College of Law > About > News > DePaul Laws Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative Adds New Remote Projects
By Lauren Worsek /
February 25, 2021 /
Posted in: Pro Bono & Community Service /
Last year and continuing into 2021, DePaul Law's Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBSCI) initiated some exciting remote pro bono projects, allowing students and attorneys to assist those in most need of legal assistance.
Since July 2020, PBSCI has provided online civil legal aid advice through Illinois Free Legal Answers, which is an initiative of the American Bar Association and hosted by the Public Interest Law Initiative. So far, 16 students and seven attorneys partnered together to answer over 200 questions on subjects ranging from employment and consumer law to housing and family law.
As Lauren Worsek, director of PBSCI and assistant director of Public Interest Law, explains: “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for free legal services on civil legal matters has increased exponentially. I wanted to find ways for our law students to apply their talents towards helping fill this gap through remote service opportunities that could be done safely from home.” Another key benefit, according to Worsek, is that providing help online is much more flexible than in person; participants are able to answer more questions for more people.
DePaul law student volunteer Avneet Chawla feels “greatly privileged to be able to [provide legal aid], even on a small scale, through Illinois Free Legal Answers. I may not be solving their entire case, but I can at least provide some peace of mind and help them navigate this difficult time." DePaul law alumni also have participated in this endeavor. Judge Thomas J. Lipscomb (ret.) (JD ’72; member, Alumni Judges Committee) praises it for being "an excellent opportunity for students to ‘learn by doing’ and help them become ‘practice ready.’ Students can develop skills for written communication directly to clients, many whom have a limited education. It is a ‘win-win’ for the student and client." Maria Puppo Martinez (JD ’17, LLM ‘17), who recently won an ABA Standing Committee Pro Bono & Public Service Award on for her work on this project, says, "Illinois Free Legal Answers provided me with a great opportunity to volunteer remotely, taking on matters that ranged from family law to consumer law or even immigration. It allowed me to give back to the community that shaped me as an attorney, while also pushing me outside my comfort zone."
This semester, PBSCI added more remote pro bono projects. An upcoming partnership with Cabrini Green Legal Aid and attorneys from Ice Miller LLP's Racial Justice Task Force will allow students to assist clients with expungement relief. Another project will place students on Zoom court calls with domestic relations judges to help self-represented litigants navigate the legal system. Through the Illinois Pro Bono Research Alliance, a new partnership with Public Interest Law Initiative and the Chicago Area Law School Consortium, PBCSI is helping students serve as research assistants on pro bono matters for attorneys statewide. PBSCI also will continue to participate in the monthly Donate-A-Day Program, and in February, DePaul law students will join with the Chicago Bar Association and Legal Aid Chicago in a virtual clinic for people applying for public benefits. Spring break pro bono opportunities will feature partnerships with First Defense Legal Aid, Legal Aid Chicago, and the Center for Disability & Elder Law, among other local legal aid organizations.