LCBH Staff Attorney receives 2023 Public Service Merit Award

Jun 14, 2023

LCBH Staff Attorney Aileen Flanagan was recently awarded the Loyola School of Law Public Service for her outstanding commitment to public service and social justice! Congrats, Aileen!

How does it feel to be awarded the 2023 Public Service Merit Award? What was your initial reaction? 

When I received the notification that I had been nominated for and awarded this honor I was really surprised. I initially thought it may have been a mistake and then I felt a little embarrassed.  When I became aware of the colleagues who recommended me for this award, I was truly humbled. Those colleagues who I have known for many years are honestly more commendable of this award than I am. 

This award is granted to an alumna/alumnus who has committed their career to public service and social justice. What does that mean to you? How does it reflect your work at LCBH? 

 I have been very fortunate to be in a position to work in this area for most of my legal career and to have the privilege of also working alongside others here at LCBH who have committed their lives to working for social justice by fighting for the idea that each person is treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.

What made you decide to work in legal aid/at LCBH?

After a short time volunteering at LCBH and working with Mark Swartz, I knew it was the right place for me. The more I worked with our clients and learned how incredibly important legal support is when marginalized families face unstable housing and possible homelessness, the more I wanted to learn this area of law. I had never worked at a law firm or legal organization that was so supportive and was so willing to train and support volunteers.

How did your time at Loyola School of Law prepare you for a career in legal aid? 

Loyola is where I went to college and law school. My experience at Loyola, rooted in the Ignatian principles of social justice, was formative and influenced my place and purpose for the rest of my life, both personally and professionally. I went to law school to find a place and purpose where I could work for social justice, which ultimately lead me to work in legal aid. My first experience in public interest law was in a class called Legal Clinic with Professor Hank Rose. I knew then that I would always want to work for clients who faced challenges because of oppressive social structures, such as poverty and racism, as well as other unfair barriers to personal fulfillment and happiness.

What is a highlight of your work here? Maybe a story that represents your work and why you do it? 

A lot of my work is about making a difference in smaller ways. I am privileged to stand alongside our clients facing possible eviction so we can defeat or mitigate the threat of the abrupt loss of their homes, and they can go forward with a little less stress and lead happy, fulfilling lives. One recent case involved a young mom who was working multiple jobs due to the income she lost during the pandemic. She accumulated a rent debt that was more than she could handle even with working multiple jobs. Her landlord was not going to allow her to stay in the unit, even if she paid the rent debt because they felt she was not able to pass the credit check requirements. I worked with our Supportive Services Department, and together we were able to help her obtain rental assistance and negotiate a lease renewal despite the credit problems. She was able to stay in her home. It was a small legal victory but we were able to make a huge difference in the lives of our client and her children. If she were required to move, she would have probably lost at least one of her jobs and they may not have located alternative housing. Many of our clients are facing homelessness, which can result in a spiral of poverty that can take years to recover from and inflict irreversible damage to children. It is an honor and privilege to join my colleagues here at LCBH to help combat the consequences of injustice and economic insecurity in our community.