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.

Dan Parish with Jeremy Snodgrass

Most people think of summer as a time for picnics, pools, and popsicles. For some of our dedicated volunteers, however, summertime meant pro bono time!

LCBH paired up with two different law firms over the summer to create pro bono opportunities for summer associate law students. Summer associates from Brinks Gilson & Lione and Jones Day worked with senior associates and partners within their firms to handle cases screened and supervised by an LCBH staff attorney. Each summer associate was able to work directly with clients to help resolve difficult housing situations through negotiation, motion writing, and their first court appearances.

We’d like to share one story that had a particularly wonderful outcome. A team of pro bono attorneys from Brinks Gilson & Lione represented June and her five children in an eviction court case. June and her family had lived in their apartment building, subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority, for several years. The family had never had any serious problems with management, and June liked the apartment’s proximity to her children’s school. However, in the early summer everything changed when June received an eviction notice from her landlord. The notice accused June of (1) allowing a friend to stay overnight in the apartment for three days, (2) propping open the back door of the building, and (3) damaging the gate to the building.

Dan Parish with Jeremy Snodgrass

Most people think of summer as a time for picnics, pools, and popsicles. For some of our dedicated volunteers, however, summertime meant pro bono time!

LCBH paired up with two different law firms over the summer to create pro bono opportunities for summer associate law students. Summer associates from Brinks Gilson & Lione and Jones Day worked with senior associates and partners within their firms to handle cases screened and supervised by an LCBH staff attorney. Each summer associate was able to work directly with clients to help resolve difficult housing situations through negotiation, motion writing, and their first court appearances.

We’d like to share one story that had a particularly wonderful outcome. A team of pro bono attorneys from Brinks Gilson & Lione represented June and her five children in an eviction court case. June and her family had lived in their apartment building, subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority, for several years. The family had never had any serious problems with management, and June liked the apartment’s proximity to her children’s school. However, in the early summer everything changed when June received an eviction notice from her landlord. The notice accused June of (1) allowing a friend to stay overnight in the apartment for three days, (2) propping open the back door of the building, and (3) damaging the gate to the building.

New Pro Bono with LCBH Video

Pro Bono with LCBH

This Pro Bono with LCBH video was premiered at our 2013 Annual Reception and Awards Ceremony. We love it and hope you do too!

When we ask attorneys why they don’t do pro bono, a few answers routinely pop up: I am not eligible, or I don’t have time to dedicate to long cases.

Fortunately, the Illinois Supreme Court recently implemented a number of new rules designed to make it easier than ever for attorneys to engage in pro bono work. Under the new rules, out-of-state licensed attorneys, in-house counsel, and inactive attorneys can provide pro bono services in Illinois. This will allow a new group of attorneys to provide pro bono services in Illinois without having to go through an extensive and costly registration process.

The biggest change, however, is the introduction of Limited Scope Representation (LSR). LSR allows legal aid agencies like LCBH to file a limited appearance in a case to perform a discrete task for a client. This can range from appearing at one court date to argue a motion for summary judgment to negotiating a settlement to stepping up on a trial date. Once the task is completed, regardless of the outcome, the attorney can withdraw orally and the court must agree. This allows the LSR attorney to provide a critical and immediate service and not worry about breaching professional responsibility duties.

At LCBH, we are experimenting with new ways to use LSR to serve more clients and provide more volunteer opportunities to our pro bono attorneys. Using LSR, we can handle small parts of complex cases and experiment with new legal strategies.

Special Service Award

Eunice Lee
Eunice Lee with Executive Director Cheryl Lawrence

Eunice Lee has been a dedicated LCBH volunteer for over two years. She first came to LCBH to gain litigation experience and has since dedicated nearly 900 hours of her time to helping renters through serious housing problems. She hopes to take the litigation skills she has developed at LCBH and branch out into other areas of law. She works part-time as a pharmacist and would like to explore the intersection of health care and law in the future. We would like to thank Eunice for her hard work and ongoing commitment to LCBH!

Teaming Up to Fight Homelessness

John Norkus

LCBH handled over 300 eviction defense cases last year. However, that’s only a drop in the bucket of the 31,000 eviction actions that were filed in Chicago last year. What happens to the rest of those families? The majority of them appear in court pro se, without counsel.

The Chicago Bar Foundation, aware that legal aid agencies are only able to handle a small fraction of the total cases filed every year, recently launched the Justice Entrepreneurship Project (JEP). JEP serves as an incubator for recent law school graduates looking to start private law firms serving lower income clients. As part of the program, JEP fellows are partnered with legal aid agencies to develop their skills.

LCBH is fortunate to host two JEP fellows from the program’s inaugural class. Katrice Hall and John Norkus volunteer with LCBH on a part-time basis while growing their private practices. We recently sat down with John to discuss his experience with the program and how LCBH has helped him on the path to launching his own firm.

John always knew he wanted to run his own law firm, but he wasn’t sure when to launch it. Then he heard about the JEP and decided to take the plunge. John and another JEP fellow launched Norkus McCoid (www.norkusmccoid.com), a small firm focusing on consumer, family, and housing law.

The Unsung Heroes of Pro Bono

We would like to thank all of our volunteers for a record year of service. Although we live in a city with many challenges, we also live in a city with many truly generous people who contribute to improving our city for all of us. Typically we think of pro bono as volunteer attorneys or others who provide services directly to our clients, but what most people don’t see is the donations that go on behind the scenes. Non-profit agencies like LCBH raise every dollar they spend- every year. When opportunities arise to receive other kinds of goods and services, we jump at the chance! LCBH receives donations each year that fall outside of direct services and are critically important to us.

This year, especially going through a forced relocation of our office, we have many unsung heroes of pro bono to thank for their assistance. We would like to thank you for finding creative ways to contribute and make a difference! We would especially like to give a shout out of gratitude to Advanced Discovery, Tadashi Films, Taproot Foundation, Desmond and Ahern, Jenner & Block, The Mace Group, US Equities Realty, The Jacobson Group, Techno Architects, Vortex Commercial Flooring, and ACS Contracting.

2013 Friend of LCBH Award

The WCPBN team with Cheryl Lawrence, LCBH Executive Director; Anthony G. Hopp, LCBH Board President; Mark Swartz, LCBH Legal Director

West Cook Pro Bono Network (WCPBN)
We honor WCPBN for its unique commitment to LCBH and our Pro Bono program.

2013 Law Firm of the Year Award

From Left: Anthony G. Hopp, LCBH Board President; Cheryl Lawrence, LCBH Executive Director; John R. Storino, Jenner & Block, Edward Mansell, Jenner & Block, Mark Swartz, LCBH Legal Director

Jenner & Block
The Law Firm of the Year award is presented when a firm’s pro bono contributions to LCBH or its mission are so significant that it creates an impact well into the future

2013 Volunteer of the Year Award

From left: Anthony G. Hopp, LCBH Board President; Sean Mines; Cheryl Lawrence, LCBH Executive Director

Sean Mines
We honor Sean for embodying the spirit of LCBH’s pro bono program combining compassionate with commitment.