Reducing barriers for people going to court without lawyers and making the court system more fair, accessible, and welcoming for everyone.

Court Advocacy Strategies

The CBF’s efforts to help people without lawyers include connecting people with referral information and self-help services, supporting court-based programs and services, and advocating for user-friendly court policies and procedures.

National studies show that more than 75% of civil court cases have at least one unrepresented party, making it more important than ever to make sure the legal system works for everyone.

Court Programs & Services

The CBF provides funding, coordination, and other support to court-based programs and services that expand access to legal assistance for people going to court without lawyers.


Cook County Legal Aid for Housing & Debt

CCLAHD provides a central legal hotline and free legal assistance, case management, and mediation for residents and landlords dealing with eviction issues, individuals with consumer debt issues, and homeowners facing foreclosure and tax deed issues.


Illinois JusticeCorps

An innovative program that recruits college students and recent graduates to help people without lawyers navigate the court system by providing referrals to legal aid, procedural information, and assistance with filling out and filing court documents.


Resource Center for People without Lawyers

A centralized hub of services to support people without lawyers, offering navigational assistance, information about court procedure, free consultations with lawyers, help finding and completing court forms, and referrals to legal aid and other service providers.

Help Desk Partners

A network of help desks based in courthouses throughout Cook County offer everything from quick advice before court to document preparation to limited scope representation, making them a lifeline for many self-represented litigants. Help desk services available in Cook County:

Municipal Court Advice Desk | CARPLS
Foreclosure Advice Desk | Greater Chicago Legal Clinic
Adult Guardianship Help Desk | Center for Disability & Elder Law
Mediation Services | Center for Conflict Resolution
Adult Expungement Help Desk | Cabrini Green Legal Aid
Domestic Violence Advocates | Ascend Justice
Administrative Hearings Advice Desk | CARPLS

Domestic Relations Advice Desk | CARPLS
Parentage & Child Support Advice Desk | Greater Chicago Legal Clinic
Minor Guardianship Help Desk | Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
Elder Justice Help Desk | Legal Aid Society
Juvenile Expungement Help Desk | Legal Aid Chicago
Bankruptcy Advice Desk | Legal Aid Chicago
Federal Court Help Desk |Legal Aid Chicago


Pro Se Advisory Committee

The CBF and the Circuit Court of Cook County jointly created the Pro Se Advisory Committee to bring together court stakeholders to support the growing number of people going to court without lawyers. The Committee is co-chaired by Judge Jill C. Marisie, Presiding Judge of the Third Municipal District and Judge Alison Conlon of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Through their leadership and the diverse experience and expertise of the Committee’s members, the Committee helps improve coordination and effectiveness of services for people without lawyers.


The CBF works collaboratively with state and federal courts, other government entities, the legal community, and legal and pro bono partners to coordinate referrals and services throughout the legal system and identify and address systemic challenges.

Chicago Bar Association

Circuit Court of Cook County

Cook County

City of Chicago

Illinois Supreme Court

Commission on Access to Justice

Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

Access to Justice Division

Illinois Judicial Conference

Illinois State Bar Association

Illinois Bar Foundation

Serve Illinois Commission

Federal Courts

National Center for State Courts

Cook County Sheriff’s Office

Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County