Chicago is fortunate to have more than 30 impressive pro bono and legal aid organizations that collectively provide often critical legal services to more than 150,000 people in need in our community each year. The CBF has supported many of these organizations from the time of their inception, and virtually all of them for many years now.
What was missing before 2007, however, was a central means to raise awareness and funding for these vital services among individuals in Chicago’s legal community. Before then, the great majority of the legal community’s funding for this work came from law firms and companies, while individual lawyers and legal professionals sometimes struggled to learn how to get involved. As one legal aid executive director once put it, the pro bono and legal aid system would look like alphabet soup to someone who was not familiar with it (CARPLS, LAF, LAS, CVLS, CLC, etc.).
Happily, a group of visionary law firm and corporate leaders, together with the CBF, came up with the idea of an annual communitywide effort to address that challenge head on the CBF Investing in Justice Campaign. And our legal community responded in a big way, so much so that the Campaign has now become the largest initiative of its kind anywhere in the country.
Over the first twelve years of the Campaign, the number of participating firms and companies has more than quadrupled to the 153 law firms, corporations and other legal organizations that participated in the 2018 Campaign. During that time, the number of individuals contributing has more than tripled, and the annual amounts contributed have more than doubled 5,200 lawyers and legal professionals contributed more than $1.55 million this year.
Thanks to a number of CBF funding partnerships and the support of the participating law firms and companies, the individual contributions to this year’s Campaign made it possible for the CBF to give out over $2.3 million in grants and support to more than 30 pro bono and legal aid organizations and related initiatives. Most importantly, tens of thousands of low-income and disadvantaged people now receive much-needed legal services each year in the Chicago area thanks to the contributions to the Campaign.
Since its inception, the Campaign has raised more than $17 million, and leveraged millions more thanks to the CBF’s dedicated funding partners. The amounts that both law firms and individual lawyers and legal professionals contribute directly to these 30 legal aid organizations also have more than doubled since the Campaign started in 2007. The increased awareness the Campaign has created about the need for this work and the many great organizations doing it has played a key role in that parallel growth in support. The rising tide really has lifted all boats.
But our work is far from done. Too many people in our community still cannot get necessary legal help because there are not enough pro bono and legal aid services to go around. The good news is that thanks to the dedicated support of Chicago’s legal community, the Campaign continues to grow as a force for good to help close that gap, and is well-positioned for even greater impact in the future.