2012 – Adela Carlin
Adela Carlin began her legal career at LAF, where she still works today. She currently serves as the Director of LAF’s innovative Community Engagement Unit (CEU), which was built upon a model Adela had employed in her casework. The CEU is charged with mobilizing outreach and working with community organizations throughout LAF’s service area to ensure that the organization is accessible to people in need across Cook County. Adela has been instrumental in establishing and sustaining relationships with leading community-based organizations, government offices, and courts. She supervises a team of attorneys and staff who develop and provide presentations and trainings to clients, community-based organizations, and service providers on a variety of legal issues. In addition, the CEU coordinates and staffs several community legal clinics that provide education and advice to empower individuals and strengthen communities. Under Adela’s leadership, the CEU has enlisted hundreds of community partners in the cause of equal access to justice and touched the lives of thousands of people living in poverty.
Prior to being named the Director of Community Engagement, Adela worked for over ten years as a staff attorney and later as a senior attorney at LAF, during which time her work focused primarily on advocating for victims of domestic violence. She was recognized as a leader in domestic violence work across the agency.
Adela’s early years played a significant role in shaping her career path. Adela and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a child. Growing up in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, Adela recounts that she decided to go to college and then law school because she knew that education was the only way to counter poverty and violence. Adela attended college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – she was the first member of her family to graduate from college – and received her law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2000. With the goal of helping communities like Little Village, Adela pursued a career in public interest law. As a Latina attorney, she felt compelled to include community legal education in every aspect of her work. It was this philosophy that ultimately inspired the creation of the CEU.
As a result of her extraordinary efforts and accomplishments advocating for low-income individuals and families, Adela was awarded a CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowship in 2012, a financial award that will help meet her law school loan obligations. “I cried when I got the call because up until that moment, I did not know how I would ever finish paying my law school loans. This award has changed our family and allowed me to think about the future in ways I couldn’t imagine possible.”