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 2022. 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
  • Committed to providing access to justice and using the practice of law to enrich the lives of legal consumers and build better communities
  • 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)
  • Have graduated from law school in the last ten years (the program is intended for lawyers eager to innovate and advance the profession, not those entrenched in traditional practice models; exceptions to the graduation year guideline are made on a case-by-case basis)
  • Commit to 18 months of active participation in the JEP, and plan to continue practicing after participation

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
  • The ability to collaborate with peers and other successful practitioners

About the JEP Program

Participants in the JEP develop their practices while receiving training, mentoring, and other support on business and legal issues as well as space and other infrastructure as they get started.  The 18-month program is broken into three 6-month modules.  In the first module, participants perform pro bono or paid work approximately 20 hours per week with partner legal aid organizations and law firms.  Throughout that time, participants receive training, workshops, and coaching on business and other issues needed to start a solo/small practice.  Participants establish their own independent practices (including providing their own malpractice insurance), begin handling cases in areas traditionally needed by middle-income legal consumers, and strive to offer predictable and set fee models for their services.  During the second and third modules, participants develop fuller caseloads and continue to receive training, mentoring, and coaching on business and legal issues as they prepare to move their practices out of the JEP at the end of the 18 months.  Participants pay a participation fee of $300 per month during the last 12 months of the program. 

Application Process

Information sessions to learn more about the program will be held on October 18, 2021, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and October 27, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Interest applicants can attend both sessions in-person or via zoom. You can register for an info session here. To apply, please submit your application packet to Jessica Bednarz, Associate Director of Innovation & the JEP, at jbednarz@chicagobarfoundation.org. Application packets must include (1) a resume, (2) a copy of your law school transcript, and (3) a statement of interest of no more than 3 pages describing (a) your vision for your practice (including practice areas and target markets) and your participation in the JEP, and (b) a circumstance when you have demonstrated entrepreneurial initiative or another experience that demonstrates your ability to be a successful social entrepreneur.  Please apply by no later than November 5, 2021 to be considered for the next JEP cohort. 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 10, 2022 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, Director of Innovation & the JEP, at 312.546.9939 or jbednarz@chicagobarfoundation.org.