CHICAGO — Continuing its financial support of families who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer, the Illinois Bar Foundation has started a fellowship program that allows non-lawyers to pitch in
“The need for people without lawyers is so great, we decided to open up the Fellows Program to anyone interested in supporting our efforts,” Dave Anderson, executive director of the foundation, told the Madison County Record.
The charitable branch of the Illinois Bar Association started the program almost 35 years ago. Fellows commit to supporting the foundation for 10 years, donating anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000.
The foundation’s efforts are felt all around the state, including in Madison and St. Clair counties, according to Anderson.
Through the Fellows Program, supporters help to bolster the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, which offers free civil legal assistance to low-income people and senior citizens in 65 counties in central and southern Illinois.
“We are longtime supporters of the of the Neighborhood Law Office in East St. Louis, which is sometimes the last place for some families to turn to when they need a lawyer but can’t afford one,” Anderson said.
In 2014, the foundation took over administration of the Illinois JusticeCorps Program in 10 counties across the state, including one in Madison County. Through this program, AmeriCorps volunteers are placed in courthouses to help people without lawyers find the resources they need.
In addition to JusticeCorps and grants to legal aid non-profits, the foundation supports lawyers in financial need and offers post-graduate fellowships to newly admitted attorneys who spend a year working in their alma mater’s legal aid clinic. This year the foundation will distribute nearly $850,000, according to a news release.
Now that it's branching out beyond lawyers, the foundation expects people serving the legal community will be interested in joining the program, including vendors, law firm support staff and clerks, Anderson said.