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Prairie State Legal Services is a not-for-profit law firm, offering new and experienced lawyers a challenging career addressing the critical civil legal needs of low-income individuals and families, the elderly, people with disabilities, and children. As a Prairie State attorney, you will represent clients in individual cases, complex cases and appeals.
You will also have the benefit of working for an organization that has all the advantages of a large law firm with the intimacy and immediacy of a small firm. You will be part of a select and close-knit group of dedicated professionals providing high quality legal services. There are 12 Prairie State offices, each ranging in size from three to eight attorneys, with a support staff of secretaries and in some offices, paralegal assistants. Yet, each of our offices are bound to each other by a common mission and a passionate commitment to principles of equal justice.
As Executive Director, Michael O'Connor has ultimate responsibility for the work of all programs and projects within PSLS. Mr. O'Connor is a 1989 graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, and earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts in 1986 from the University of South Dakota. He has worked with Prairie State Legal Services since 1989 as a staff attorney, managing attorney, and now as Executive Director. He is admitted to practice in Illinois and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.
Associate Director David Wolowitz has chief responsibility for operations and day-to-day management or supervision of key functions within the organization. Mr. Wolowitz joined PSLS when it was founded in 1977, having previously been Executive Director of the Legal Aid Bureau of Kane County. He received his J.D. (1975) and B.A. (1971) from the University of Illinois. He previously served Prairie State in different roles as Director of Special Projects, Deputy Director of Litigation and Managing Attorney and has served on the adjunct faculty at Northern Illinois University College of Law.
Bernard Shapiro and Sarah Megan, who together have approximately 70 years of litigation experience, serve as Prairie State's two Directors of Litigation.They provide litigation assistance for staff at all levels (administrative, trial or appeals courts), helping staff to identify legal issues, engage in legal analysis, determine objectives and strategies, as well as help with client counseling, pleadings, discovery, motions, negotiation, trial or hearing practice, enforcement of orders, and appeals. They also provide assistance with non-litigation advocacy efforts and transactional matters and work with staff to identify laws, policies, and practices that have a detrimental effect on low-income clients. Mr. Shapiro is a CPA and trained as a tax lawyer for Mayer Brown, a global law firm operating in major cities world-wide. His experience also includes years at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he litigated school de-segregation cases.
Opportunities for Training and Professional Growth. Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. offers outstanding career growth opportunities. You will gain immediate experience with clients and in the courtroom. You will receive supervision from experienced attorneys and the Directors of Litigation. You will also receive excellent training, and many training opportunities are available every month. Linda Rothnagel, our Director of Training Advocacy, will arrange or make available or personally supervise much of your professional training. A highly experienced and talented lawyer, Ms. Rothnagel served many years in Prairie State as both a Managing Attorney and staff attorney. In addition, new attorneys receive an intensive Basic Litigation Skills Training. Prairie State provides desktop Internet, e-mail and Westlaw access.
Benefits. Our starting salary is comparable to other Illinois public interest firms. We also offer excellent benefits including medical insurance, group dental, a 403(b) retirement savings plan with an employer match, parental leave; 11 holidays and liberal sick leave and vacation policies; and 2 days of personal leave each year.
Organizational Stability. PSLS has a proven record demonstrating the ability to properly generate and expend revenue. It enjoys an economic environment whereby it can plan for the future, where growth and employment prospers, all with a reasonable degree of openness and predictability. Prairie State has consistently: 1) provided to its Board, staff and funders a clear description of how public funds will be used and accounted for; 2) obtained funding sources that can be used to serve particular client needs and leverage resources; 3) developed sound financial plans that demonstrate managerial and fiscal competence; and 4) shown a history of performing in a financially competent manner. We have always maintained our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, and are currently maintaining 12 field offices serving clients in 36 counties. The Executive Director has always ensured the fiscal stability of PSLS by preparing and presenting organizational and program budgets to the staff and the Board, and has worked with the Board to ensure financing to support short and long term goals.
Each year, PSLS completes or "closes" over 16,000 cases, typically serving households containing nearly 40,000 persons. Our annual revenues have steadily increased every year - for example, in years 2004 through 2008, respectively: $6,055,888; $6,562,268; $7,121,522; $8,142,965; and $9,839,060. Expenditures have never exceeded revenues, and since 2006, reserves have been at least a quarter million dollars. We have multiple revenue sources, including two sources over two million dollars annually apiece (2008:Legal Services Corp. $2,678,285 and Lawyers Trust Fund $2,342,310), both of which are stable, long-term sources of revenue, committed to funding legal services for our target populations, and which have funded this organization for many years. Other reliable and long-term sources of annual funding ($100,000 to $750,000), include Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, Area Agencies on Aging, Community Development Block Grant funds, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Office of Justice Programs, Illinois Dept. of Human Services, United Way, and individual contributions. We presently have over 64 funding sources, not counting contributions. Our staff has grown, too. Including part-time telephone counseling attorneys, we presently have 74 attorneys, up from 58 attorneys in 2004.
Office Locations. Prairie State's twelve offices serve northern and central Illinois. With the exception of our Wheaton (DuPage) and Joliet (Will) offices, each office serves a multi-county area. Offices are located in Bloomington, Galesburg, Joliet, Kankakee, Ottawa, Peoria, Rockford, Rock Island, St. Charles, Waukegan, Wheaton, and McHenry.
For more information about current opportunities at Prairie State, contact Mike O'Connor at Prairie State Legal Services, phone 815-965-2134 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or click on the following link for current legal services and public interest positions in Illinois:
Prairie State regularly hosts school year and summer law student interns at each of its local offices (Bloomington; Joliet; Kankakee; McHenry; Ottawa; Peoria; Rockford; Rock Island; St. Charles; Waukegan; and Wheaton), and the following special projects: Legal Help for Homeowners Project (Wheaton and Waukegan); Low Income Tax Clinic (Wheaton); and Fair Housing Project (Waukegan, Rockford, and Peoria).
Law students perform a variety of duties at Prairie State depending on their experience level and the needs of a particular office or project. These duties may include client interviews and case investigation; drafting of pleadings, memoranda and briefs; negotiation; direct representation at administrative hearings; court representation under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711; and legal research. All work is supervised by an experienced attorney. Prairie State provides frequent organized training opportunities to interns.
Because of budgetary constraints, Prairie State is able to offer only a very limited number of paid law student positions. The number and location of paid positions varies depending on current funding opportunities.
Prairie State welcomes internship applications from law students who have outside funding or seek school credit, or who simply wish to volunteer their time.
To apply for a law student internship during the school year, contact Prairie State’s internship coordinators for more information at email@example.com
The application period for our summer law student internship program opens on December 15, 2020 and closes February 15, 2021. Click here to apply for an internship.
Prairie State regularly hosts school year and summer interns at its each of its local offices (Bloomington; Joliet; Kankakee; McHenry; Ottawa; Peoria; Rockford; Rock Island; St. Charles; Waukegan; and Wheaton), and the following special projects: Legal Help for Homeowners Project (Wheaton and Waukegan); Low Income Tax Clinic (Wheaton); and Fair Housing Project (Waukegan, Rockford, and Peoria).
Interns perform a variety of duties at Prairie State depending on their experience level and the needs of a particular office or project. Paralegal interns may interview clients; drafting of pleadings; perform legal research; and assist attorneys prepare for trial.
Because of budgetary constraints, Prairie State is rarely able to offer paid undergraduate or paralegal internship positions.
Prairie State welcomes internship applications from students who have outside funding or seek school credit, or who simply wish to volunteer their time.
Contact Prairie State’s Director of Volunteer Services for more information. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Prairie State Legal Services is a leading provider of civil legal services in the Midwest. We provide excellent opportunities for students to perform meaningful work and gain valuable experience while addressing the problems of the poor, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.
Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. is a not-for-profit law firm that provides civil legal services at no fee to the poor, elderly, and people with disabilities. Prairie State has 12 offices serving 36 counties in northern and central Illinois. The offices are staffed by full-time attorneys, many with well over ten years of legal experience and some with more than 25 years of experience.
Prairie State focuses on helping clients who have legal problems that affect their basic human needs—like housing, basic income, and safety. Some typical cases for us include preventing eviction or mortgage foreclosure, helping survivors of domestic violence get orders of protection to help ensure their safety, and helping persons with disabilities get public benefits like medical assistance and Supplemental Security Income.
Prairie State focuses on providing legal services to the most vulnerable groups in our society, including the poor, people with disabilities, and people age 60 and over. We screen clients to ensure that they are eligible for services and that their problems fall within Prairie State’s case priorities targeting basic human needs.
In the past year Prairie State has helped over 16,000 clients, benefiting 30,000+ adults and children with issues such as family law, housing, protection from abuse and exploitation, and protection of social service benefits among many others.
Prairie State provides substantive, hands on internships to law students, paralegal students, and undergraduates.
You can help bridge the gap between funding and need. Each year Prairie State Legal Services is forced to turn down thousands of requests for legal assistance from the most vulnerable members of our community because our paid staff cannot meet the demand. With current funding, Prairie State Legal Services can only help 1 out of every 25 people in need. As a Prairie State intern, you can help bridge the justice gap and change lives.
You can invest in your community. Every hour spent doing legal aid work benefits many. Legal aid enables low income people to work towards self sufficiency, which helps reduce the costs to our economy, legal system, and communities.