Blog: Pro Bono

Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.

We Love Pro Bono

In 2014, 55 attorneys donated more than 3700 hours to the Pro Bono Program at Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) helping families in crisis. In the process, these attorneys developed their litigation skills, learned a new area of law, created new professional relationships and most importantly MADE A DIFFERENCE in the lives of many Chicago renters! Here are some highlights from the LCBH Pro Bono Program from just the 1st quarter of 2015:

Why Pro Bono?

Our volunteers level the playing field by giving low-income renters a voice in court.

Volunteering as a pro bono attorney at LCBH allows you to make a huge impact in someone’s life without spending a penny. It doesn’t require a lot of time – even a little legal assistance can go a long way in improving the lives of our clients. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Here at LCBH, we understand that and have worked to create new ways for you to support LCBH’s mission. When we all work together to level the playing field, we improve our community for everyone!

Here are just a few of the major victories our pro bono partners were able to accomplish this year:

  • Negotiated a cash settlement for a mother whose son suffered a concussion when the leaky roof in their apartment collapsed on him while he was sleeping;
  • Dismissed a case where a tenant was facing eviction because the property manager’s agent had accepted rent money and not turned it over to the company; and
  • Won a jury trial on behalf of a tenant who was being evicted in retaliation for making complaints about a property manager.

Pro bono also allows you to give back but in a way that works with your busy schedule. LCBH takes full advantage of the new rules on unbundled legal services to provide flexible volunteer opportunities to meet every schedule. The following outcomes were reached in 5 hours or less of volunteer time:

2014 Law Firm Of The Year Award

From left: Todd Maynes, LCBH Board President, Samira Nazem, LCBH Pro Bono Coordinator, Morgan Hirst, Jones Day and Cheryl Lawrence, LCBH Executive Director

Jones Day
The Law Firm of the Year Award is presented when a firm's pro bono contributions to LCBH or its mission makes a significant impact well into the future.

From left: Samira Nazem, LCBH Pro Bono Coordinator, Todd Maynes, LCBH Board President, Catie Cottle, Christine Payne, Cheryl Lawrence, LCBH Executive Director, and Jim Medek.

Catie Cottle, Jim Medek and Christine Payne from Kirkland & Ellis LLP
LCBH recognizes these volunteers for dedicating their time and energy to LCBH over the past year. These individuals choose to come to LCBH to learn and make a difference in the lives of others.

2013 Annual Reception and Awards Ceremony Speakers

Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois
Pat Quinn was sworn in as the 41st Governor of Illinois on January 29, 2009, and won election to a full term in 2010. Since taking office, Governor Quinn has made job creation and economic growth his top priority. His $43 billion capital construction initiative – which will retain or create about 436,000 jobs over six years – includes the $12 billion “Move Illinois” project, one of the nation’s biggest infrastructure endeavors. Illinois has moved forward on social justice under Governor Quinn, who abolished the death penalty, improved nursing home conditions and legalized civil unions for all people. Governor Quinn has long been a true advocate for those in our state who need it most. With new legislation passed by Governor Quinn that will protect renters in foreclosure (SB56) and benefit those who truly need legal assistance and cannot afford it (SB3111 Access to Justice), LCBH is honored to have Governor Quinn join us this evening.

Cecelia Blue

Cecelia Blue may not be our oldest volunteer, but she certainly ranks near the top for longtime commitment to LCBH and our clients - she first began volunteering at LCBH over a decade ago! Cecelia started out with the old Attorney of the Day program, stepping up in court to cover status hearings and settle cases. She left LCBH for a time while pursuing other opportunities, and then, late last year, she boomeranged back to LCBH after hearing about a training for new volunteers. What brought her back after all those years? She says, "I remembered what a positive experience it was. You see people floundering by themselves in court, struggling to represent themselves pro se, because they cannot afford a lawyer. I believe people should be able to get a high quality attorney even if they can't afford one."

For Cecelia, those aren't empty words; it's a way of life. She is serious about pro bono work and treats it like it’s her job, often spending more hours on her assorted pro bono projects than on her own business. In any given week you might find Cecelia at the Dwight Correctional Facility, where she helps incarcerated mothers petition to preserve their parental rights, or at the Daley Center, where she serves as a guardian ad litem (court appointed attorney) in family law cases. When she's not doing pro bono work, she finds time to squeeze in her own paying clients through her accounting and law practices.

Claudine and Family

Claudine is a single, working mom who is raising her young daughter and teenage son in the West Rogers Park apartment that she has called home since 2007. Claudine has always been a good tenant; she pays her rent on time and takes care of her home. Unfortunately, she is one of the thousands of tenants in Chicago who, each year, find themselves living at the mercy of dangerously irresponsible landlords.

Last fall, Claudine noticed a leak in her ceiling. In October, she wrote a letter to her landlord asking him to fix it. He failed to respond and the leak began to grow bigger. In November and again in December, she made two more written demands for repairs. The landlord continued to ignore her requests.

On January 10th, Claudine woke up in the night to a huge noise coming from inside her apartment. The ceiling had caved in over her son's bed and debris had fallen directly on top of him. The collapse broke her son's computer and damaged the bed. It also caused Claudine's son to suffer a concussion and, several months later, he was still experiencing post-concussive symptoms such as headaches. Even after the collapse, the landlord refused to address the conditions in the apartment. Not only would he not fix the leak, but he wouldn't even patch up the hole in the roof or remove the debris. The bedroom became unusable, forcing the family to double up in the other bedroom.

Claudine and Family

Claudine is a single, working mom who is raising her young daughter and teenage son in the West Rogers Park apartment that she has called home since 2007. Claudine has always been a good tenant; she pays her rent on time and takes care of her home. Unfortunately, she is one of the thousands of tenants in Chicago who, each year, find themselves living at the mercy of dangerously irresponsible landlords.

Last fall, Claudine noticed a leak in her ceiling. In October, she wrote a letter to her landlord asking him to fix it. He failed to respond and the leak began to grow bigger. In November and again in December, she made two more written demands for repairs. The landlord continued to ignore her requests.

On January 10th, Claudine woke up in the night to a huge noise coming from inside her apartment. The ceiling had caved in over her son's bed and debris had fallen directly on top of him. The collapse broke her son's computer and damaged the bed. It also caused Claudine's son to suffer a concussion and, several months later, he was still experiencing post-concussive symptoms such as headaches. Even after the collapse, the landlord refused to address the conditions in the apartment. Not only would he not fix the leak, but he wouldn't even patch up the hole in the roof or remove the debris. The bedroom became unusable, forcing the family to double up in the other bedroom.

Pro Bono Opportunities for Corporate Counsel

LCBH is partnering with the Association of Corporate Counsel and the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to host a day of pro bono training in late May. In-house attorneys from several Chicago-area companies will attend the program and learn about the latest developments impacting the rights of tenants in foreclosure. After the training, attendees will be able to volunteer with the LCBH Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline, delivering one-on-one legal advice and counseling services for tenants whose buildings have gone into foreclosure.

LCBH offers trainings and presentations on a number of issues affecting renters including renters’ rights, foreclosure, and fair housing. Trainings are designed for specific audiences to provide pertinent information. Whether you are an attorney, housing advocate, social worker, community organizer, landlord, or renter, our trainings will provide you with valuable and useful information.

If you’re interested in scheduling a training or presentation, please contact us at (312) 347-7600 for more information.

We Love Pro Bono

We Love Pro Bono

The scope and depth of LCBH’s advocacy for Chicago’s most vulnerable residents would not be possible without the efforts of its volunteers.

The volunteer opportunities at LCBH range from foreclosure counseling to litigating start to finish cases in eviction court, with flexible scheduling to accommodate your schedule.

Come aboard with LCBH and lend your support, time, and talents to low income renters in the Chicagoland area.

For more information on becoming a Pro Bono volunteer with LCBH please contact Pro Bono Coordinator, Samira Nazem, snazem@lcbh.org