JEP Welcomes Senator Durbin

September 22, 2015

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On September 18, Senator Richard Durbin visited the office of the Justice Entrepreneurs Project, an incubator for lawyers to start their own socially-conscious law practices. At his speech at the 2015 ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards luncheon in August, the Senator had highlighted the JEP as an example of an innovative approach to closing the civil justice gap. Wanting to see the project in person, he visited the JEP office to interact with JEP participants and alumni, and in turn, share his personal experiences as a civil practice lawyer.

SONY DSCEager to learn about the ins and outs of the program, Durbin inquired about the challenges of starting up a practice and some of the alternative practice models they have incorporated, like fixed fees. Durbin also asked how larger societal issues, such as immigration and the need for affordable legal services for refugees, have impacted their practices. JEP participant Daissy Dominguez shared that she goes out into the community with other organizations to set up up legal clinics and educational legal workshops. JEP lawyers also showcased their broad range of practices, from landlord/tenant to public benefits to small business and more.

Durbin shared memories of his time at a legal aid clinic early on in his career, connecting with JEP participants who, as part of the program, complete 20 hours of pro bono a week at various legal aid organizations for the first six months.

SONY DSCThe JEP’s goal is to expand legal services to a sizable population: people who make too much to qualify for free legal aid but can’t afford to pay traditional firm rates. At the same time, newer lawyers receive training, resources and support to reinvent the traditional law practice and take an entrepreneurial path into the legal profession. Many generous CBF partners are providing significant pro bono and in-kind donations to provide much of that training and support, and the JEP connects participants to a vast network of experience and expertise.