A diverse group of more than 1,000 leaders and advocates from throughout the country and beyond came together in Chicago last week to exchange ideas, challenges and best practices for access to justice at the annual Equal Justice Conference. Co-sponsored by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the conference was held in Chicago this year for the first time, giving an opportunity to showcase some of the great work happening here around these issues. The CBF helped to lead the local host committee co-chaired by John Levi and Lee Miller which presented local programming, hosted a gathering for conference attendees at Goose Island Brewery, and made it possible for more than 35 local legal aid advocates to attend without cost to their organizations.
There were more than 85 sessions with CLE-accredited programming, addressing various issues surrounding pro bono, legal aid and access to justice for people in need. We were proud to present on some of the important work happening here with our dedicated colleagues in the Chicago pro bono and legal aid community and our partners in the courts.
- Pro Bono. Kelly Tautges, CBF Director of Pro Bono & Court Advocacy, presented programs on several key CBF initiatives relating to pro bono. Chief Judge of the Northern District Ruben Castillo and the Clerk of the Court Tom Bruton joined Kelly, Greg McConnell and Alan Mills to highlight the innovative continuum of service in the Northern District, and the current work to improve and connect those programs. Kelly joined LAF’s Kate Shank to present on evaluating the value to pro bono programs to legal aid organizations. Kelly and Julia Wilson of OneJustice in California talked about an ongoing project to improve how we communicate about pro bono opportunities. And Kelly offered the CBF’s Pro Bono Checklist as a tool for experienced pro bono managers at a beyond-the-basics session.
- Developing Relationships. CBF super-volunteer Deb Knupp presented on the sales skills that all pro bono professionals need, a perspective very much appreciated by attendees.
- Connection between Pro Bono and Giving. CBF President Allegra Nethery and CBF Executive Director Bob Glaves joined Ben Weinberg and Colorado’s Jonathan Asher to present strategies for increasing pro bono, giving, and other support from lawyers and law firms in private practice.
- 100% Access. Bob participated with other high-profile access to justice leaders in a panel discussion on the national Justice for All Project, an effort to define and achieve meaningful access to justice, building on the Conference of Chief Judges Resolution 5, which affirms commitment to 100% access.
- Cy Pres. Bob, Amy Sings In The Timber (CBF Director of Donor Relations), and Bill Boies talked about best practices for developing and maintaining a campaign to obtain cy pres awards.
- JEP. Leaders from across the country were able to see the CBF’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project in action both through a tour of the space and a program presented by JEP alumni attorneys.
- Court Tour. Participants in the Self-Represented Litigants Network visited the Circuit Court of Cook County Resource Center for People without Lawyers. They toured the space, met supervisors from three of the Center’s major legal advice desks, and saw the tools that the CBF creates to coordinate services, such as the Referral Pad. Illinois JusticeCorps members guided the tour and impressed everyone with their knowledge of the courthouse and dedication to access to justice and the AmeriCorps service program.
Many more pro bono and legal aid organizations based in Chicago were able to present on important local initiatives and/or host tours. There were also several inspiring local keynote speakers, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and legal legend Newt Minow.
The CBF is honored to have helped host this important conference and to work alongside such inspiring professionals in the fight for equal access to justice.