Suburban News

Letter: Pro bono attorneys needed to address growing justice gap


To the editor:

According to the Legal Services Corp. Justice Gap report, low-income Americans received no or inadequate legal help for 86 percent of their non-criminal legal problems. These issues include domestic violence, divorce, child support, veterans' benefits, disability access, housing conditions, health care and more. Many of these people are not receiving legal services despite qualifying for assistance because of a shortage of attorneys to represent them. In Cook County alone, approximately one half of the 1.4 million people who qualify for legal aid will need assistance in any given year. However, current legal aid programs and pro bono attorneys in Illinois cannot come close to meeting that need.

This shortage of pro bono attorneys not only affects the number of low-income or disadvantaged people served, but also the disposition of justice. Studies consistently show that the outcome of contested matters often turns on whether a low-income or disadvantaged person has representation.

Pro Bono Network has been working ceaselessly since 2011 to combat this shortage by expanding the pool of attorneys available to represent those who cannot afford legal services. [The network] recruits, trains, places and supports lawyers who want to be of service but have limitations on their availability or resources. These include attorneys who are on career breaks, have retired or are solo practitioners. The unmet need, however, is still vast.

[The network] invites interested attorneys to attend one of our open houses in Oak Park or Oak Brook to learn more about how they can get the support they need to use their law license to assist those in need. The first is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 23 at the Oak Park Public Library. The second is from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 30 at the Oak Brook Public Library. [The network] also will be conducting trainings for specific projects in mid-September. For more information or questions, email

Linda Rio

Executive director

Pro Bono Network