Almost 37% of Illinois citizens are low-income, with 6.3% of the total population living in extreme poverty. Law firm leaders play an important role in providing those in poverty with legal assistance by supporting and encouraging a culture of pro bono within law firms. On September 11th, the Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee hosted a summit where members of the judiciary, law firm leaders and other pro bono stakeholders met to discuss how to increase pro bono participation at their firms.
Honorable Paul P. Gilfillan, the Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit, kicked off the event by emphasizing the importance of pro bono service and sharing his belief that pro bono is an obligation of each attorney.
Then, Honorable Lisa Wilson, the Chair of the Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, led a panel of judges from the Tenth Circuit including the Honorable Mark Gilles and the Honorable Suzanne Patton to share their perspectives on the need for pro bono . The judges explained that they had seen an increase of self-represented litigants in their courtrooms and that it was difficult for them, as judges, to explain the legal process without offering legal advice. They said anytime a lawyer was involved, either advocating on behalf of a client or offering limited scope services or brief advice, the process was sure to run smoother for everyone. They also explained that they had watched attorneys improve on their skills through pro bono cases.
Next, local attorneys Mitch Gilfillan, Jeffrey Krumpe and Tom O’Neal discussed their experiences with pro bono services. They discussed that it was really important that leaders within the firm emphasize the importance of pro bono service and create a culture of service within the firm. They talked about how it was important to make time for pro bono service and suggested finding one thing that each firm or individual attorney could do to increase access to justice, even just a little, and focus on doing that thing.
Closing out the program, Michael Bergmann of PILI and Denise Conklin of Prarie State Legal Services discussed the variety of pro bono opportunities available in the Tenth Judicial Circuit, ranging from discrete opportunities to full representation. More about these opportunities can be found here.
The next event hosted by the Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee is a free CLE titled “A Primer for Helping Those in Need of Legal Assistance” on October 1st. Learn more and register here »