Pro Bono Program

Pro bono attorneys are a critical part of the effort to make the justice system fair and accessible for everyone. There are 45,000 lawyers in the Chicago area, but only about 300 full-time legal aid attorneys to meet the needs of the more than 1.5 million people who qualify for help. Pro bono attorneys handled 15% of all cases at legal aid organizations over the past year, and contributed many thousands of hours outside of this network. More help is needed.

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

The Chicago Bar Association’s Pro Bono Resolution, updated and reaffirmed by the Board of Managers in 2014, recognizes this need by encouraging members provide at least 50 hours of pro bono services each year. The Resolution also includes other commitments and standards to advance access to justice.

The CBF promotes and supports a variety of pro bono activities to help ensure that pro bono services most effectively supplement the work of dedicated legal aid attorneys and otherwise increase access to justice to the maximum extent possible.

The CBF’s role as a funder, our close working relationships with all pro bono stakeholders, and our decades of experience uniquely position us to address pro bono as part of the overall access to justice landscape. With this perspective, the CBF’s approach includes:

Developing, Supporting and Funding Innovative New Projects
The CBF works with the courts, legal aid organizations, law firms 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.
Helping Develop Pro Bono Programs, Promoting Best Practices and Connecting the Pro Bono Community
The CBF creates resources for pro bono providers, including 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.

The CBF regularly works with firms, corporations, legal aid organizations and the courts to start or expand pro bono programs. The CBF’s Checklist for Court-Based Pro Bono Programs is one example of our work in this area.

Connecting Volunteers to Pro Bono Opportunities
The CBF publishes the widely distributed CBF Guide to Pro Bono Opportunities. In addition, the CBF dedicates staff time and expertise to review and maintain high-quality volunteer postings for all organizations in Cook County on Finally, the CBF’s Pro Bono Support Program provides personalized support for people who want to get involved.
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 our partners to actively encourage and support pro bono service and programming at all levels.


To learn more about the CBF’s Pro Bono Program, contact CBF Director of Pro Bono & Court Advocacy Samira Nazem at or (312) 554-8356.