Frequently Asked Questions

Why the Campaign?
What is the Investing in Justice Campaign?

The Investing in Justice Campaign is The Chicago Bar Foundation’s annual initiative where the entire legal community comes together around our common cause as a legal profession: helping to ensure that everyone has access to necessary legal help, not just people who can afford it. 100% of individual contributions to the Campaign directly support the work of more than 30 pro bono and legal aid organizations and related initiatives, enabling them to provide critical legal assistance to tens of thousands of people in need. All contributions are tax-deductible and can be counted for purposes of the Illinois Supreme Court Pro Bono Reporting Rule.

Thousands of individual lawyers and legal professionals at law firms and corporations throughout the Chicago area have participated in the Campaign over the past fourteen years, collectively contributing more than $18 million to support the work of our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations and their dedicated attorneys. Those contributions have leveraged millions more in additional funding for this work though matching contributions and the CBF’s grants process.

Why is the Campaign necessary?

There are three underlying premises for the Campaign. First, while we all support a wide variety of worthy causes, ensuring that all people in our community have equal access to the justice system is our common cause as lawyers. If we as a legal community don’t take the lead in this cause, who will?

Second, while our collective efforts help tens of thousands of people get critical legal assistance, the need is still great: of the more than 600,000 low-income people in the Chicago area who will face a legal problem this year, less than half will be able to get legal help due to a lack of capacity.

Finally, while we all have important roles to play as individuals (doing pro bono work, providing direct support to the many outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations serving our community, advocating for proper government funding for legal aid), we can make a big impact by coming together as a legal community through the Campaign in a way that none of us could on our own.

How much need is there for pro bono and legal aid services in our community?

There are now about 1.2 million low-income Cook County residents—about 1 in 4 people in the Chicago area—who are eligible for legal aid services. Studies have shown that about half of the people who qualify for legal aid will have a civil legal need over the course of a given year. That means we can expect more than 600,000 low-income people in the Chicago area to have a legal need this year. However, due to limited capacity, more than half of low-income and disadvantage people who seek legal assistance that is often critical to their safety and independence will be turned away and left to solve complex legal problems on their own. Many thousands of moderate-income people who don’t qualify for free legal aid but can’t afford traditional legal help will face similar challenges.

Who are the people who depend on our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations?

The people who depend on our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations include women and children victimized by domestic violence; veterans facing immediate legal issues in returning to their jobs and families after serving our country; seniors who are struggling due to predatory lending and other consumer fraud; and many other vulnerable people in our community.

Why is it called “Investing in Justice”?

“Investing in Justice” is not just a catchy title for the Campaign. Contributions to the Campaign truly are a great investment.

  • Studies consistently show that in contested matters in court, the outcome often turns on whether or not a low-income or disadvantaged person has representation. Some findings from studies include:
    • Domestic Violence. Domestic violence survivors represented by an attorney are 2½ times more likely to be successful in obtaining a protective order than those who do not have a lawyer.
    • Eviction. Tenants represented by a lawyer were six times more likely than unrepresented ones to win in court. Generally, almost 90% of landlords are represented by a lawyer, while less than 10% of tenants have representation.
    • Debt Collection. A defendant with a lawyer was four times more likely to prevail in a debt collection case than a defendant who was unrepresented. Represented defendants secured a settlement in nearly 25% of the cases, compared to 6.4% for unrepresented defendants.
    • Special Education. In special education due process hearings, without a lawyer, the parent and child won only 20% of the time. With representation, that number rose to 50%.
    • Unaccompanied Immigrant Children. In almost half of the cases in which a child had a lawyer in immigration court, the court allowed the child to stay in the United States. When children appeared in immigration court without a lawyer, nine out of ten were ordered deported.
    • Asylum. The single greatest factor that affects whether an asylum seeker wins or loses in immigration court is whether the applicant has a lawyer. Over the course of a year, only 11% of those without legal representation were granted asylum; with legal representation, the odds rose to 54%.
  • A major recent study confirms that legal representation for low-income people has a number of other benefits, improving the experience for the litigants and significantly increasing court efficiency at the same time.
    • In landlord/tenant matters and contested child custody cases, legal representation dramatically improves court efficiencies and outcomes for low-income people. Representation by an attorney significantly increases the likelihood of settlement in eviction cases and the longevity of court orders in child custody cases, resulting in lower court costs and more family stability.
  • Legal aid in Illinois produces an almost 2:1 economic return on investment according to a comprehensive Illinois study. The study’s limited sampling of organizations alone produced economic benefits of more than $70 million in a year.
    • By obtaining protective orders, divorces, child custody and legal recognition for domestic violence victims, a sampling of legal aid programs in the study saved $9.4 million in other costs that otherwise would have been required had they not received that legal help.
    • By assisting clients with foreclosures, evictions or other housing issues, just a small sample of legal aid programs avoided $1.9 million in costs related to homelessness.
Why is this so important right now?

As lawyers and legal professionals, we uniquely understand the importance of having an advocate and the very different outcomes for those who have access to legal assistance and those who do not. Whether low-income and disadvantaged people have access to the legal help they need could mean the difference between shelter and homelessness; medical assistance and unnecessary physical suffering; food on a family’s table and hunger; economic stability and bankruptcy; productive work and unemployment.

How will my contribution make a difference?
I support a lot of other good causes, why should I also support the Campaign?

While we are all asked to support a number of worthy causes throughout the year, this is our one common cause as a legal community. The justice system is our “home turf” as a profession, and we have both the responsibility and the power to make a real difference in our community through the Campaign. If we as lawyers and legal professionals don’t take the lead in this cause, no one else will.

I already contribute generously to the CBF. Why should I also support the Campaign?

The Campaign is just one part of the CBF’s work and 100% of every individual donation to the Campaign goes directly to support our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations and related initiatives. But the CBF also plays a lead role in advocacy in the courts and at all levels of government and develops new and innovative solutions for access to justice which has been all the more important over the last year. Your support of the CBF is what makes this critical systemic work possible.

How will my contribution to the Campaign make a difference?

The Campaign is a unique opportunity to invest in the entire pro bono and legal aid system serving our community with one contribution and make an impact that none of us could on our own. With one gift to the Campaign, you support our community’s many outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations; make it possible for pro bono attorneys and market-based efforts to most effectively supplement the work of the overstretched legal aid lawyers; and underwrite innovative projects that make our justice system more user-friendly and accessible for people in need.

While it might not seem like your individual contribution could make a real difference, even a $100 contribution makes it possible for several people in need to get brief legal advice and assistance that often is enough to resolve their issue, and larger contributions enable people in our community to get help with more complex legal problems.

When your contribution is combined with thousands of other supporters of the Campaign, the collective impact is even more impressive. The pool of funds raised by the Campaign enables the CBF to directly leverage more than $700,000 in additional funding from the CBF’s government and foundation grant partnerships while improving the overall pro bono and legal aid system for everyone’s benefit.

Why shouldn’t I just donate directly to one of the organizations supported by the Campaign?

The Campaign is not a replacement for what we do as individual lawyers, law firms and corporations to support this cause; rather, it is recognition that by coming together as a legal community we have a unique opportunity to make an impact we could not with individual donations.

In addition to 100% of every dollar of your individual donation to the Investing in Justice Campaign going directly to support these organizations and related initiatives, your contribution has an even greater impact:

  • Your contribution leverages more than $700,000 in additional funding for this work through the CBF’s government and foundation grant partnerships that would not otherwise be available to the organizations supported by the Campaign.
  • Your contribution benefits from the CBF’s rigorous grants process, which strategically allocates funds to make the biggest difference for people in need. Afterwards, the CBF also ensures accountability and cooperation among organizations to maximize the impact of your investment for the long term.
I already do pro bono work, isn’t that enough?

Your commitment to doing pro bono work is a critical part of your role as a trustee of the justice system, and we commend you for it. For pro bono to be effective, however, we need strong pro bono and legal aid organizations as partners, and investing in their work by providing financial backing and other support is a necessary complement to doing pro bono work. These organizations provide the necessary infrastructure to support pro bono work for area lawyers and legal professionals, including client screening, referral, training and support functions for volunteers. Legal aid programs also provide critical legal assistance to the most vulnerable members of our community in matters where specialization and expertise is necessary and pro bono is not a practical solution.

How will the CBF use my contribution to the Campaign?

100% of individual Campaign contributions again will directly support the work of more than 30 pro bono and legal aid organizations and related initiatives that make an impact in a variety of ways: strengthening our community’s many outstanding legal aid organizations; making it possible for pro bono attorneys and market-based efforts to most effectively supplement the work of their legal aid counterparts; and making the justice system more user-friendly and accessible for people in need.

How is it that 100% of my individual contribution goes directly to provide this support?

There are two ways the CBF is able to ensure that 100% of individual contributions go directly to support our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations and related initiatives. First, the Campaign Chair’s firm is donating tremendous amounts of pro bono and in-kind resources for the Campaign toolkits and meetings, plus other Campaign participants and partners make generous volunteer and in-kind contributions as well.

Second, participating firms, companies, and organizations in the Campaign also are making matching contributions that enable the CBF to donate all of the necessary staff, costs and infrastructure to carry out the Campaign and its associated grants process. If you donate online, you also will have the opportunity to cover the costs of your credit card processing—one of the larger administrative expenses in the Campaign—that can then be used for the CBF’s broader systemic work.

How does the CBF decide where and how the Campaign funds are distributed?
What kinds of CBF grants are made possible by the Campaign?

About 2/3 of the money raised in the Campaign goes towards general operating support grants to more than 30 pro bono and legal aid organizations providing important legal services in our community.

  • This type of funding is critical to the success of any good nonprofit organization and typically is the hardest money for them to raise, which is why it is prioritized in the Campaign.
  • Through the CBF’s comprehensive grants process, Campaign donors collectively help establish standards and best practices for all pro bono and legal aid organizations receiving funds while at the same time helping to ensure coordination and accountability.

The remaining funds from the Campaign go towards a variety of project grants and related initiatives that accomplish more targeted objectives like maximizing the impact of pro bono in meeting community needs, developing market-based solutions that complement legal aid, and improving access to the courts through advice desks and related programs.

  • The collective impact of the Campaign contributions makes it possible to invest in and advance proven solutions to move the system forward through these project grants.
  • These project grants are able to leverage hundreds of thousands in additional support as well. Of the roughly $630,000 from last year’s Campaign that went towards project grants, the CBF was able to leverage more than $700,000 in additional matching funding from local and national foundations and government entities.

More detailed information is available in the grants section on the CBF website.

How does the CBF decide which organizations receive grants with the Campaign funds?

The CBF has a comprehensive grant screening and evaluation process that carefully vets pro bono and legal aid organizations before they receive grant funding. The CBF grants process is carried out by a highly-regarded board of lawyers and judges who are broadly representative of Chicago’s legal community with the assistance of CBF staff with widely recognized expertise on these issues. The CBF grants process ensures accountability and strategically allocates the Campaign funds to maximize impact; leverages additional support from government and other sources; and promotes best practices on common issues and collective challenges facing pro bono and legal aid organizations.

The CBF looks at issues like the organization’s leadership; its management and governance practices; the strength of its attorney and non-attorney staff; its strategic plan; and how the organization fits into the broader pro bono and legal aid system. For special projects and initiatives, the CBF also looks at additional factors such as whether the organization is well suited to carry out the particular project and whether it is coordinating with other relevant stakeholders.

More information on the CBF’s grant process and recent grants can be found by visiting the grants section of the CBF website.

How broad is the impact of the work supported by the Campaign?

The grants made possible by the Campaign provide funding for a comprehensive range of services to many thousands of people in need for a wide variety of legal issues.

Those receiving services as a result of Campaign grants include domestic violence victims; people at risk of wrongfully or unnecessarily losing their homes; immigrants fleeing persecution and abuse; and many other low-income and disadvantaged people in the Chicago area in critical need of legal assistance.

The Campaign grants fund a continuum of services to these people in need, ranging from web-based information and resources; legal aid hotlines, advice desks and clinics; extended representation; and significant advocacy and impact litigation.

Can I designate my Campaign contribution to support a particular organization?

We cannot designate your contribution to an individual program. However, all of the major pro bono and legal aid organizations providing legal services in the Chicago area will directly benefit from your contribution. The Campaign’s overarching goal is to move the entire pro bono and legal aid system forward, and by coming together through the Campaign we make an impact none of us could on our own.

Questions about Tax-Deductibility, Reporting and Acknowledgement
Is my contribution tax-deductible?

Yes, your contribution to the Campaign is a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the maximum extent permitted by law.

Does my contribution count as a qualifying contribution when I’m filling out my ARDC registration form?

Yes, you can include your Campaign contribution when you are filling out your annual ARDC registration form under Supreme Court Rule 756(f).

Will I receive a formal acknowledgement of my contribution?

Yes, every contribution to the Campaign makes a big difference and will be formally acknowledged by the CBF. If you make an online contribution you will receive an electronic acknowledgement right away. If you mail us a check or other physical donation, we will email you a tax-acknowledgment but please note that there may be some delay. We have a small staff at the CBF and logistically it takes a lot of time and effort to properly track and acknowledge all of the generous contributions we receive in the Campaign especially with limited staff presence in our office. We appreciate your patience, and please do not hesitate to contact us if for any reason you need your acknowledgement sooner.

How do you recognize your donors?

There are thousands of worthy causes to support in Chicago, but we are sincerely grateful to our 5,200+ supporters who choose to invest in justice every year. Recognizing donor participation is critical to the success and growth of the Investing in Justice Campaign, therefore we want to celebrate all our donors while highlighting those who go above and beyond when making their gift. Our complete list of donors will be shared on our website and in affiliated publications. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please contact Emme Veenbaas.

The CBF will not disclose the amount of your donation to anyone. Your Campaign Vice Chairs may be notified of the fact that you made a donation for participation tracking purposes, but it is entirely up to you whether you want to share the specific amount. The Chicago Bar Foundation fully respects and is committed to protecting your privacy and has a formal privacy policy in place.

Where can I find out more about the Campaign?

For more information, contact Sang Yup Lee, Director of Development, at 312.554.8303 or