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College of Law Hosts Successful Eviction Sealing Clinic

On Tuesday, April 12, the College of Law hosted a successful Eviction Sealing Clinic.  Over 30 students, staff and alumni worked together to assist clients with preparing petitions to seal old eviction records. This discrete and impactful pro bono opportunity embodied the mission of the College of Law, provided students a hands-on opportunity to strengthen their legal skills, and was a true collaboration between the College of Law and community partners to address the eviction and housing crisis in the community.

As Michelle Gilbert, legal policy director at the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing commented, “DePaul was a critical partner in helping low-income tenants expunge eviction filings from their credit records–from opening up the law school space for in-person clinics to providing law student volunteers and externs who researched files, interviewed clients and represented tenants in court. Because we know that eviction filings disproportionately affect Black women, who already face discrimination in securing housing, this work was a perfect fit for DePaul's social justice mission. It also was a great opportunity for students, administrators, alums and private practitioners to work together."

The on-campus clinic was the culmination of a year of outreach and work. During summer 2021, Shaye Loughlin, director of the College of Law's Center for Public Interest Law, and Sarah Baum, adjunct professor of the College of Law's Croak Community Legal Clinic, met with community organizations and the Chicago Bar Foundation to discuss ways the College of Law could directly respond to the eviction and housing crisis in Chicago. 

The Croak Clinic worked with DePaul's community partner, Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH), to host the eviction sealing clinics.  Croak Clinic students were trained to provide information to and directly assist clients with preparing eviction sealing motions. 

To continue the work and grow the partnership during the spring semester, Julie Lawton, associate dean for experiential learning, provided funding to support three students to work with LCBH.  Simultaneously, the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) worked with LCBH to discuss how PBCSI could continue the great work of the Croak students and expand pro bono service opportunities for the rest of the student body. Ultimately, PBCSI collaborated with LCBH, and its non-legal non-profit partners, Communities United and Housing Choice Partners, at clinics in the Austin neighborhood as part of the College of Law's annual Spring Break Service Projects.

Most of the students who volunteered over spring break also volunteered at the on-campus eviction sealing clinics.  The LCBH DePaul student interns and Professor Baum served as experts during the project, generously assisting other volunteers. This collaboration and the work of students, staff and faculty truly answered the Vincentian Question: “What must be done?"