2021 – Michelle Gilbert

Michelle Gilbert has spent over 30 years in the legal aid community working in housing law. Most recently, Michelle joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing as their Legal and Policy Director, where she has been instrumental in a variety of local efforts to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on renters. Michelle leads the Chicago Covid-19 Eviction Prevention Project, partnered in the creation of the Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt’s Early Resolution Program, and advocated for a new state law designed to increase access to Emergency Rental Assistance funds. Michelle has also presented dozens of community legal education trainings during the pandemic and was also involved in drafting, negotiating, and securing passage of the Cook County Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance.

Michelle came to LCBH with three decades of experience at Legal Aid Chicago, both in the Housing Practice Group and as the Project Director of Legal Assistance Foundation’s HIV Project. She has undertaken a wide range of litigation on behalf of people with low incomes in the areas of housing, bankruptcy, health confidentiality, and discrimination. In 2018, she was recognized by the federal court for Excellence in Pro Bono Service. Michelle was also lead attorney in Cotton v. Alexian Brothers, which is the first decision to uphold due process rights of tenants in federally funded supportive housing for people living with HIV.

Michelle’s nomination was supported by letters from colleagues at several different legal aid organizations, illustrating Michelle’s reputation as someone who is always willing to answer questions, mentor new lawyers, and partner on projects.  As one legal aid colleague writes, “Michelle has become a professional mentor and very dear friend. While we don’t work at the same organizations, I know I can always rely on Michelle for insight when a case is troubling me.” Another colleague writes, “Whenever I question the value of my work, I find myself calling Michelle. Every interaction assures me on my ability to effect real changes in the lives of my clients and my community. After thirty years of service, countless legal aid attorneys would say the same of Michelle.”