volunteer

VOLUNTEER WITH US!

Prairie State offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for people with all ranges of skills and experiences. 

ATTORNEY PRO BONO OPPORTUNITIES

Be a hero

“It is…the responsibility of those licensed as officers of the court to use their training, experience, and skills to provide services in the public interest for which compensation may not be available…. An individual lawyer’s efforts in these areas is evidence of the lawyer’s good character and fitness to practice law….”
Preamble, Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct

 

Each year Prairie State Legal Services is forced to turn down requests for legal assistance from some of the most vulnerable members of our community because our paid staff does not have the capacity to meet the demand. Without legal help, these people are left to navigate the legal maze by themselves and many simply give up.

Pro bono volunteers have been helping Prairie State close the justice gap since the 1980s. When you accept just one pro bono case from Prairie State, you ensure equal access to justice for that individual. Examples of types of cases you could assist with include helping a survivor of domestic violence get protection from her abuser; enabling a senior to take control of her financial and healthcare decisions by executing advanced directives; or protecting a person with a disability from an unlawful denial of public benefits.

How to help

Prairie State offers many different civil pro bono opportunities for attorneys, ranging from advice clinics to extended representation to short-term transactional opportunities such as drafting powers of attorney and wills, or negotiations with government agencies. Areas in which clients need your help may include: divorce and custody; minor and adult guardianship; simple wills; criminal records expungement and sealing;and bankruptcy and other consumer issues.

The time commitment varies by case, and not all cases require court appearances. Volunteers can also mentor other pro bono attorneys and consult with Prairie State staff.

You do not need prior legal aid experience to volunteer. Pro bono work is a rewarding way to gain experience in a new area of law, or to mentor another attorney in your area of expertise. We will work with you to tailor a pro bono opportunity to your interests, skills, and availability.

Why volunteer for Prairie State?

Performing your pro bono work through Prairie State Legal Services comes with added benefits:

  • Prairie State prescreens cases for merit and financial eligibility.
  • Pro bono cases are covered under Prairie State’s malpractice insurance.
  • Prairie State offers free CLEs to pro bono attorneys.
  • You can benefit from training and mentoring from experienced attorneys.
  • Pro bono hours can be reported on your annual ARDC registration.

Retired, inactive, out-of-state, or house counsel?

Illinois Supreme Court Rules 716 and 756 allow retired, inactive, out-of-state, and house counsel to perform pro bono services for Prairie State Legal Services.

How to get involved

Prairie State is always looking for attorneys to represent clients in a variety of civil legal matters, particularly in family, consumer, and elder law cases. If you have questions or would like more information about our current pro bono opportunities, please contact your local office pro bono coordinator or [email protected]

If you are a student interested in interning with Prairie State, please see the Internships section on the Careers page.

2020 Pro Bono Celebration Videos

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OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

We welcome assistance from all volunteers. You can help close the justice gap by answering phones, planning fundraising events, preparing mailings, assisting our attorneys, and helping Prairie State’s clients in a variety of ways.

Fair Housing Project Tester

This opportunity is for people living in or near one of the following counties:  Lake, McHenry, Winnebago, Boone, Peoria, or Tazewell.

The Prairie State Legal Services Fair Housing Project is looking for testers to help investigate housing discrimination.  After training, testers meet with housing providers and record their interactions in a report.  Our staff members then review and compare reports from various testers to determine if housing discrimination took place.  We welcome persons with disabilities and people of all races, colors, ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Benefits:

  • Receive a stipend and mileage reimbursement each time you participate in a test.
  • Receive fair housing training (and a stipend after completing a practice test).
  • Learn new skills, including report writing.
  • Help make your community more inclusive and welcoming.

Basic requirements:

  • testers MUST have
    • a state-issued ID
    • authorization to work in the United States
    • access to transportation
    • access to a computer
  • testers CANNOT have
    • prior felony convictions or convictions of crimes involving fraud or perjury
    • an active real estate license

Please contact our testing coordinator, Jennifer Cuevas, at [email protected] or at 815-668-4412, to request an application, or if you have any questions about this opportunity.  Please mention your county of residence in your e-mail.  We hope to hear from you!

Contact Prairie State’s Director of Volunteer Services for more information about non-attorney volunteer opportunities in your area. (e-mail: [email protected])

If you are a student interested in interning with Prairie State, please see the Internships section on the Careers page.

AMERICORPS VISTA POSITIONS AVAILABLE

Location: Varies
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (generally)

What is AmeriCorps VISTA?

The AmeriCorps-VISTA program is a national service program in which individuals commit to a full year of full-time service to help fight poverty.  In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend of about $970 per month, childcare benefits, and a basic healthcare plan.  Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving a small stipend or an education award of $5,645.

There are a variety of other benefit potentials including special consideration for federal employment.  While these benefits are useful, the real benefit of the VISTA program is the real-world experience making a difference in the community.

VISTAs in Prairie State Legal Services

Prairie State Legal Services is a non-profit organization providing civil legal aid services at no charge to low income persons in northern and central Illinois.  Prairie State has offices in Bloomington, Joliet, Kankakee, McHenry, Ottawa, Peoria, Rock Island, Rockford, St. Charles, Waukegan, and Wheaton, Illinois.  Some of our VISTA positions are specific to certain offices and for other projects we have more flexibility where to place the VISTA.

VISTAs come from a variety of experiences including recent college graduates, lawyers, retired professionals, and persons re-entering the workforce.  While the positions have specific goals and objectives, VISTAs bring their unique talents and creativity to the position.  It is the energy, creativity, and talents of our VISTAs and great teamwork that have made for very successful programs.

Register for VISTA at: 
https://my.AmeriCorps.gov/mp/recruit/registration.do

Apply for these positions at: 
https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=58754

If you have questions, contact Gail Walsh at [email protected].

“Pro Bono work means you’re helping someone who needs help and does not have the means to hire a private attorney. But it’s also a chance to make a positive impact in the community where we live.”

Dan Hardin 
Bozeman Neighbor Patton & Noe, LLP (Moline, IL)

“It is very satisfactory to me. It helps me help people because I enjoy helping people. And when I help a person and at the end of a case they give me a hug or they smile and say thank you very much for helping me, hopefully I am able to help them in their life and get them away from a situation.”

J. Brick Van Der Snick
Van Der Snick Law Firm, Ltd. (St. Charles, IL)

“Whatever you’re willing to do or can do, even if it’s to take a phone call or answer questions. It’s a very rewarding job when you do it and you help these people who need the help.”

Jennifer L. Johnson
Zanck, Coen, Wright & Saladin, P.C. (Crystal Lake, IL) 

“I find the work to be incredibly fulfilling, especially the work I’m doing. There are people who are trying to get a second chance in life and they’re very appreciative in anyone who takes an interest in them and the results have been very satisfying.”

David Black
(Rockford, IL)