping families and communities housed, fed, healthy and safe. Expanding and promoting the availability of civil legal aid for people who are underrepresented or living in poverty is one of the most effective ways to improve their lives and the overall well-being of a community.
Almost 33% of Illinois’ residents are low-income, with 14.3% of the total population living in poverty and 6.8% living in extreme poverty. Peoria County has an even higher poverty rate of 16.7%. At this free Legal Advice Clinic, volunteer attorneys and paralegals provided critical legal assistance to Peoria residents who are part of this vulnerable population.
This clinic was sponsored by PILI’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, Prairie State Legal Services, the Immigration project and the Peoria County Bar Association.
PILI’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee is a group comprised of lawyers and judges that strives to enhance equal access to justice by encouraging and promoting pro bono work in the Tenth Judicial Circuit, including Marshall, Peoria, Putnam, Stark and Tazewell counties.
Learn more about the Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee »
Learn more about the Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees »