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 interested in becoming a pro bono volunteer with Prairie State, please complete this form.

For more information about our current pro bono projects, view our listings at Illinois Pro Bono opportunities by organization

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

Prairie State Legal Services is proud of its hundreds of volunteers, many of whom have been honored by local bar associations and other organizations for their contributions.

 

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.

Communications Coordinator

The Communications Coordinator(s) will help build the organization’s use of social media and traditional communications strategies to improve access to legal information and free civil legal aid services.  We would like the position to be based in Rockford, Illinois but we remain flexible. The VISTA will work with the organization’s Administrative staff members to reach communities throughout the service area.  We are looking for someone knowledgeable about social media including Twitter, Facebook, and other tools.  Excellent writing skills, high level of comfort with technology, commitment to community service, and interest in working as part of team are all desired. Background experience in journalism or marketing is a plus.

Outreach and Assessment Coordinator

This VISTA position is focused on engaging in extensive outreach in our communities to help low-income persons access legal services.  The VISTA will coordinate efforts to gather community input on the most important legal needs and collect data to evaluate changes in community needs.

Previous VISTAs have started community roundtables, helpdesks at food pantries and community colleges, electronic newsletters to social services agencies, as well as other efforts that can be sustained after the VISTA’s term of service is completed.  This position is available to college graduates.  Law school graduates are also encouraged to apply.   Spanish proficiency is desirable, but not required.  VISTAs must have excellent organizational and communication skills, be competent with computers and online tools, comfortable meeting new people and speaking in front of groups, and available to travel within the Prairie State service area.  A valid driver’s license is required.  We are particularly interested in locating these positions in Rockford, Peoria, or Bloomington.

Legal Help for Homeowners Outreach and Information/Education Project

The VISTA will develop outreach and create a volunteer-run legal information desk at courthouses to assist persons facing foreclosure.  This position is likely to be located in St. Charles, Illinois.  Law school graduate desired, but we will consider persons with excellent organizational skills and familiarity with civil courts.

Advocacy Project for Persons with Disabilities

The VISTA will continue an exciting project in which volunteers are trained to assist persons with disabilities in their applications for disability benefits. The volunteers help collect medical evidence to document the disabilities of the clients and their success has helped a number of clients to obtain benefits years sooner than they would have on their own. The VISTA helps evaluate cases, recruit volunteers, coordinate assigning cases to volunteers and providing support to the volunteers. We have had attorneys and non-attorneys in this position over the past few years. This position is likely to be located in St. Charles, IL.

Intake Expansion Coordinator

This VISTA helps to increase low-income persons’ access to necessary civil legal services through the PSLS Telephone Counseling Service, by recruiting, training and coordinating volunteer attorneys. This VISTA position is available to law school graduates or paralegals. The VISTA will continue the excellent work previous VISTA attorneys have done in building this service. This position will likely be located in Wheaton, IL.

Veterans Outreach and Services Coordinator

This VISTA will build on the work started by previous VISTAs in creating a legal clinic for low income veterans at Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago as well as other locations. The VISTA will continue to implement this clinic, recruiting, training and supporting volunteer attorneys who will assist in providing these services and presenting information to Lovell Staff.

APPLY FOR THESE OPPORTUNITIES

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

(Positions are listed under Prairie State Legal Services Community Impact Project. Look for positions under State of Illinois and housing for the topic area.)

For more information about Prairie State Legal Services, go to pslegal.org

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)