Chicago Legal Community Rallies Around Fundamental and Unifying Principle of Equal Access to Justice

The 11th Annual Investing in Justice Campaign Kicks Off with Drinker Biddle’s Jesse Ruiz Taking the Lead

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Thousands of individual attorneys and legal professionals at more than 150 area law firms and companies are participating in the 2017 CBF Investing in Justice Campaign, which raises awareness and critical funding for pro bono and legal aid services in the Chicago area. Chaired this year by Jesse Ruiz, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, the Campaign officially kicked off with an evening reception for Campaign leaders at Drinker Biddle’s Chicago office on March 6th. The Campaign runs throughout the month of March.

CBF President Chuck Smith and 2017 Campaign Chair Jesse Ruiz

I am humbled and proud to serve as this year’s Investing in Justice Campaign Chair, said Ruiz. In this time of change where our country is divided on so many issues, it is more essential than ever that all of us in the legal community come together around the ideal that unifies our profession: that everyone should have equal access to justice, regardless of who they are or how much money they have, he added. I look forward to adding an eleventh record-breaking year to the Campaign’s strong history and growth.

Over 1.4 million people in Cook County qualify for legal aid today, roughly half of whom will encounter a legal problem over the course of a given year. Unfortunately, more than half of the people in need of legal help were turned away last year because of a shortage of pro bono and legal aid resources. As a result, growing numbers of low-income and disadvantaged people are going to court on their own without necessary legal help.

Since 2007, Chicago’s legal community has come together through the Investing in Justice Campaign every March to make a collective impact and help ensure that everyone in our community has access to necessary legal help, not just those who can afford to pay for it. Over the course of that time, the Campaign has grown from 35 participating firms and companies to more than 150, and from 1,600 individual donors to more than 5,000. The roster of participants is a who’s who of area law firms, corporate legal departments, and other legal community partners.

Today, the Campaign is the largest and most impactful initiative of its kind anywhere in the country. It has raised nearly $14 million to date, which has helped leverage millions more in funding from the CBF’s foundation and government partners. The Campaign makes it possible for tens of thousands of Chicagoans in need to get crucial legal help each year.

Last year, more than 5,000 lawyers and other individuals at participating firms, companies, and organizations made contributions to the Campaign totalling more than $1.5 million. One hundred percent of individual contributions to the Campaign go directly toward grants to more than 30 Chicago-area pro bono and legal aid organizations.

The thousands of people who are able to get legal assistance as a result include the elderly, disabled, veterans, children, domestic violence victims, people at risk of wrongfully losing their homes, and immigrants fleeing persecution and abuse. Campaign grants fund a continuum of legal services, ranging from web-based information and resources to legal aid hotlines, advice desks and clinics, to extended legal representation and larger impact litigation and advocacy.

This really is our common cause as lawyers and legal professionals, said Bob Glaves, executive director of the CBF. No matter where you are in the legal community or what other causes you support, we can all agree that equal access to justice is an important priority. The Investing in Justice Campaign is the one place where we can come together to make an impact that none of us could on our own.