Apply to the JEP

The CBF Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) is an incubator program empowering lawyers to lead socially conscious law firms and innovative businesses that offer valuable, cost-effective legal services and products to consumers of all incomes. We believe in the power of entrepreneurial lawyers to make a difference as solo practitioners in the quest to ensure access to justice for all. 

Are you a lawyer interested in obtaining the skills and resources necessary to build an innovative and successful law practice targeting the middle market? Are you interested in making a positive impact on your community as a social entrepreneur? Do you value autonomy and wellbeing? If yes, then the JEP might be a good fit for you. The JEP is currently seeking applications for its next class of participants who will begin the program in January of 2023. Additional information about the JEP, including the JEP’s mission and goals, is available at www.chicagobarfoundation.org/jep.

About JEP Participants

JEP is seeking lawyers who are:

  • Seeking autonomy and are enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming a social entrepreneur
  • Dedicated to establishing a long-term practice that serves the legal needs of people of all incomes, including the middle market
  • Excited to use set fee structures (e.g., fixed fees by task/phase/case, subscription fees, fee shifting, etc.) in the delivery of legal services to provide price transparency and accessibility to legal consumers
  • Interested in using technology and innovation to find new ways of providing cost-effective legal services
  • Excited to explore new ideas about problem-solving and the practice of law by using a collaborative approach with other program lawyers, leaders in the legal profession, community partners, and clients

Participants must:

  • Have an entrepreneurial spirit and, preferably, a track record of entrepreneurial, innovative, or creative activity
  • Have a demonstrated commitment to public service and access to justice
  • Have the ability to learn and apply new skills in high-need areas of law and inspire confidence in clients and the legal community
  • Have work experience indicating an aptitude for successfully operating your own business
  • Be creative, flexible, and adaptable to changing circumstances
  • Be a member of the Illinois bar in good standing at the start of the program (those who have taken the IL bar exam and are awaiting exam results may apply; acceptance into the program will be conditioned on passing the bar exam and being admitted to practice)
  • Commit to 18 months of active participation in the JEP, and plan to continue practicing after participation
  • Have a plan and resources that provide financial stability as you develop their client base and firm

Those chosen to participate in the program will receive:

  • Top-notch training on substance, skills, and law practice management
  • Expert coaching and assistance on business issues including business development
  • Mentoring from experienced and respected practitioners, including JEP alumni
  • A structured pro-bono or paid program providing hands-on legal experience and a better understanding of the legal aid community and the legal service delivery system in Chicagoland
  • Shared office space in a collaborative environment that fosters innovation and peer mentoring
  • Practice resources including law practice management technology and legal research tools
  • Access to a variety of helpful networks through the CBA, CBF, and other partners
  • Access to referrals coming through the JEP referral platform to help you build your client base
  • The ability to collaborate with peers and other successful practitioners

About the JEP Program

Participants in the JEP develop independent practices (including providing their own malpractice insurance) while receiving training, mentoring, and other support on business and legal issues as well as space and other infrastructure as they get started.  During the first six months of the program, participants attend a two-week boot camp and weekly trainings thereafter on how to launch a law firm. They will also begin handling cases and start their structured pro bono or paid program with a partner legal aid organization or law firm. This component of the program provides hands-on legal experience and a better understanding of the legal aid community and the legal service delivery system in Chicago. The time commitment and program structure varies and will range between 180 and 416 total hours depending on the participant’s practice experience and situation at the start of the program. During the last twelve months of the program, participants develop fuller caseloads, continue to receive training, mentoring, and coaching as they prepare to move their practices out of the JEP upon graduation, and pay a participation fee of $300 per month.

Info Sessions

Information sessions to learn more about the program are held monthly. The next info sessions are scheduled for 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Central Time on October 17, 2022 (virtual), and for 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time on October 25, 2022 (hybrid). You can register for the info sessions here.

Application Process

We currently welcome new classes in January and June each year. We are now accepting applications for the January 2023 class and will continue to accept applications through November 4, 2022.

You can apply for the program using this google form. Applications consist of (1) a resume, (2) a law school transcript, (3) a statement of interest of no more than four pages describing (a) your vision for your life and how your business will help you achieve your life vision and goals, (b) your vision for your practice (including practice areas and target markets) and your participation in the JEP, and (c) a circumstance when you have demonstrated entrepreneurial initiative or another experience that demonstrates your ability to be a successful social entrepreneur, and (4) a lean business plan.

Two rounds of interviews will be held between mid-November and early December. Selections will be made at least three weeks prior to the January 9, 2023 start date.


Participation in the JEP creates an immediate positive impact on the community through participants’ pro bono work and provision of affordable legal services. The JEP ultimately hopes to create long-term community impact by incubating law practices that will operate over the long-term. If your ultimate goal is job placement rather than creating your own law practice, please do not pursue participation in the JEP.

Testimonials

“Starting my own law firm was always a dream of mine since entering law school however I had no idea where to begin to get that dream off the ground. JEP set me up with the tools and mentorship that allowed me to turn that dream into a reality. As I am now two years into owning and operating my own law firm, I am beyond thankful for the JEP network.”

Chelsea Herring, Found of Gaddis-Herring Legal Solutions, LLC (May 2019 cohort)

“Being part of the JEP has been one of the most foundational experiences of my professional career. The community fosters an environment for innovation and disruption but is incredibly supportive of both successes and failures. I truly do not think I would still have my own firm five years later had it not been for the JEP.”

Roya Samarghandi, Founder of Carmel Law, LLC (November 2015 cohort)

“JEP was instrumental in giving me the basic tools and mindset to grow my firm as a business. The trainings covered the wide categories, from technology, sales and marketing to financials, employees/contractors and systems.”

Rob Harrer, Founder of Chicago Consumer Law Center, P.C. (November 2014 cohort)

“JEP was an answered prayer at a time when I knew what I wanted to do with my law degree but didn’t know how to get there. JEP offered me the opportunity of a lifetime and now I have my dream career and I live out my goals daily.”

Chlece Walker-Neal-Murray, Co-Founder of Chicago Advocate Legal, NFP (November 2014 cohort)

For more information, contact Jessica Bednarz, Associate Director of Innovation & the JEP, at 312.546.9939 or jbednarz@chicagobarfoundation.org.