Our Blog


August 22, 2018

A Roadmap to Resources in the Courts

Throughout the thirty floors and 120 court and hearing rooms of the Richard J. Daley Center, you can frequently hear court patrons asking the same question over and over again, Where do I go? The building is big, the largest courthouse in the state, and it can seem overwhelming with its multiple elevator banks and unclear signage.  While many helpful resources are located in the building, its sheer size and scale can make it challenging to keep track of who they are and what they do. Court patrons in a need of a specific service may not be able to find it easily, and Illinois JusticeCorps volunteers can’t cover the entire building.

The CBF saw an opportunity to improve the navigation process within the building by working with the Circuit Court of Cook County Pro Se Advisory Committee to develop a referral sheet for people without lawyers.

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August 20, 2018

A Central Place to Start the Often Daunting Court Journey

A little legal help can go a long way. That’s the idea behind the network of court-based help desks located throughout Chicago and Cook County that serve tens of thousands of people every year. Lawyers and other legal professionals can quickly triage a court patron’s situation and determine what level of help he or she might need. Depending on the desk and the situation, that help can range from brief advice to forms preparation to a referral for full pro bono representation.

In the spring of 2014, the CBF, in collaboration with the Circuit Court and several pro bono and legal aid organizations, reached a milestone in its long-term efforts to make the court system more user-friendly and accessible by opening the Resource Center for People without Lawyers.

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August 17, 2018

What’s in a Name?

Many know the CBF works with the courts, the legal community, and pro bono and legal aid organizations to ensure that the courts are user-friendly, accessible, and fair for the increasing number of people navigating the legal system without lawyers. What is less known, however, is that work sometimes takes us to Springfield to advocate for changes in the laws that have made the court system unduly complicated in the first place.

While many changes can be implemented at the court level, others are embedded in the fabric of our laws. Several years ago, the CBF recognized that there was a unique opportunity for us to include these kinds of simplification efforts in our annual advocacy plan. But where to start?

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August 16, 2018

Pointing the Way to the Right Legal Help

We are fortunate in Chicago to have a robust and committed pro bono and legal aid community, with more than thirty organizations offering free or affordable legal help to people who would otherwise have nowhere to turn. While there is not nearly enough help to go around for everyone who needs it, people looking for help still struggle to figure out how and where to start their search. Upon seeing a list of the many excellent pro bono and legal aid organizations serving the Chicago area, people often describe it as alphabet soup and can find it overwhelming.

The CBF saw a need for a better way to connect people with the valuable free and low-cost legal resources in our community. Almost two decades ago, the CBF worked with the CBA Young Lawyers Section, CARPLS and other partners to create the original version of Where to Go for Legal Assistance in or Around Chicago.

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August 15, 2018

Our Profession’s Losing Battle Against the Market

By any definition, we have a failure in the market for legal services for everyday people today, and a growing one at that. We have more lawyers than ever before at the same time as record numbers of people who need or would benefit from legal help are not getting it. Yet when faced with proposed changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct to address this market failure, the default response of our profession is to fight to maintain a losing status quo perhaps making some technical changes but avoiding the larger issues.

Lipstick on a pig, as the saying goes, when what we really need is a new regulatory approach that does not force lawyers to compete in the market with one hand tied behind their backs.

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August 15, 2018

Shannon Glover Awarded 2018 Marovitz Scholarship

Shannon Glover, an incoming first-year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, was recently awarded the 2018 CBF Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship. The 16th CBF Marovitz Scholar in the program’s history, Shannon joins an impressive group of future and practicing lawyers who are passionate about helping vulnerable people in our community get the legal help they need.

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August 14, 2018

Seeding Innovation in the Practice of Law

Flash back to 2010, a time few of us would look back on fondly. Our legal community was in the full throes of the recession, with the job market for newer lawyers in tatters and more people than ever in need of legal help yet unable to get it.

Never let a good crisis go to waste was a quote often heard from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel around the time, and the CBF did not. The CBF saw a prime opportunity to tackle this growing dysfunction in the legal market and began the work that ultimately led to the launch of the CBF Justice Entrepreneurs Project in early 2013.

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August 10, 2018

CBF Grants: A Legacy of Impact

In the 70 years since its founding, the CBF has given out nearly $50 million in grants to support pro bono, legal aid and related initiatives, and more than $42 million since 1999.

Over that time, the CBF has honed its grantmaking focus around access to justice and expanded its grantmaking partnerships with other foundations, the courts, and government entities. More than 5,200 individual donors, more than 200 law firms, corporations and other law-related organizations, and the CBF’s many dedicated partners have enabled the CBF to increase our annual grants more than tenfold over the past 20 years. Today, the CBF awards over $2 million in grants, investing in the entire pro bono and legal aid system in our community.

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August 8, 2018

The CBF Marovitz Scholarship: Helping Future Legal Aid Leaders

“Everybody can’t do big things, but we all can do little things that help others.”

That phrase was one of the trademarks of the late Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, both in word and deed. Throughout his distinguished life and career, Judge Marovitz, or Judge Abe to the many who knew him, was a firm believer that financial need should not be a bar to dedicated young students who want to pursue careers in public service.

As we celebrate the CBF’s 70th Anniversary, we look back to a little thing Judge Marovitz did to help aspiring law students pursue their dreams of helping others–the CBF Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law School Scholarship. First awarded in 2004, the Marovitz Scholarship was made possible by a generous planned gift by Judge Marovitz.

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August 6, 2018

A Pro Bono Checklist for Success

A good pro bono program takes work to develop, maintain, and improve. It requires a lot of planning to ensure it meets the needs of the client population, fills a gap in existing resources, and incorporates feedback from all stakeholders. It should have clear criteria for screening cases and a plan for periodic review and adjustment to reflect changes in the community, the law, or the courts.

If that sounds like a lot to think about, that’s because it is. Fortunately, the CBF has created a tool to help organizations looking to establish new pro bono programs to think through these and the many other issues that are critical to designing and implementing a successful program.

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