Michael G. Bergmann, Executive Director
Serving as the Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) since 2010, Michael provides the strategic oversight and direction for PILI's work to engage, inspire and empower those advancing equal access to justice. Under his leadership over the last decade, PILI has significantly expanded its reach and impact by building on its nearly 45 year legacy and becoming a statewide organization. Michael has overseen the growth of PILI's Law Student Internship Program, both in terms of the number of Interns funded and in the amount of the stipend provided to Interns. He has led PILI’s efforts in the development of innovative pro bono committees at the judicial circuit level across Illinois and the expansion of PILI's work into providing direct services through a statewide network of pro bono volunteers. During his tenure, PILI has also seen a significant increase in the financial support PILI receives across all funding sources. Michael originally joined PILI in 2006, serving as Director of Programs before becoming the Executive Director.
Michael is a frequent speaker on issues relating to legal aid, pro bono and public interest law, including the Illinois Legal Advocates Conference, the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Annual Conference, the Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair, the NALP Annual Education Conference and the National Pro Bono Conference of Canada.
Michael serves on the Dean's Council for the DePaul University College of Law, where he has also taught as an Adjunct Professor. He also serves on the Advisory Board for the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University. Michael also serves on the Advisory Board of the Chicago Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society. Michael previously served as a Commissioner on the City of Evanston's Human Relations Commission. During his tenure at PILI, Michael has also handled pro bono matters through Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing and the National Immigrant Justice Center.
An active member of the American Bar Association (ABA), Michael is currently serving in the ABA's House of Delegates, the Standing Committee on Membership and the Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic. He is a past chair of the following ABA entities: the Section Officers Conference (SOC), the Judicial Division, the Lawyers Conference of the Judicial Division and the Young Lawyers Division. Michael is also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) where he serves on and is a past chair of the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, and serves on the Bench & Bar Section Council as its secretary, the Special Committee on the Rural Practice Initiative and the ISBA Assembly. He is also a member of the Chicago Bar Association, most recently having served as Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee.
Frequently recognized for his contributions to the bar and the public, Michael was named one of "40 Under 40 Illinois Attorneys to Watch" in 2013 by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company. Michael was the recipient of the 2011 Young Alumni Merit Award from The Catholic University of America. He was also the 2007 recipient of both the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from DePaul University College of Law and the Illinois State Bar Association Young Lawyer of the Year Award. Michael was also the 2005 recipient of the Kimball and Karen Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship from The Chicago Bar Foundation.
Michael attended The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Politics. He received his Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. Prior to joining PILI, he served as the Guardian Ad Litem Program Director for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. Before and during law school, Michael was a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. He is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Illinois, and before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Supreme Court of the United States.
Abigail Causer, Managing Attorney
Abigail joined PILI in April 2021 and is based in Champaign. She is responsible for helping PILI to expand and enhance pro bono legal assistance in the southern portion of Illinois by overseeing the work of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees, Illinois Free Legal Answers, and PILI’s participation in the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN) in that region. Most recently, she was an Assistant Public Defender with the Champaign County Public Defender’s Office. In law school, she was a 711 Intern with the Department of Children and Family Services, and both a Research Assistant for Professor Andrew Leipold and a 711 Senior Law Student at the Family Advocacy Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Law. Abigail received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Illinois State University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Ten Thousand Villages Champaign Store. Abigail is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Illinois.
Lauren Harper, Communications & Events Manager
Lauren has served as PILI's Communications & Events Manager since June 2017. She is responsible for developing and executing PILI's marketing and communications efforts, as well as planning and executing all of PILI's special events. Lauren originally joined PILI in March 2015 as the Development & Communications Associate. She attended Utah State University where she was an Undergraduate Research Fellow and co-authored an article titled "Understanding what it Means to Be Business-Like in the Nonprofit Sector: Toward a Communicative Explanation" published in November 2015. She served as an intern at Oxfam America, the Obama 2012 Campaign, and Autism Speaks.
Sang Yup Lee, Development Manager
Sang joined PILI in July 2017. He is responsible for PILI’s fundraising efforts with law firms, corporations, foundations and individuals. He previously worked as a Development Specialist at the Youth Leadership Academy in Elgin and as the Volunteer Engagement and Events Manager at Literacy DuPage in Naperville. Prior to law school, he worked as a paralegal for public defenders at The Defender Association in Seattle. He attended the University of Notre Dame for both undergraduate and law school, where he completed internships with St. Joseph County Public Defenders at the Juvenile Justice Center, Indiana Legal Services, Bet Tzekek Legal Services in North Hollywood, California, and the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic. He also worked as a Judicial Extern for the Honorable Judge Mary Yu of the Washington Superior Court in Seattle. Prior to transitioning to nonprofit development, Sang worked as an attorney for Progressive Law Group LLC in Chicago, where he concentrated his practice on class actions in consumer and employment rights matters. Sang is a Board Member of the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago and serves as Co-Chair of the Pro Bono Committee.
Brent Page, Senior Managing Attorney
Brent joined PILI in March 2017. He is responsible for the overall planning, organizing, implementation and evaluation for PILI’s programs statewide. He specifically manages the Law Student Internship Program, Graduate Fellowship Program and Alumni Network. He previously worked as the Supervising Attorney for Community Engagement at the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and as a staff attorney at Katz Law Office. While in law school, he completed several public interest law internships and fellowships including an internship at Equip from Equality, a Coles Fellowship at the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and a judicial externship for the Honorable Mary K. Rochford. He also worked with Family Rescue servicing victims of domestic violence in the court house. An Alumni of PILI’s Internship Program himself, Brent served as a PILI Law Student Intern at AIDS Legal Council, now known as Legal Council for Health Justice, in 2010. He received Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Michigan and his Juris Doctor from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Outside of work, Brent is an active volunteer with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS). He is a member of the Chicago Bar Association and also serves on the board of directors for the Bleeding Disorder Alliance Illinois. Brent is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Illinois.
Jessica Schneider, Managing Attorney
Jessica joined PILI in June 2020. She is responsible for helping PILI to expand and enhance pro bono legal assistance in the northern portion of Illinois by overseeing the work of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees, Illinois Free Legal Answers, and PILI’s participation in the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN) in that region. Prior to joining PILI, Jessica worked as a Staff Attorney in the Special Education Clinic at Equip for Equality. Before that, Jessica worked as a Staff Attorney at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for seven years, practicing in both their Fair Housing and Education Equity Projects. In law school, Jessica was a PILI Law Student Intern at MALDEF. She also interned at Chicago Legal Clinic and Centro de Derechos de la Mujer de Chiapas. She has been an active member of PILI’s Alumni Network Leadership Council, including having served as chair. Jessica has also volunteered with CARPLS and the Latino Union of Chicago, where she addressed wage theft issues for day laborers and other community members. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from Washington University in St Louis and her Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. Jessica a member of the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association, serving on its Special Committee on Racial Inequality. She is also a member and former board member of the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, a member of the DePaul Alumni Engagement Board, Associate Board member of Legal Prep Charter Academy, and a member of the inaugural cohort of the Racial Justice Institute by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, a groundbreaking program to further race-equity as an essential part of anti-poverty advocacy. In 2014, Jessica received the Chicago Bar Foundation Sun Times Public Interest Law Fellowship. In 2017, she completed the Chicago Bar Association Leadership Institute. Jessica is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Illinois.
Sophia Vagnone, Administrative Assistant
Sophia joined PILI as its Administrative Assistant in October 2019. She is responsible for providing administrative support to PILI staff and its programs. Sophia graduated with distinction in May 2019 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a Minor in Political Science. During college, she worked with a community restorative justice project and served as an intern with Street Democracy Legal Non-Profit. Sophia was drawn to PILI through her interest in public interest work and she is especially passionate about PILI’s mission.