Court-Based Legal Advice Desks


For individuals coming to court without representation, having access to a lawyer who can give them some quick legal advice and assistance is critical. A lawyer can “triage” the situation the person is facing by helping them understand their legal problem, giving them brief advice, assistance with forms and other resources, and referring them to pro bono and legal aid lawyers when appropriate and available. Experience has shown that a little bit of legal advice and assistance can go a long way, and may even be the amount of assistance needed to solve the problem, for many people coming to court on their own.

The CBF has worked with the courts, pro bono and legal aid organizations, the CBA, and other stakeholders to establish a network of 13 legal advice desks to serve people without lawyers in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the federal court, the bankruptcy court, immigration court and the City of Chicago’s Department of Administrative Hearings that collectively serve more than 50,000 people each year.

Lawyers at these desks help unrepresented people with a wide variety of matters, including mortgage foreclosure, bankruptcy, consumer, landlord/tenant, guardianship, custody and child support, expungement, and debt collection. These desks provide unrepresented individuals with access to face-to-face services from attorneys who can offer them advice, limited legal assistance and resources to help them represent themselves in less complex matters (e.g., videos, online tutorials and forms).