Pro Bono

Pro bono attorneys play a critical role in making the justice system more fair and accessible for everyone. Learn more about how you can use your legal skills to help people in need, and how your support for the CBF is improving the overall pro bono system and expanding pro bono services in our community.

Find a Pro Bono Opportunity
Resources for Pro Bono Attorneys

Pro Bono Opportunities for In-House Attorneys

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 716 allows attorneys licensed under this rule to perform pro bono services without any additional registration requirements. The sample opportunities in this list have proven successful for corporate attorneys and in-house teams.

Pro Bono Toolkit for Retired/Inactive Attorneys

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(k) allows retired and inactive attorneys to provide pro bono legal services without having to pay registration fees or meet MCLE reporting requirements as long they partner with an approved legal aid or pro bono organization. The CBF’s Toolkit for Retired and Inactive Attorneys provides more information about Rule 756 and the many ways that retired and inactive lawyers can give back and stay engaged in the legal community.

Pro Bono Reporting Information

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(f) requires all attorneys licensed in Illinois to report the amount of pro bono legal services provided and qualified monetary contributions made during their annual attorney registration.

Qualifying “pro bono legal services” include:

  1. legal services to a person of limited means
  2. legal services to an organization designed to address the needs of persons of limited means
  3. legal services to certain charitable, religious, civic, or community organizations
  4. pro bono training intended to benefit legal service organizations or lawyers who provide pro bono services

Qualifying financial contributions are those made “to an organization that provides legal services to persons of limited means or which contributes financial support to such an organization.” Contributions to the CBF qualify under the Rule, as do contributions to any of our grantees. Read more about reporting pro bono and financial contributions.

Other Helpful Websites

Resources for Pro Bono Programs

CBF Pro Bono Checklist
A comprehensive tool designed to help legal aid and other organizations start and sustain successful pro bono program.

Court-Based Pro Bono Programs Checklist
A version of the pro bono checklist geared towards court-based pro bono programs.

Pro Bono Sponsoring Entity Form
Legal aid and pro bono programs seeking to sponsor inactive, retired, and out-of-state pro bono attorneys pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 756(j) should completing this form annually and file it with the ARDC.

Pro Bono Rules and Forms

In-House Counsel

Attorneys who are licensed in Illinois as in-house counsel under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 716 may provide pro bono service in Illinois without any additional registration or affiliation requirements.

Attorneys Licensed in Other States

Attorneys who are licensed in another state may provide pro bono services pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(k) if they:

  1. File an annual form with the ARDC (download the form),
  2. Work with a qualified sponsoring legal aid organization or other qualified entity, and
  3. Participate in any training required by the sponsoring organization.

Retired/Inactive Attorneys

Attorneys who are retired or inactive status in Illinois may provide pro bono services pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(k) if they:

  1. File an annual form with the ARDC (download the form),
  2. Work with a qualified sponsoring legal aid organization or other qualified entity, and
  3. Participate in any training required by the sponsoring organization.

Annual Renewal Forms

Attorneys authorized to provide pro bono services pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court 756(k) must complete an annual renewal form and submit it to the ARDC. Download the Inactive/Retired Renewal Form and the Out of State Attorney Renewal Form.

CBF Pro Bono Initiatives

Because of our role as a funder, our working relationships with all key pro bono stakeholders, and our decades of experience, the CBF is uniquely well-positioned to address pro bono on a system-wide basis. The CBF supports a variety of pro bono initiatives to help legal aid organizations, law firms, and corporations strengthen their pro bono programs and to ensure that pro bono is an effective supplement to the work of dedicated legal attorneys. With this perspective, the CBF’s approach includes:

Helping Develop Pro Bono Programs, Promoting Best Practices, and Connecting the Pro Bono Community

The CBF works with all pro bono stakeholders to identify systemic gaps and challenges and to help address them through new resources. Past examples include the Pro Bono Checklist and related resources for starting and sustaining pro bono programs. Additional examples include convening quarterly meetings of pro bono staff at our grantee organizations to share tips, identify trends, and ensure a coordinated approach to pro bono; facilitating communication between stakeholders on a wide variety of issues; and providing training, expertise, and other pro bono resources.

Connecting Volunteers to Pro Bono Opportunities

For years, the CBF has published a comprehensive Guide to Pro Bono Opportunities in the Chicago area. Recently, the CBF partnered with Paladin, a legal tech startup, to create an online version of the guide allowing users to sort pro bono opportunities by area of law, type of client, and scope of representation.

Finally, the CBF’s Pro Bono Support Program provides personalized support for people who want to get involved.

Developing, Supporting, and Funding Innovative New Projects

The CBF works with the courts, legal aid organizations, law firms, corporations, and others to develop innovative new programs that fill gaps in our legal aid and pro bono system. Examples include the CBF Legal Aid Academy; working with the Association of Pro Bono Counsel(APBCo), Cabrini Green Legal Aid and others in Chicago to develop and implement APBCo’s IMPACT program in Chicago, nicknamed “Second Chances”; and working with our partners to create the Municipal Court Pro Bono Program.

Promoting Pro Bono Service and Recognizing Leadership and Participation

The CBF actively promotes and recognizes pro bono service in our community, including through our annual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon and CBA/CBF Pro Bono Week. In addition, the CBF grows support for pro bono through our Leadership Circles and works with all of its partners to actively encourage and support pro bono service and programming at all levels.

Georgia C. is why I do pro bono. My colleague Brett Johnson and I spent 6 months and hundreds of hours to get her the pension benefits she’d earned. When we told her that her employer had finally agreed to a significant settlement, she cried tears of joy. We had literally changed someone’s life simply by doing our jobs and using available resources. What a simple thing. Our work took no special skills and no particular insight. It just took our time and our commitment not to give up. This project was life changing for both me and my client. I know I will never forget the feeling of helping her and I will continue to work to help those like her as best I can.
Todd Solomon, Partner, McDermott, Will & Emery
Todd Solomon

To learn more about the CBF’s Pro Bono Initiatives, contact Elise Tincher at or 312.554.1207. 

Please note, The Chicago Bar Foundation does not provide legal services or connect people with pro bono attorneys. Learn more about resources for free and lost-cost legal help.