The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) held its annual service awards reception on April 12, 2017. This year, 74 law students earned a service award for reporting at least 50 hours of pro bono or community service work while at DePaul. This includes students who reported upwards of 100 and 200 hours of service.
The College of Law recognized 32 students with the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award, which is given to graduating students who report 200 or more service hours. In total, law students reported nearly 11,000 hours of service in the 2016 – 2017 academic year!
PBCSI also presented the 2017 Pro Bono Alumni Award to alumnus Joseph W. Pieper (JD ’88). Mr. Pieper currently runs his own practice, focusing his area of expertise in Probate, involving the administration and litigation of adult disabled estates, decedent’s estates, and minor’s estates, but still remains committed to pro bono work. Mr. Pieper has been involved with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) for the past 20 years. In 2002, he received the Distinguished Service Award from CVLS in recognition of the pro bono work that he has done for the organization. Mr. Pieper was also one of the attorneys featured in the September, 2011 issue of Chicago Lawyer in the magazine’s issue on pro bono work which was being done by Chicago area attorneys. He truly exemplifies the outstanding commitment and dedication to pro bono work that the Pro Bono Alumni Award recognizes.
Dean Jennifer Rosato-Perea addressed the students in attendance and emphasized the need for pro bono and community service work. She talked about how lawyers can make an impact, more now than ever, and encouraged students to continue their volunteer efforts while at DePaul and as they go on to becoming practicing attorneys.
On Saturday, March 25th, the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) partnered with DePaul University Ministries, If/When/How, PAD and WBA to host the March Donate-a-Day. Volunteers went to Dolores' Safe Haven, a branch of Deborah's Place for a fun morning and afternoon. Deborah's Place provides supporting housing for single women experiencing homelessness. Volunteers played Bingo and ate lunch with the women who are staying at the Dolores' Safe Haven location.
Spending time at Deborah’s Place was both fun and rewarding, as we had the opportunity to spend a stress-free afternoon playing Bingo and eating lunch with the women," said first-year law student Mandi Moreland. "The most rewarding part of the day was simply socializing and getting to know people we may never get to meet otherwise. While women won prizes during Bingo, I noticed several of them sharing their game-winning boards with other women, so everyone had a chance to receive a prize. This was such a great reminder that no matter how much we have, we can always be generous and helpful to others.
DePaul’s Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center, Center for Public Interest Law, and Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative joined forces with Illinois Legal Aid Online to host a Legal Answers pro bono clinic in family and housing law. The clinic took place on Friday, February 24th at DePaul College of Law.
Fifteen pro bono attorneys, many of who are DePaul alumni, and twenty five law student volunteers participated in the virtual legal advice clinic. They worked in small groups to research and respond to family and housing law questions on the Legal Answers website (il.freelegalanswers.org). Legal Answers is an American Bar Association sponsored web program where lower income Illinois residents can ask an attorney for help with a legal issue. Legal Answers uses technology to increase access to legal help while making pro bono easy for attorneys. By the end of the clinic, the attorney/student teams answered forty-six family law and seven housing law questions.
The attorneys enjoyed working with students, helping them figure out how to answer complex family and housing law questions in a manner that is understandable and accurate. According to Michelle Cass, alumna and associate at Rinella & Rinella, Ltd.: “The pro bono clinic offered an excellent opportunity for practitioners and students alike to connect with and assist families in need of legal advice. Students rose to the challenge and conveyed professionalism and poise while addressing the access to justice gap that continues to be a rising call to action for the family-law community.”
The students found the hands-on experience invaluable. First-year law student and Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Fellow, Hannah Thayer, explained that the clinic was incredibly worthwhile: “The pro-bono event was extremely beneficial because I was able to work hands-on with a practicing attorney in a field that I am interested in to answer real-life questions. It gave me the opportunity to learn about specific statutes and requirements while also applying skills that are taught in 1L classes. This experience allowed me to gain more knowledge of and interest in family law, while also helping others in a time of confusion and need.” First-year law student Sal De Los Angeles agreed: “The Legal Answers Pro Bono Clinic was incredible. I think what made it so valuable to me as a student, was the opportunity to work and be mentored by a practicing attorney. I would definitely do it again.”
DePaul College of Law is the first law school in Illinois to offer this type of clinic and hopes to host additional clinics in the future. It was the perfect blend of pro bono, mentoring, and legal tech to address access to justice issues.
For the sixth consecutive year, DePaul
University College of Law's Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative
and the Center for Disability and Elder Law held a day of service as
part of Pro Bono Week's Donate-A-Day, an initiative celebrated around the country
wherein legal professionals provide their services to those in need.
Under the tutelage of the Center for Disability and Elder Law's legal
director Tom Wendt, participants aided low-income seniors in drafting
living wills and powers of attorney for health care and property.
alumni and student volunteers spent the day at the Center on Addison. During
the workshop, they interviewed and assisted more than 15 seniors in
creating important legal documents. First-year student Dave Hem praised the program, saying it was “one of the greatest
volunteer experiences I have ever had. Not only did I learn about
issues impacting low income seniors in this country, it allowed me
the opportunity to help them. ... It was very enlightening for me to
note the differences in public service provisions between developed
countries (like the United States) and developing countries (like
Cambodia, where I am from). … I look forward to participating in
such activities again.”
University College of Law's Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center joined with the Center for Public Interest Law and the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative to host a discussion on
public service and child advocacy work. Professor Allison Ortlieb
moderated the panel, which featured the Honorable Patrick T. Murphy
of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Domestic Relations Division
and Susan DeCostanza, staff attorney from Chicago Volunteer Legal
Services. Focusing on the work of Cook County's Public Guardian Office, the
speakers educated attendees on the value of aiding others and how
experience in public interest can improve one's overall legal acumen.
Judge Murphy described his experience as the first Cook
County Public Guardian. During his 26 years in the role, he saw how
the Public Guardian program expanded from just aiding adults to also helping children. Throughout his career, he has also inspired legal reforms to benefit youths. DeCostanza further explored the importance of
Public Guardians, such as how they make the legal process easier for
children and families.
DePaul’s College of Law held its fifth annual 1L Service Day
on August 19, 2016. This year, more than 100 volunteers participated, including
incoming students, second- and third-year students, and faculty and staff, as
well as Dean Jennifer Rosato Perea.
Volunteers chose between seven service sites throughout the
city to visit and assist persons in need: Pacific Garden Mission, Cornerstone
Community Outreach, Marillac House, Legal Prep Charter Academy, Catholic Charities
Madonna House, Catholic Charities St. Vincent de Paul Residence, and Howard
Area Community Center. Among their responsibilities were making beds and
serving meals at homeless shelters, preparing classrooms for the upcoming
school year, and interacting with senior citizens.
During the event, College of Law Chaplain Tom Judge
encouraged participants to share what motivates them to serve. Some felt that
“it’s a good way to meet and connect with new students,” while others agreed
that “it is part of how I live out my faith.” By taking part in 1L Service Day,
participants were able to accomplish these and other goals, in addition to
exploring different communities in Chicago and aiding others.
The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative and
University Ministry in the Loop organize the annual event with support from the
Center for Public Interest Law.
Shehnaz Mansuri joined DePaul's College of Law as director of the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative in June 2016. In this role, Mansuri will lead the pro bono and community service program for students, faculty, staff and alumni. She will work closely with community partner agencies and develop new opportunities for DePaul students to gain professional and legal skills while assisting the community. She also will manage the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project, DePaul's pro bono legal help desk that operates at a food program for the homeless in Chicago's South Loop.
Mansuri has more than 15 years of public service experience. Prior to joining DePaul, she served as manager of the Pro Bono Service Initiative at the University of Chicago Law School, where she oversaw a wide range of pro bono opportunities, developed new partnerships with law firms and legal aid agencies, and engaged students to participate in pro bono service projects. Before moving to academia, Mansuri was a trial attorney at a Chicago-based civil rights litigation boutique where she gained substantial federal, state and appellate court experience representing clients in police accountability cases.
Mansuri is a member of the board of directors of Illinois Legal Aid Online and is a member of the executive committee of the Section of Pro Bono & Public Service Opportunities of the Association of American Law Schools. She received her BS in psychology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and her JD from Loyola University Chicago.
DePaul University College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) recognized 84 students who collectively reported more than 15,000 service hours during academic year 2015-2016 at an awards reception on April 21.
Alumna Kathleen Curtin (JD ’07) received the 2016 Pro Bono Alumni Award for her deep commitment to pro bono work in the area of family law. Curtin, who currently runs her own law practice, is a dedicated volunteer at the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services and Prairie State Legal Services. She also serves as president of the Association of Women Attorneys of Lake County.
Among the awardees, 30 graduating students received the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award for contributing 200 or more hours of service while at DePaul. The award is named for the late Benjamin L. Hooks (JD ’48), a civil rights activist and former executive director of the NAACP, the first African-American to be named to the Federal Communications Commission, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Third-year student Alex Antonacci, a PBCSI student coordinator and Hooks Award recipient who tallied 334.5 service hours while at DePaul, reflected on her pr
o bono experience.
“I learned the importance of giving back,” she said. “With my law degree comes a responsibility to use it to give back to my community.” Antonacci will be working as an assistant public defender in Palm Beach County, Florida, after graduation.
Following are this year's award recipients.
||Sukhpal Singh Kooner
|Class of 2016
|Danielle DeLeon Spires
|Class of 2017
||Maria Gimena Puppo Martinez
|Class of 2018
|Class of 2016
|Class of 2017
|Class of 2018
||Anne Marie Knisely
DePaul University College of Law student volunteers visited neighboring high school Jones Prep to teach freshman and sophomores about restorative justice and the use of restorative justice circles in high schools. The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative and the Student Bar Association partnered with Umoja Corporation to facilitate the lessons as part of the law school's Donate-a-Day program in March.
Students engaged in small group discussions
after reading about hypothetical situations and discussing how they would play
out in the traditional justice system versus a restorative justice system.
Law students were also able to work with junior and senior students who are currently
enrolled in pre-law classes and are exploring legal career opportunities. The law
students spoke about their undergraduate and law school experiences, and
answered questions the Jones' students had about this education path.
"It was inspiring to speak with teens about restorative justice," said first-year student Raven Lewis. "I
loved discussing and seeing how the students valued restorative justice in our
society and education system. The teens reaffirmed my belief that lawyers must
work with the system and the community to provide justice. I would urge all
students to participate in a Donate-A-Day because you can learn so much and continue
to be inspired."
For more information about community service
opportunities, please contact Alex Antonacci at email@example.com
More than 225 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members gathered at the 20th annual DePaul Law Auction on February 19 to raise money for stipends to support students who work in unpaid, public interest positions over the summer. More than $20,000 was raised, including ticket sales and other monetary donations. The stipends support students working at nonprofits and government agencies, which often have heavy caseloads, but are unable to pay summer interns to help serve more clients. Students receiving these stipends have worked in areas such as civil rights, disability advocacy, domestic violence, immigration and criminal law.
This year's event included a silent auction, a raffle and a live auction. Popular silent auction items included four one-day "hopper" pass to Disney World, tickets to a Cubs v. Cardinals game, a FitBit HR, a Las Vegas hotel package and tickets to a Second City comedy show. Following the silent auction, Professor Alberto Coll led a live auction, which included many of the highest priced items for the event. Bidding wars ensued for an Australian dinner for six students with Professor Zoë Robinson, which went for $1,000, and other popular items included a weekend getaway at a Wisconsin cabin, a faculty Whirlyball challenge, and a private, in-home wine tasting party for up to 18 hosted by Wines for Humanity. In addition, many professors and alumni donated networking lunches and dinners.
The auction is one of the most amazing gatherings and showings of community support I have ever seen,”
said PILA auction committee chair and second-year law student Madeleine Wineland. “
It's truly remarkable to see so many students and faculty come together on behalf of those in the public interest law community. I am so happy to be a part of this.”
Third-year student and SBA president Alex Antonnaci agreed. “The auction is such a great event each and every year. It's a great place to socialize with students, faculty, and staff you don't normally see—all while raising money for a worthy cause!”
The Public Interest Law Association organizes the event each year. The auction committee, chaired by Madeleine Wineland, would like to thank all those who attended and donated to the auction.
Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) volunteers participated in the Marillac Social Center's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Fair on January 16 on Chicago's West Side.
As part of PBCSI's Donate-a-Day program, volunteers helped Marillac students and their families with arts and crafts, playing bingo, dancing, decorating cookies and reading short stories. Before the fair ended, volunteers, students, family and staff gathered together to discuss the importance of MLK's legacy and its relation to community and, in particular, gun violence in Chicago. After the group discussion, DePaul volunteers heard from Marillac staff members and young women who had attended Marillac's after school program for a number of years and continue to volunteer or work there.
“It was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at DePaul,” said first-year student Katy Green. “More than the actual Donate-a-Day was the opportunity we had to sit down with several girls, who were all around the same age as us, and hear their stories about gun violence and the struggles they face on a daily basis just walking around their neighborhood. Our discussion highlighted the importance of having places like the Marillac Center for kids to go to in order to just be kids. You could tell that the families and staff were appreciative of us being there. It was a really great experience.”
PBCSI's next Donate-a-Day event will be held Saturday, February 20, at Deborah's Place, which provides housing and services to homeless women in Chicago.
DePaul University College of Law presented its annual Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) awards to eight DePaul alumni currently working in public interest positions across the country on November 5. The Loan Repayment Assistance Program is designed to assist DePaul law graduates with lower-paying public sector jobs to manage their educational debt. The program started in 2006 and has helped 54 alumni since its inception. Recipients shared remarks about their passion for the work in public interest law and expressed their gratitude for DePaul's financial support to make these career paths possible.
This year’s LRAP recipients are:
- Rocio Alcantar ‘10, National Immigrant Justice Center
- Samuel Keen ‘14, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands
- Courtney Kelledes ‘13, Cabrini Green Legal Aid
- Natalie Lilavois ‘13, The Legal Aid Society, Bronx, New York
- Maria Macias ‘11, Justice For Our Neighbors – Dallas Fort Worth
- Ryann Moran ‘07, Cabrini Green Legal Aid
- Olivia Villegas ‘10, Life Span Center for Legal Services & Advocacy
- Lindsay Van Fleet ‘10, Vermilion County Public Defender’s Office
year the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative partners with the
Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago and A.N. Pritzker Elementary School
to run the Lawyers in the Classroom Program. For one week each semester, law students, faculty and staff volunteer to
visit Pritzker and teach middle school classes a one-hour lesson on the U.S.
Constitution and other legal principles. It is always a big hit with both the middle school students and law
of the lessons, entitled “No Weapons Allowed,” gives the middle school students
the opportunity to discern the difference between the “spirit of the law” and
the “black letter law.” After the
students talk in a large group about the overall rule, they then break up into
smaller groups, led by the law student volunteers, to apply what they have
learned to several hypotheticals. For
every lesson, the middle school students get the chance to learn a basic
constitutional law concept and an opportunity to apply the concept to different
The volunteer experience is a very fulfilling one for both the middle school
and law school students. As Anne Marie Knisley (JD, Class of 2018) put it, “This
was an excellent opportunity to interact with students and help increase their
knowledge and awareness about the justice system. For law students, it’s a
great opportunity to speak to a group and practice skills we are learning.” Edward O’Neill (JD, Class of 2018) added, “It
was an excellent exercise to help the kids think outside the box and approach
issues in a different light.”
DePaul will return to Pritzker during the spring semester to teach additional
lessons and build on some of the legal principles discussed in classrooms this
As a way to
celebrate Pro Bono Week, the Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative (PBCSI)
held its annual October Donate-A-Day on Friday, October 30, 2015. For the
fifth year running, PBCSI and The Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL)
paired up to offer a great day of pro bono service for the DePaul
community. Alumni also came back to DePaul to participate in this event
alongside current students. The Donate-A-Day focused on assisting
low-income seniors with advanced directives, such as living wills and powers of
attorney for health care and property. The day started with an in-depth
training on drafting powers of attorney for property and health care and
preparing living will declarations in Illinois. Tom Wendt, CDEL’s Legal
Director, conducted the training.
the training, the volunteers headed north to the Center on Addison for the
workshop with the seniors. Working in pairs, volunteers were given the
opportunity to work directly with clients, conducting interviews and drafting the
legal paperwork for the seniors. The
volunteers met with and assisted over 20 seniors. DePaul Student Kristyn
Bowser, had a very positive
experience: "It felt good to do something so important for older people in
need, and use the skills I am learning in law school practically at the same
time. Further, you could tell that the clients really appreciated our
time.” Many other volunteers shared this
feeling and found the whole day very rewarding. The alumni attorneys also noted that they found the pro bono day both
educational and enjoyable. Additionally,
it was a great opportunity for current students to meet alumni and hear the
great work that DePaul graduates are doing in the Chicago area. In the end, the seniors received important
legal assistance and the volunteers gained valuable legal experience and
exposure to public interest and pro bono legal work.
The Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) and Legal Assistance Foundation's (LAF) Young Professionals Board cohosted "The Healing Lawyer: Bringing the Affordable Care Act to Communities in Need" panel on October 14.
The panel consisted of two attorneys from LAF who work with those positively affected by the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Carrie Chapman, director of the public benefits group, and Alice Setrini, medical legal partnership project supervisory attorney. The conversation was moderated by David Rodriguez, clinical instructor of the Poverty Law Clinic and director of the Third Year in Practice Program.
Chapman and Setrini discussed how those living in poverty have specifically benefitted from the ACA and how access to healthcare has helped open doors to healthier communities, breeding more economically and socially stable communities. They also described how LAF has identified and pursued implementation issues surrounding ACA and the importance and growth of medical-legal partnerships. Chapman and Setrini then offered tips for lawyers interested in helping, such as familiarizing oneself with resources under the ACA now available to clients, directing clients to the ACA marketplace website and helping clients fill out applications.
The event was cosponsored by the Jaharis Health Law Institute, the Public Interest Law Association, and the Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative.
Following an exciting 1L Service Day to kick off the year, the Fall Service Fair, hosted by DePaul's Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) drew a large crowd of
students excited to get involved in the community. The fair, which took place on October 1, is just one of the many ways that PBCSI works to get DePaul law students engaged
in service within the community. The fair started with
presentations from a number of community organizations, including Cabrini Green
Legal Aid, the Center for Disability & Elder Law, World Relief Chicago,
Lawyers in the Classroom, Croak Student Legal Services, Illinois Legal Aid
Online, and the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic. Student leaders
from various DePaul programs, including the Service Immersion Trips, Donate-a-Day
events, and DePaul’s signature pro bono project, the Neighborhood
Legal Assistance Project, also gave presentations.
Following the organizations' informative presentations,
students were eager to mingle with representatives of the various organizations
and sign up to get involved in their programs. PBCSI’s Director, Katie
Blouin, was pleased with the outcome of the service fair saying, "It
was impressive to see so many students committed to volunteer work. I’m looking forward to seeing our students get
involved in the wide variety of opportunities they learned about at the fair,
and the impact their work will have within the community.”
Many of the above organizations and
projects have upcoming trainings within the next few weeks, so students can get involved in service
right away. PBCSI
will host a similar fair at the start of the spring semester and will feature
pro bono opportunities that will be available over spring break.
On Saturday, September 26, the Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) hosted its first Donate-A-Day of the school year at A.N. Pritzker Elementary School, a Chicago Public School in Wicker Park, and one of PBCSI’s partner organizations. DePaul law students assisted with a variety of projects at the school, from cleanup of the school garden and planters, painting an outdoor basketball court, to painting in the halls of the school building. Student volunteers worked closely with teachers, parents and elementary students who joined in the service day.
Many DePaul law students were returning volunteers and enjoyed recounting some of the projects they completed at former volunteer days at Pritzker Elementary. PBCSI Coordinator, Alex Antonacci, explained that the volunteers have a very positive experience participating in these volunteer days, “Donate-a-Day with PBSCI is a great way to take a break from school and spend a little time giving back. Every time I participate in one of these volunteer days, I meet new people-- it's a great opportunity to network with other students and members of the community."
During lunch, the principal at Pritzker Elementary personally thanked DePaul students for their efforts, and ensured the volunteers that their hard work was appreciated, noting that the elementary school looks forward to this day every year. If you missed this opportunity, join in the next Donate-A-Day on October 30 with the Center for Disability and Elder Law. If you are interested, contact PBCSI Director, Katie Blouin, at KBlouin@depaul.edu.
Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) is delighted to recognize
Lindsey Tobias and Casey Williams as the May volunteers of the month. Though Tobias and Williams recently finished their
first year of law school, both remained engaged in their community and
volunteer efforts to help others. In fact, both were drawn to DePaul because of its public service reputation.
Both volunteer with PBCSI’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP), which provides pro bono legal assistance to the homeless in the South Loop. NLAP takes place at a Saturday morning breakfast program for the homeless at Grace Episcopal Church and is staffed entirely with law student volunteers and a supervising attorney.
extensive experience working in state government and Tobias studied criminal
justice and political science before law school. Tobias and Williams started volunteering with NLAP after they
attended the NLAP training at the beginning of spring semester. Since then, they have each spent several
Saturdays volunteering with NLAP to help the homeless with their legal
issues. And both of them have found the
experience to be rewarding and insightful.
Tobias said she has particularly enjoyed working directly with clients and being with other law students who are passionate about helping the poor. She was also
thrilled to be able to help a client successfully expunge her criminal record,
making her eligible for employment. The
client returned to let Tobias and the other NLAP volunteers know how much they had helped.
Williams said he has been able to gain first-hand insight into the
issues that impact the poor; things that might not be obvious to others. For example, he has learned how critical it
is to have a state ID, though many homeless individuals don’t due to difficult circumstances. This was highlighted for Williams when he assisted a client with the
paperwork and homeless waiver to get a state ID, only to have the client return
two weeks later to start the process over because her belongings had been
stolen. It was then that Williams realized
how fleeting progress can be for many of the clients that NLAP serves. "It is all the more critical to have
these free services readily available," said Williams.
NLAP is not the first volunteer project for Tobias and Williams. They both participated in the College of
Law’s annual 1L Service Day for incoming first year students. For that service day, Tobias volunteered
with Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly and Williams volunteered at
Cornerstone Community Outreach, a homeless shelter in Uptown. Throughout his 1L year, Williams was also
heavily involved in helping to organize the Public Interest Law Association
auction, which raises money for students who have public interest internships
over the summer. Tobias participated in
the College of Law’s Pro Bono Staycation where she worked with youth in the
Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. She has also been a volunteer with DePaul’s
Domestic Violence Courthouse Project.
Both Tobias and Williams intend to
keep volunteering during their law school and legal careers and look forward to
future sessions at NLAP.
The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative
(PBCSI) held its annual service awards reception on April 23, 2015, in the
This year 117
law students earned a service award for
reporting at least 50 hours of legal or nonlegal volunteer work while at
Students also earned service awards for reporting 100 and 200 hours of service.
The College of Law recognized 40 students with the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award, which is given to graduating third- and fourth-year students who report 200 or more service hours.
Law students reported over 18,000 hours of service in academic year 2014-2015.
In addition to law student service awards, PBCSI presented the 2015 Pro Bono Alumni Award to alumnus Dan Sylvester (JD '13). He is currently an associate at the Chicago office of Holland & Knight
and a member of the firm’s financial services team.
Sylvester is the national chair of Holland & Knight’s Veterans Affinity Group, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the issues facing military veterans and increasing pro bono activity focused on military veterans. In this role, he has
coordinated the training of over 50 attorneys in 16 cities across the country
to be trained in the ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network (VCAN). VCAN provides unrepresented veterans who have pending disability benefits claims with the opportunity to work with lawyers who will help the veterans complete their claims packages for expedited review by the VA—at no cost to the veterans.
The training that Sylvester coordinated at Holland & Knight is now posted on the ABA’s VCAN website as their approved online training for any VCAN attorney applicant. In light of his impressive pro bono record and dedication to serving veterans, PBCSI was delighted to recognize Sylvester with
the Pro Bono Alumni Award.
At the conclusion of the event, PBCSI Director Cheryl Price encouraged students to continue volunteer work while at DePaul and as they go on to practice law.
“We are proud that our students and alumni embrace DePaul’s Vincentian mission of service and social justice and have put those beliefs into action.”
See the complete list of the 2015 service award recipients.
The Journal for Social Justice, University Ministry and the Center for Public Interest Law had the honor and privilege of hosting Sister Helen Prejean for a roundtable discussion with students, faculty and alumni.
Sister Helen, Nobel Peace Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author of the academy award winning movie, "Dead Man Walking," is an anti-death penalty advocate who has served as a spiritual adviser to death row inmates.
Sister Helen began her anti-death penalty advocacy while living in the St. Thomas housing project in inner-city New Orleans. It was there that she became aware of the harrowing connection between poverty and oppression and prison. While in St. Thomas, she became a pen pal with a Louisiana death row inmate.
The roundtable conversation began with Sister Helen describing her first experience as a spiritual adviser for a death-row inmate. She described it as a "secret ritual" that much of the rest of the world renounces. This experience became the subject of her first book, "Dead Man Walking." The book was published in 1993, a time when 80% of Americans supported the death penalty.
Despite the large number of death penalty supporters, Sister Helen said she knew the story needed to be told. She finds that many people who support the death penalty do not know much about the process and what it entails. She works tirelessly to resist the death penalty and educate the public as a lecturer and writer.
When asked how she chooses inmates to work with, Sister Helen said it is a decision that she can’t explain. She has been a spiritual adviser to five death-row inmates, visiting with them from throughout their time in prison and to their execution. She also counsels the families of murder victims as the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans.
A powerful point in the conversation came when Sister Helen pushed the group to think about how we treat a human with dignity. With the firm belief that "everyone is better than the worst thing they’ve ever done," she reminded attendees that, despite their actions, people in jail are still human, and this is the same value that St. Vincent advocated in his work.
Sister Helen described the important role lawyers play in anti-death penalty work: Lawyers are critical in framing the story told about inmates and furthering the idea that they are better than their crimes. For death-row inmates, lawyers and advocates are often times the only human dignity they have left. It is the passion for human dignity that keeps Sister Helen moving forward in her fight against the death penalty.
First-year law student Byron Munro is the Pro Bono Community Service Initiative’s April Volunteer of the Month. Munro was chosen as this month’s volunteer because of his deep and exemplary commitment to service during his
first year of law school.
Munro knew from the start that he wanted to get involved with pro bono and community service work while in law school. The College of
Law’s wide range of volunteer opportunities for students made it easy for him
to “hit the ground running.”
In fact, Munro started volunteering before classes even began by participating in the College of Law’s 1L Service Day at Legal Prep Charter Academy where he helped
to organize classroom libraries.
"Being in the city of Chicago, and seeing the disparities, I realized there needed to be a voice, especially for particular demographics," Munro explained.
Munro's commitment to volunteering is evidenced by the variety and consistency of his work. Munro is a regular volunteer with Lawyers in the Classroom, where he teaches lessons on the U.S. Constitution to middle school students at Pritzker Elementary School. He also assists pro se petitioners at the Center for Disability Elder Law’s Guardianship Help Desk and has enthusiastically attended just about every single Donate-a-Day that PBCSI has sponsored this year.
In addition to that, Munro was a participant on the New Orleans service immersion trip with University Ministry this past December and spent his spring break volunteering at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center as part of PBCSI’s Pro Bono "Staycation."
Munro said he has enjoyed all of the volunteer and pro bono work he has done throughout this year but cites the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center as his favorite volunteer site. "Working with the youth and helping them realize that not everyone has given up on them and this is not the end for them was an amazing experience," he said.
Munro is interested in pursuing a career in sports law, but wants to remain committed to pro bono work in whatever he does. In fact, he is interested in creating a pro bono initiative at whatever law firm he ends up and working closely with his colleagues who also want to pursue this work.
"Society as a whole still has a way to go in order to bridge the gap between all of these inequalities," Munro urged. "Unless you are
taking action, nothing is going to happen. I might not be able to change the
world, but I hope I can be a point of inspiration for someone to carry on
whatever legacy they want to leave behind."
Chelsea Geiger and
Colleen Mulligan may be first-year law students, but they have not let that
stop them from pursuing pro bono and community service projects at DePaul and throughout the Chicagoland area. In fact, the students have been named PBCSI's March volunteers of the month for their deep commitment to serving their community.
Geiger and Mulligan are two of the leading volunteers for the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative’s tutoring program with Pritzker Elementary School. For the month of February, PBCSI sent DePaul law students to tutor second grade students every Friday morning. Geiger and Mulligan have decided to continue their work at Pritzker beyond their initial commitment and tutor for the remainder of the school year.
"Working one-on-one with the kids is the best experience," said Geiger. "You can see their brains working and it is so fun to see them growing from week to week."
Mulligan added, "I absolutely love it! I help out with math, and I can see the students improving each week. It’s cool to see that you are actually making a difference and the students’ performances are improving. Despite all the craziness of law school, the kids' smiles each week seem to make it all worth it."
"Chelsea and Colleen have attended these Friday sessions with enthusiasm and excitement," said PBCSI Director Cheryl Price.
Following law school, Geiger hopes to work as in-house counsel for a big firm and is considering moving out of the United States to pursue human rights work. Mulligan is interested in immigration law,
trade law, and how the two intersect and influence each other. Both agree that no matter where their respective career paths take them, they will always remain ready and willing to serve their communities.
During the first week of February the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) was busy training law students for a variety of legal and non-legal volunteer opportunities.
Students were invited to attend sessions with Lawyers in the Classroom, Illinois Legal Aid Online and PBCSI’s own Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project.
Lawyers in the Classroom, sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago (CRFC), is an opportunity for law students to work with middle school students at Pritzker Elementary School, a Chicago Public School in Wicker Park and one of PBCSI’s long-standing partner organizations. Law students partner with a class to teach an interactive lesson in constitutional law.
The lessons contain a series of hypothetical situations to engage students. One lesson asks students to consider a student who
brings a “sacred blade” to school; an important religious symbol that could also be used as a weapon. CRFC Program Director Anita Dellaria conducted the training at DePaul on February 4.
Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) is a legal website that provides free legal information and help to Illinois residents. Operators help people navigate the ILAO website. ILAO’s LiveHelp Volunteer Coordinator Makoroba Sow came to DePaul College of Law to train students interested in
volunteering as LiveHelp operators.
ILAO’s volunteer opportunities are great for busy law students because all of the work is done online, so students can volunteer from the convenience of their own apartment if needed.
Last, but certainly not least, PBCSI’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP) held its spring training on February 6. Led by PBCSI student coordinators and NLAP volunteers June Kowalewski and Andrew Hays, and NLAP Supervising Attorney Damon Ritenhouse, the students were trained how to help clients obtain state IDs as well as the process to seal and expunge criminal records in Illinois.
"All three of the trainings gave law students a variety of ways to get involved in pro bono and community service work," said PBCSI Director Cheryl Price. "While each of the organizations works to
serve different populations across the Chicago and even Illinois, they all give
law students a valuable chance to engage with and give back to the community."
In collaboration with the Pro Bono & Community Service
Initiative and UMIN in the Loop, the College of Law’s Diversity Committee commenced its “Continuing our Legacy” series on Martin Luther King, Jr. with an
afternoon of reflection and service.
Despite the fact that MLK Day is a federal holiday, approximately 45 student and staff volunteers donated their time to fulfill Dr. King’s vision, and to answer his question of “What are you doing for others?”
The program began with comments about Dr. King’s legacy, including his commitment to community service. Volunteers were encouraged to "pick up the baton handed down by earlier generations" and carry forth the efforts and spirit of service in order to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
After these remarks, volunteers viewed the Eyes on the Prize video series, which focused on Dr. King’s freedom marches in Chicago to protest the systemic racial segregation and discrimination in the city during the Civil Rights movement.
The volunteers then ventured into the community to one of two service sites: Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO), a homeless shelter for families in Uptown, and Jackson Square, a nursing home facility on Chicago’s west side.
At CCO, volunteers played games and made Valentine’s Day cards with the youth
residents and also sorted clothing donations. Before starting these activities, CCO’s volunteer coordinator gave the volunteers a brief orientation about the services offered at CCO and discussed the stereotypes and misconceptions about homelessness.
First-year law student Sophia
Yanuzzi said, “We all know that volunteering in the community
helps the community. What we do not always realize is how it also helps us. At this month's Donate-A-Day, I experienced a strong sense of fellowship not only with the other student volunteers but also with the DePaul coordinators and the Cornerstone staff.”
Khiabett Osuna, another first-year law student, added, “I learned more about MLK in a short video shown to us that day, than in 12 years of public school. I don't think I ever knew that Dr. King had tried to help Chicago, or that he was met with so much hate in the north.
It was great to have that context when we actually went and did our service at
the homeless shelter.”
A second group of dedicated volunteers headed out to Jackson Square nursing home to spend time with seniors. Upon arrival, one of the residents read speeches of Dr. King’s and gave a synopsis of what he felt Dr. King stood for during his life. This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. The volunteers then assisted the residents during a few hours of organized Bingo, prize winning and snacks.
“I had such a great time playing Bingo with the residents of Jackson Square," said second-year law student Lindsay Bowman. "Some were there to win big--I loved seeing their competitive edges shining through when someone else won! It felt good to give them something fun to do for a few hours, and some prizes to enjoy even after we left.”
On November 23, PBCSI hosted the final Donate-A-Day of the fall semester. Volunteers gathered on Friday evening at the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Lincoln Park to assist with the set up for their annual homeless outreach luncheon that would take place the following day.
At the luncheon, homeless people and families walk around the St. Vincent de Paul Center and visit various stations to receive winter clothing and coats, medical assistance, backpacks, toiletries and toys for the children. Everyone who attended the luncheon enjoyed a home-cooked turkey meal. Donate-A-Day volunteers were assigned various tasks to help set up for the luncheon, including sorting clothing and organizing the different stations to ensure the next day would run smoothly.
“Volunteering at this month’s Donate-A-Day was a wonderful experience," said Byron Munro, a 1L at DePaul. "Everyone worked well with each other and we knew our part would go a long way in helping the luncheon run effectively the next day.”
DePaul students worked with other volunteers to ensure that the set up was complete on Friday evening. This was the first time that PBCSI participated in the set up portion of the event, but students enjoyed joining together on a Friday evening to help out in the community.
First-year law student Sierra Hagl said, “From this Donate-A-Day experience I learned that giving just a tiny bit of your time can mean the world to a large amount of people. Every moment of your time counts for something and this time, my moments of time meant that someone was provided with clothing to shelter them from the cold.” Students sorted through large amounts of donations organizing winter coats and other clothing by size.
There will be three more Donate-A-Day events during the spring semester. The first Donate-A-Day event will be held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 19, as classes are not held on this day. For more information, please contact PBCSI Coordinator Caitlin Duane.
As a way to celebrate Pro Bono Week, the Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) held its annual October Donate-A-Day on Friday, October 24. For the fourth year running, PBCSI and The Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL) paired up to offer a great day of pro bono service for the DePaul community.
Alumni were invited to return to DePaul and participate in this event alongside current students. The Donate-A-Day focused on assisting low-income seniors with advanced directives, such as living wills and powers of attorney for health care and property. The day started with an in-depth training on drafting powers of attorney for property and health care and preparing living will declarations in Illinois. Tom Wendt, CDEL’s Legal Director, conducted the training.
After completing the training, the volunteers headed over to the Evergreen Apartments in Old Town for the workshop with the seniors. Working in pairs, volunteers were given the opportunity to work directly with clients, conducting interviews and drafting the legal paperwork for the seniors.
Leah Sibbio, a 1L at DePaul, had a very positive experience. "I found working directly with a client for my first time to be a very rewarding experience," she said. "The event allowed me to get a taste of how challenging and yet exciting the client interview process can be."
Many other volunteers shared this feeling and found the whole day very rewarding. For some alumni, this was their first experience doing pro bono work. They found the pro bono day both educational and enjoyable and hope to continue doing pro bono work. In the end, the seniors received important legal assistance and the volunteers gained valuable legal experience and exposure to public interest and pro bono legal work.
On Friday, September 26, the Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative welcomed World Relief Chicago to the College of Law for a New Americans Initiative Citizenship Workshop volunteer training for students.
The New Americans Initiative is a non-profit partnership between the State of Illinois and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to provide free assistance to legal permanent residents who are trying to become U.S. Citizens. World Relief Chicago partners with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights to provide Citizenship Workshops as part of the New Americans Initiative. Two student groups, the Latino Law Student Association and the Society for Asylum & Immigration Law, co-sponsored the training.
The training was led by Leanor Garcia, staff attorney and citizenship program coordinator with World Relief Chicago. The training prepared students to volunteer at any monthly Citizenship Workshop and work with clients one-on-one to inform them of the benefits and requirements of becoming a citizen. Students were also trained to assist clients with completing their N-400 citizenship application. The training was truly a valuable experience for all. As Jessica Gutierrez (JD '16) said, “Attending this workshop broadened my perspective of the simple and practical ways a law student interested in pursuing immigration law can begin to help those who are undergoing the process of legalization.”
In light of students’ positive response to Citizenship Workshop training, PBCSI hopes to offer training again during the spring semester and is exploring additional ways students can volunteer in the area of immigration law.
Each year the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative partners each year with the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago and A.N. Pritzker Elementary School to run Lawyers in the Classroom.
The week-long program brings law student, alumni and faculty volunteers to Pritzker to teach 6th, 7th and 8th graders a one-hour lesson on the U.S. Constitution and other legal principles.
One of the day's lessons, “No Electronics Allowed,” helped the middle school students discern the difference between the “spirit of the law” and the “black letter law.” After that, students worked through several hypotheticals to apply what they learned. For every lesson, the middle school students get the chance to learn a basic constitutional law concept and an opportunity to apply the concept to different fact scenarios.
The volunteer experience is a very fulfilling one for both the middle school and law school students. As Deirdre McGrory (JD '16) put it, “It was so fun to see the intelligent and very creative ways students would respond to the hypotheticals. I don’t know who had more fun – me or the students!”
DePaul will return to Pritzker during the spring semester to teach additional lessons and build on some of the legal principles discussed in classrooms this fall.
On Thursday, October 2, the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) Committee and the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) hosted its eleventh annual LRAP Awards Reception in the College of Law Rinn Law Library Rare Book Room. This year, ten DePaul alumni were recognized for their outstanding contributions to public interest law. The recipients include:
- Hallie Bezner (’10) - McLean County Public Defender’s Office, Bloomington, IL
- Megan Blatt (’10) - Life Span, Chicago, IL
- Chastidy Burns (’12) - Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, Chicago, IL
- Anita Gupta (’13) - National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago, IL
- Courtney Kelledes (’13) – Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Chicago, IL
- Jarrett Knox (’08) - Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, Chicago, IL
- Jessica Schneider (’10) - Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., Chicago, IL
- Ashley Shambley (’10) - Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, Chicago, IL
- Robert Simmons (’06) - Winnebago County Public Defender’s Office, Rockford, IL
- Lindsay VanFleet (’10) - Vermillion County Public Defender’s Office, Danville, IL
Following CPIL executive director Shaye Loughlin and LRAP Committee chair Professor Patty Gerstenblith's presentation of the awards, recipients delivered inspiring remarks to students, faculty, staff, alumni, co-workers, community supporters and family. The LRAP celebrates the outstanding DePaul public interest law alumni in the Chicago community and across the country.
On the heels of an exciting and thought-provoking 1L Service Day, the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative’s
Fall Service Fair drew record numbers of students interested in
learning more about pro bono and community service opportunities at the
College of Law.
The fair took place on September 11 in Room 241, which was filled to capacity.
“It was impressive to see so many students interested in our service
programs here at the College of Law," enthused PBCSI Director Cheryl
Price. "The incoming 1Ls seem ready to start volunteering and are very
enthusiastic about DePaul’s Vincentian mission and giving back to their
communities. They seem like a great class!”
All of PBCSI’s partners were represented at the fair. They include
Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the Center for Disability & Elder Law, the
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Lawyers in the
Classroom, A.N. Pritzker Elementary School and Croak Student Legal
PBCSI also works closely with DePaul’s Domestic Violence Co
Project and Illinois Legal Aid Online and both programs were at the fair
and talked about what they do and how students can get involved.
Students learned about UMIN’s winter break Service Immersion Trips,
PBCSI’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project and Donate-A-Day service
projects, and DePaul’s Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic’s pro bono
Many of the above organizations and projects have upcoming trainings
for students to get involved immediately. PBCSI will host a similar fair
at the start of the spring semester and will feature pro bono
opportunities available for students over spring break.
The College of Law held its third annual 1L
Service Day on Friday, August 22. This year’s service day brought in
just under 70 volunteers, a record number of participants. The College
of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) and University Ministry in the Loop organized the 1L Service Day, with support from the Center for Public Interest Law.
Interim Dean Bruce Ottley and PBCSI Director Cheryl Price welcomed
the 1L volunteers, many of whom congregated not just for the chance to
participate in works of service, but also to make new friends, meet
faculty members and explore Chicago.
College of Law Chaplain Tom Judge started by asking staff, faculty
and student site leaders to stand and discuss what motivates them to
give service. Answers ranged from "a sense of gratitude" to simply,
"it's the right thing to do." Shaye Loughlin, executive director of the
Center for Public Interest Law, defined service as a family value handed
down from the Greatest Generation.
Students then departed for one of six service sites: Pacific Garden
Mission, Cornerstone Community Outreach, Marillac House, Legal Prep
Charter Academy, Catholic Charities Bishop Conway Residence and Little
Brothers/ Friends of the Elderly.
At homeless shelters Pacific Garden Mission and Cornerstone
Community Outreach, students helped make beds, organize clothing
donations and serve meals. Marillac House, a site with countless social
services, gave students the opportunity to play with preschoolers and
clean out a closet in preparation for a move.
Student volunteers at Legal Prep Charter Academy got to work painting
classrooms and organizing the library. The students at Catholic
Charities Bishop Conway Residence visited with seniors. Lastly, the
students at Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly worked in a food
pantry, prepared holiday ornaments, and decorated Thanksgiving food bags
for the seniors. It was a day of varied and valuable work.
the lunch break, service day site leaders readdressed the importance of
service and discussed its impact on all parties involved. The site
leaders were second- and third-year law students, as well as law staff
and faculty. Many 1L students said they found the day to be extremely
As Chelsea Geiger (JD ‘17) said, “The service day meant connecting
with other students and faculty, the community, and the opportunities
available to me as a DePaul student. I got to know a few of my
classmates on a more personal level than just at orientation. I learned
of an organization I had no prior knowledge of and who are doing great
things around Chicago. I also discovered what DePaul could provide for
me besides a legal education and how, combined, we could make a
Alyssa Bisanz (JD ‘17) added that the 1L Service Day “captured the
essence of community spirit. Between collaboration and compassion, we
were able to leave a positive footprint, as we upheld the DePaul brand,
and served alongside with and for the neighbors of our community. This
activity was the perfect way for me to start off my school year.”
A group of College of Law students chose an alternate spring break
experience this year by donating their time to the Pro Bono Staycation
from Monday, March 24 to Thursday, March 27.
The event gave six participating students four full days of hands-on
pro bono work at their respective volunteer sites, including the Chicago
Legal Clinic, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and the Center for
Disability & Elder Law. Students worked on a range of projects and
subject areas, including preparing advanced directives for the elderly,
helping to track data relating to mortgage foreclosure clients,
conducting legal research on housing issues, observing in court, and
interviewing and assisting clients in need of help with immigration
First-year law student Caitlin Duane gained insight through her
experience. “My staycation experience at the Chicago Legal Clinic was a
great opportunity to network and start becoming familiar with public
interest agencies in Chicago," Duane said. "I was able to begin learning
about immigration law, which is incredibly complicated but also
fascinating. The attorneys that I worked with were both DePaul alums who
were excited to share their knowledge and passion for the law."
The Pro Bono Staycation is a joint project of the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) and the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative
(PBCSI). Both CPIL and PBCSI hope to expand this pro bono project to
get more students involved at a wider range of sites. Cheryl Price,
Director of PBCSI explains: “This is the second year that we have
offered the pro bono staycation to students and we hope to do so again
next year. It is a great experiential learning opportunity for students
who want to immerse themselves in a particular area of law while helping
For more information about DePaul’s Pro Bono Staycation, please contact Cheryl Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DePaul College of Law volunteers worked closely with high school
students from Legal Prep Charter Academy to teach litigation and
negotiation skills in a yearlong program developed by the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative.
Law students coached Legal Prep teams for a negotiations competition
among classmates and sent qualifiers to a final round event at law
firm Kirkland & Ellis. Two Legal Prep students advanced to the final
round, earning second place overall.
This is the second consectutive year DePaul has worked with the Legal
Prep Charter Academy, the first legal-themed charter high school in
Chicago. Located in West Garfield Park, it also serves the surrounding
Austin, Lawndale and Humboldt Park communities. Students are exposed to
the legal profession while developing skills in communication, critical
thinking and advocacy.
DePaul welcomed the opportunity to work directly with these students
and pique their interest in the law and legal profession. This year's
volunteer team, comprised of students as well as alumni, faculty and
staff, met with Legal Prep students monthly to teach a skills lesson and
to assist students in working through hypotheticals and practicing for
“Working with students from Legal Prep reminded me why I value
education," said second-year student Amanda Moncada, who participated as
a volunteer. "Education is a medium through which lives can be
transformed. And I saw many of these young scholars transform into
well-spoken, intellectually creative, critical thinkers. This
observation made my volunteering experience with Legal Prep one
certainly worth repeating.”
Second-year law student Alex Sparkhawk agreed.
“Volunteering for Legal Prep was a truly rewarding experience," he
said. "Working with these students and future lawyers really cannot be
expressed in words. I was part of a mock trial program in high school
which eventually led me to law school. I only hoped that I could spark a
light in these students similar to the fire inside me that eventually
guided me into the legal career path.”
For more information about DePaul’s Legal Prep Charter Academy
volunteer team, please contact Pro Bono & Community Service
Initiative Director Cheryl Price at email@example.com.
At its annual service awards reception on April 22, the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) recognized a record number of law students—more than 140—who reported at least 50 hours of legal or nonlegal volunteer work while at DePaul. In total, law students reported more than 20,000 hours of pro bono and community service in academic year 2013-2014, setting another record for the College of Law. PBCSI also presented 46 students with the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award, which recognizes graduating third- and fourth-year students who have reported 200 or more service hours.
In addition to law student awards, PBCSI presented the 2014 Pro Bono Alumni Award to Jean A. Adams (JD '80). Her law practice focuses on trusts and estates planning, guardianships and decedent estates. Adams began her pro bono career in 1982, shortly after gaining admission to the bar and has handled hundreds of pro bono cases since then, primarily with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS). CVLS awarded her its Distinguished Service Award in 1995 and 2002 for her “excellent work and commitment to serving Chicago’s poor.” Her pro bono work has focused on guardian ad litem work for disabled adults and minors in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Peter Ashmore, managing attorney for CVLS and adult guardianship program director, nominated Adams for the award.
“Jean’s tenacious commitment to pro bono and community service work and her determination to make the organized bar a force for improving the legal profession and the community make her a superb choice for this award," he said. "Jean Adams, in sum, is an extraordinary attorney: generous, effective, and a fighter for equal access to justice.”
After recognizing the awardees, Price encouraged students to continue their volunteer work at DePaul and as they move on to practice law. “Our students and alumni know that pro bono and community service are integral to the College of Law and have put their beliefs in action as they have headed out into the community to assist the poor and disadvantaged," Price said. "In the words of St. Vincent de Paul, these students have worked ‘with a new love in service of the poor’ and we are very proud of them.”
Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award
Caroline O’ Connell
Class of December 2014
Class of 2015
Andrea Zambrano Garzon
Class of 2016
Class of 2014
Class of 2015
Steve O’ Connor
Juan Manual Rodriguez
Class of 2016
Dean’s Certificate of Pro Bono Service Award
Class of 2014
Class of 2015
Class of 2016
Santiago Del Real
Dean’s Certificate of Service Award
Class of 2014
Class of 2015
Class of 2016
DePaul law students, staff and faculty worked with sixth-grade students from Chicago Public Schools' A.N. Pritzker Elementary School for the final 2013-2014 Donate-A-Day on April 4. Organized by the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) and student group Phi Alpha Delta, the service day offered Pritzker students a chance to learn about the law school environment, see a mock trial and study a cyberbulling case.
On arrival, 13 law student volunteers greeted the sixth-graders and offered a tour of the College of Law. The students met with Dean of Admissions & Student Administration Michael Burns and Professor Zoe Robinson to learn more about the law school environment and to hear their reasons for attending law school. The students also had the opportunity to participate as judges and jury members during a demonstration by the Phi Alpha Delta mock trial team.
The sixth-graders continued to learn about the court system by analyzing a cyberbullying case, Weber v. Chase, which is part of the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Lawyers in the Classroom curriculum. During the lesson, law student volunteers facilitated discussion questions, helping students understand various legal terms and concepts being used in the case.
“Pritzker students are very enthusiastic about the law. They love to volunteer and demonstrate their knowledge," said law student volunteer Desalina Williams, who helped facilitate the cyberbullying lesson. "This is my second year working with the students and I am always impressed at how well they grasp the various fact patterns presented to them. This is a great group of students.”
PBCSI has worked with Pritzker Elementary on several service projects over that past few years, including school beautification and organization, supply drives for homeless students and law students volunteering as tutors.
Illinois Legal Aid Online recognized Shaye Loughlin (JD '06) and Cheryl Price for their initiative and creativity in co-founding DePaul's Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP), a pro bono legal help desk for the homeless. Loughlin, executive director of the
Center for Public Interest Law, and Price, director of the
Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative, discuss the vision for the project in an interview for Illinois Legal Aid Online's "Faces of Justice" video series.Watch the video here
“At bottom, NLAP is an access to justice project and one that has inspired and touched the lives of many of our students" said Price. "Hopefully they’ll go on to become future public interest attorneys as well as pro bono attorneys.”
Since its launch in March 2012, NLAP has provided critical legal services to hundreds of homeless individuals in the South Loop.
Accessing legal services can be a daunting task, especially if you are low-income or homeless. Although there are 43,000 lawyers in Chicago, only 300 of them are full-time legal aid attorneys charged with meeting the needs of the 1.3 million low-income people that qualify for help.
Recognizing this access to justice gap, the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) and Center for Public Interest Law launched the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP), a pro bono legal help desk for the homeless, just over two years ago on March 17, 2012. Since then, NLAP has provided critical legal services to hundreds of homeless individuals in the South Loop. Staffed by a dedicated cadre of law student volunteers and a supervising attorney, NLAP takes place every other Saturday morning at a breakfast program in Printer’s Row. Run by the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, the breakfast program feeds 150 people every Saturday morning.
"A legal help desk for the homeless that actually meets the homeless where they congregate was, at least to me, a completely unheard of proposition."
NLAP's primary focus is sealing and expunging clients' criminal records, which pose a barrier to employment, public benefits and public housing—all are key to climbing out of poverty. NLAP also focuses on obtaining state identification cards, which are essential to everyday life in the city of Chicago. Additionally, NLAP provides brief advice in a wide range of other areas, including housing, public benefits, contracts, wage theft and family law matters. Many of NLAP’s clients live at the Pacific Garden Mission and are not working with social workers.
As such, NLAP has collaborated with the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Lincoln Park to provide referrals for case management assistance with housing, employment and substance abuse assistance among other things. Since its launch in March 2012, NLAP has held more than 50 sessions and assisted more than 250 clients. Damon Ritenhouse, NLAP’s supervising attorney and DePaul alumnus, reflected on his experience with NLAP over the past two years:
“It is difficult to believe how quickly the last two years at NLAP have gone by. In that time, we have been able to help a great many clients with their legal issues. As importantly, the volunteers at NLAP have been there to listen as people share their personal stories. Working with the dedicated law students and attorneys who staff the NLAP desk, as well as the people at DePaul who support the program behind the scenes, has been a great privilege, and certainly one of the highlights of my legal career.”
NLAP is rooted in DePaul's Vincentian mission of social justice and service and outreach to the poor. According to Cheryl Price, director of PBCSI and one of NLAP’s founders, “Many of NLAP’s clients don't know what resources are available to them or how to access them. Without NLAP, they would not have access to legal assistance, as a trip to a legal aid office or the courthouse is often difficult, if not impossible for many of the folks we serve. So, NLAP is an access to justice project that exposes our law students to pro bono work, hopefully instilling a lifelong commitment to pro bono.”
“NLAP volunteers are serving and training to become better lawyers at the same time. It is experiential learning at its best.”
In addition to serving the poor, NLAP provides an important skill-building opportunity for law students. Through NLAP, students get hands-on experience and are able to hone their listening and client interviewing skills. They also get an opportunity to become experts in a substantive area of law. Price said, “NLAP volunteers are serving and training to become better lawyers at the same time. It is experiential learning at its best.”
Third-year student Sam Keen has been heavily involved with NLAP since its inception and currently serves as the NLAP student coordinator. “I’ll never forget how excited I was when I was first asked to be the student site coordinator of the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project. A legal helpdesk for the homeless that actually meets the homeless where they congregate was, at least to me, a completely unheard of proposition," said Keen.
"Two years later and we haven’t skipped a beat. We’ve helped hundreds of people get state identification, dozens file petitions to seal or expunge criminal records, and countless more with a myriad of other legal problems ranging from appealing a denial of social security to revocation of guardianship. Though our accomplishments may seem small to some, I know firsthand the positive impact NLAP has had on the community it serves.”
The Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL)invited alumnae Mary Meixner (JD ’08) and Margaret Kuzma (JD ’12) to discuss legal services for veterans at an informational lunch in March. CPIL regularly hosts lunchtime events to bring together students and practitioners to help students learn about different practice areas and career paths in a small group setting.
Meixner is an attorney with the ABA Military Pro Bono Project. She accepts case referrals directly from JAGs, and provides these clients with a wide range of legal services. Kuzma is a Skadden Fellow with LAF, formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Kuzma provides general civil legal services to veterans and their families.
Meixner and Kuzma discussed the extra legal protections for veterans in many different areas of law, and how they use these protections when advocating for their clients. As an example, they highlighted the Military Lending Act. Military members were highly targeted by predatory lenders, and this act was passed to allow service members to void any contract if they were charged more than 36 percent interest. Meixner and Kuzma both emphasized that students can work in practically any area of law with veterans, because the needs of veterans are vast and diverse.
DePaul law students volunteered their time for the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative’s Donate-A-Day event at the Greater Chicago Food Depository on February 28. The event was co-sponsored by LLSA, SAIL and BLSA.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is a nonprofit food distribution and training center that provides food to soup kitchens, shelters, pantries, mobile and children’s programs, as well as other programs serving low-income individuals and families.The Food Depository also supports the community through programs like Chicago’s Community Kitchens, which enrolls the unemployed in a free 12-week culinary course.
Eric Langston (JD '14) commented, "I was so glad to volunteer with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The scale of the organization is very impressive, the staff is friendly and professional, and the impact of our work was clearly articulated. I would gladly volunteer with them again."
Law student volunteers packed boxes with 21,000 pounds of carrots to be distributed by the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
The students were impressed by the friendly and helpful staff at the Chicago Food Depository, as well as the size of the warehouse and its operations.
Third-year law student Zara Rashid also enjoyed her experience: "Going to the Chicago Food Depository was an extremely rewarding experience. It was nice to take a couple of hours out of the day to do something that helped others. Plus, it was interesting to see the process of packaging and distributing food to soup kitchens. It is definitely something I would love to do again."
Alumni, students and College of Law Dean Mark visited Chicago Public School's Pritzker Elementary on January 29 to teach law-related lessons to sixth and seventh grade classrooms.
The event was organized by the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) and Chicago Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Lawyers in the Classroom program. Lawyers in the Classroom partners attorneys with elementary and middle school classrooms to help students understand the U.S. Constitution and our legal system.
Drawing fom lessons outlined by Lawyers in the Classroom, Dean Gregory Mark, alumnus Aaron Dozeman (JD '12) and student Christina Kuklinski (JD '15) led the seventh graders through a discussion on jury selection. The students examined the process by which a jury is selected and discussed the importance of selecting a fair and impartial jury. They were able to debate whether a list of hypothetical jurors would be likely to judge a trial impartially.
“I enjoyed engaging the students in discussion, and I appreciated their honest and creative responses to the difficult issues raised in the lesson," said Dozeman. "Lawyers in the Classroom allowed me to contribute in a way that doesn’t involve giving legal advice; volunteering as a lawyer doesn’t always require providing legal services. It was refreshing to step outside of the courtroom and into the classroom.”
Students were also asked to mediate a conflict between two “goods”—the right to practice religion and the right to be safe at school. The lesson involved a student who wanted to wear small knife or “kirpan” in observance of his religion, which was Sikhisim. The school, however, had a “no weapons allowed” policy. The students were asked to consider whether he should be allowed to wear the kirpan to school and thought about the issue from various perspectives; including the school principal, the parents of the student and his classmates' parents.
“The students enjoyed this fact pattern and engaged in a lively and thoughtful discussion," observed Cheryl Price, PBCSI director. "I was impressed with their ability to weigh this problem from differing viewpoints.”
For more information about the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative or how to get involved with DePaul’s Lawyers in the Classroom volunteer team, contact Cheryl Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Feb. 5, more than 40 DePaul University College of Law students took advantage of a unique opportunity to network with Chicago-area public interest attorneys at the Center for Public Interest Law's speed networking event. The event was designed to ease the nerves that many students feel when networking by arranging short, informal conversations with many attorneys.
Students were able to speed network with more than 20 attorneys. After introducing themselves, they learned a little bit about the attorneys' jobs and backgrounds. Following the meetings, students from all three classes mingled with attorneys from local legal aid agency staff attorneys and executive directors and government agencies. Several attorneys who attended the event (and some who were unable to make it) volunteered to mentor groups of College of Law students regularly over the course of this year.
In recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative, University Ministry in the Loop and the Black Law Student Association teamed up to sponsor a Donate-A-Day at Our Lady of Charity elementary school in Cicero, Ill. on Jan. 25. Twenty-two dedicated volunteers gathered at the DePaul Center for a light breakfast before boarding the bus to head over to the school. Law and international business students participated in the service day and worked together to revitalize the elementary school.
Our Lady of Charity is a large three-story building with one maintenance person to manage repairs and upkeep and to handle the cleaning duties. As a result, teachers clean their own classrooms and the school’s classrooms and hallways rarely get a fresh coat of paint. DePaul volunteers helped address these issues and divided to scrub and brighten classrooms and paint trim.
Thanks to the volunteers’ work, Our Lady of Charity’s teachers and students returned on Monday to find clean classrooms and newly painted trim. The volunteers also updated the library by inserting barcodes into books and logging the books into the computer system.
For the lunch break, a parent from the school prepared and delivered a hot, home-cooked meal for the volunteers. School Principal Katie Olson then explained the demographics and mission of the school, allowing volunteers to better understand why their service to the community was so valuable.
Desalina Williams, third-year law student and PBCSI student coordinator, described her experience: “Our Lady of Charity is a great school with a great faculty and parents. When we arrived, we saw teachers and parents dedicating their Saturday to educate the children. Their dedication motivated me to continue volunteering. I hope we continue volunteering at this site because it is so uplifting to see the community support for this school.”
This was the second year that DePaul has volunteered at Our Lady of Charity School.
For more information about the College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative or how to get involved with its Donate-A-Day service projects, contact Cheryl Price at email@example.com.
When students organized a service mission to aid Hurricane Katrina victims in 2006, they launched the first of many DePaul Law/UMIN’s service immersion trips. Nearly a decade later, the tradition endures under Chaplain Tom Judge's leadership. This year's immersion trips ran to New Orleans and Washington, D.C., from January 4-11.
"The nature of these trips is to try to bring us closer together," Judge told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in a recent feature on the program. "You throw 10 or 12 law students together in vans as they drive for hours and hours across the country and they stay in homeless shelters and then they go out and meet people and serve people and listen to people for a week. That really brings them closer, we hope."
Read more in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article, "Immersionaries: DePaul law students lead service trips."
The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative, joined by the Center for Public Interest Law, the Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center, the Asian Pacific-American Law Student Association, and the Public Interest Law Association, closed out Pro Bono Week in November with a lunchtime panel discussion on the benefits of pro bono work. Panelists included representatives from the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS), LAF and the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) –- all organizations that assist low-income clients in the Chicago area.
The panelists presented unique perspectives on pro bono work and discussed how each of their organizations provides services in a slightly different manner. Phil Mohr (JD '91), deputy director of CVLS, began the discussion with insight into the various ways legal aid organizations are organized. CVLS, for example, largely relies on volunteer attorneys to represent clients, as they only have seven or so staff attorneys in the office. Mara Block, the pro bono project staff attorney from LAF, explained that LAF is a large office that serves its clients mostly through staff attorneys. Samira Nazem, staff attorney and pro bono coordinator at LCBH, explained that LCBH focuses solely on housing and engages in broader advocacy and lobbying than other legal aid organizations because they do not rely on traditional legal aid grants for funding.
In addition to explaining the ins and outs of a legal aid organization, the panel speakers emphasized the need for pro bono attorneys and law students to sustain their legal aid efforts. Grace Newgard, staff attorney and director of the pro bono program at the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, relayed a few shocking statistics about Chicago and the increasing access to justice problem. Despite the dedication of these legal aid attorneys and their organizations, the number of low-income Chicago residents in need of affordable legal services far outweighs the availability of said services. The panel was unanimous in saying that volunteers, both attorneys and law students, were an integral part of bridging this gap and aiding in increased access to justice for all individuals.
Each of the organizations represented at the panel encouraged law students of all class levels to volunteer, apply for internships, and/or coordinate externships and talked about how pro bono can help law students hone their legal skills while helping others in need.
Cheryl Zalenski, director of the American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono, and Kelly Tautges, director of Pro Bono & Court Advocacy at the Chicago Bar Foundation, discussed federal and state efforts to increase Access to Justice initiatives with law students at DePaul University College of Law in late October.
Over one million residents in Illinois live under the poverty level and cannot pay for legal assistance, but there are only approximately 300 attorneys who provide legal aid pro bono service in Illinois. The Access to Justice movement strives to connect all interested parties in coordinated efforts to bring legal aid to those communities in need of legal representation.
Zalenski described the national Access to Justice efforts, such as encouraging legal communities to form Access to Justice Commissions and undertake certain model rule amendments. There are approximately 30 Access to Justice Commissions across the nation. The priorities vary at each commission. Examples of projects include standardizing legal forms across counties and affecting policy changes to allow retired attorneys to volunteer their free time doing pro bono work.
According to Tautges, the Access to Justice Commission in Illinois, established last year, has formed nine separate committees to increase and facilitate access to justice efforts in the state. Some of their efforts include working with the Illinois Supreme Court to allow law students to obtain their 711 license after earning half, rather than two-thirds, of their law school credits, effectively allowing students to start serving clients in need sooner. The Illinois Commission recently sponsored a conference to highlight growth in court based pro bono programs.
The panel discussion was hosted by the Pro Bono Community Service Initiative and the Center for Public Interest Law, and co-sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Outlaws, and the Journal for Women and Gender Law.
In mid-November, DePaul law students and the Pro Bono Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) joined nearly 1,000 other regional volunteers to serve approximately 600 of Chicago’s homeless at the St. Vincent de Paul Center’s Homeless Outreach Luncheon in Lincoln Park. The service day was one of PBCSI’s monthly Donate-A-Day community service projects for law students. College of Law Chaplain Tom Judge and other DePaul Loop Campus students also participated.
Volunteers were busy with a range of duties, some working worked at various stations to distribute items such as winter clothing, shoes and backpacks to the guests. Some of the stations also provided free dental, legal, podiatry and manicure services. Other volunteers accompanied the guests to each station, held their chosen items, and ate Thanksgiving lunch with them.
Desalina Williams, one of PBCSI’s student coordinators and a volunteer at the Homeless Outreach Luncheon, shared her thoughts about the volunteer day:
"The luncheon was a very unique experience that I greatly enjoyed. I accompanied a veteran who waited outside, in line, for two hours before entering the center. When I met him, he immediately talked about retrieving a coat and a backpack. Before reaching these stations, we collected toiletries, eye glasses, scarves, gloves, hats, sleeping bags and blankets at other stations. As each item dropped into the bag, he became happier and happier. However, once we got to the coat his eyes just lit up. Unfortunately, the center ran out of backpacks before we reached the backpack station. Instead of expressing disappointment or anger, he told me that ‘the day was a successful day.’ He was so happy about the coat and the other items that leaving without a backpack did not ruin his mood (even though he'd come for a backpack). He insisted that he received more than he ever thought he would receive. After receiving more compliments on his coat, he left the center with a smile.
As I finished the day, the main thought that ran through my mind was his smile when he wore his coat for the first time. Thinking about that moment made me smile to myself because he was right: the day was a successful day."
For more information about PBCSI or its monthly Donate-A-Day service projects, please contact PBCSI Director, Cheryl Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) started Pro Bono Week with a bang, offering students and alumni an opportunity to help low-income seniors at a Senior Center Initiative Workshop with the Center for Disability & Elder Law, one of PBCSI’s community partners. The workshop took place on Friday, October 18, 2013, at the Jacob Blake Apartments in Evanston, Ill. Students and alumni assisted seniors with advanced directives, such as powers of attorney and living wills.
Cheryl Price, director of PBCSI, says the workshop was a success: “We helped numerous seniors with an incredibly important legal service and also gave our students and young alumni an opportunity to work with two to three clients, which is fantastic for building practical legal skills. I think this workshop embodies the spirit and intent of Pro Bono Week. We are excited that we have been able to offer it to the DePaul community for several years now.”
Student and alumni volunteers also found the workshop meaningful and beneficial. Law student Sarah Hunter explained: "The volunteer day with CDEL was an invaluable learning opportunity. I came away with a broader understanding of an area of law that I had not yet been able to explore as a student. Seeing the immediate impact of providing simple but essential legal assistance to vulnerable individuals was a rewarding way to strengthen and diversify skills that I hope to translate into my legal practice."
Alumnus Jake Kanyusik (JD '13) also enjoyed learning a new area of law while helping others: “Volunteering at the Donate-A-Day with the Center for Disability & Elder Law was an excellent experience. Prior to this Donate-A-Day I had no experience with powers of attorney or any sort of advanced directives. By the end of the day I felt confident in this new area of law. I was able to get practical relevant to the current legal market while at the same time helping people who are in need of services.”
In light of the positive feedback about the pro bono day, Price is considering offering a similar workshop in spring 2014 and recruiting students to participate in a Wills for Heroes workshop, which provides legal assistance with advanced directives to first responders, such as firefighters and police officers.
The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) recently concluded its annual school supply drive for homeless and low-income students at A.N. Pritzker Elementary School, a Chicago Public School located in Wicker Park. PBCSI Director Cheryl Price delivered the supplies to the school where they were warmly received by Pritzker staff, including Assistant Principal Mrs. Barbara Abdullah-Smith, School Counselor Amanda Szaraz, and 6-8th grade teacher Jerry Weissbuch. Although Pritzker is located in Wicker Park its students live in a variety of neighborhoods across the city. According to Ms. Szaraz, approximately 50% of Pritzker students are considered low-income, and approximately 30 of them are considered homeless. As such, the school supplies are sorely needed to ensure that these students have the supplies they need to learn and thrive in the school setting.
PBCSI was pleased with this year’s donations. According to PBCSI Director Cheryl Price: “I was so impressed with the DePaul community’s generosity and thoughtfulness, especially staff members, who contributed the lion’s share of school supplies and money for this drive.” Price was also thankful for the generous donation of pens and flash drives from Lexis/Nexis. Price explained: “All of these supplies go directly to the students to help them succeed at school. We are happy to contribute to this worthy cause and feel strongly that it is an important part of our Vincentian mission. We look forward to running the school supply drive again next fall.”
Third-year law student Sam Keen was selected as a finalist for the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award, which honors one law student nationwide for his or her pro bono contributions to society. The award aims to recognize the significant contributions that law students make to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education by performing pro bono work. Keen was nominated for the award because of his continued dedication to the Chicago community, both through his volunteer work with DePaul’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP) and his public interest internships he has completed during law school.
Keen’s dedication to NLAP has gone above and beyond a typical student volunteer commitment. The first of its kind at DePaul, NLAP is a law student pro bono help desk for the homeless. NLAP takes place twice a month on Saturday mornings at a breakfast program for the homeless run by a local church. NLAP assists guests with sealing and expunging their criminal records and obtaining state IDs. NLAP also provides clients with brief advice about housing and family law, as well as public benefits and available social service resources. NLAP is staffed with a supervising attorney and four to six law student volunteers per session.
As NLAP’s volunteer coordinator, Keen recruits and schedules students to staff the program. In addition to coordinating volunteers for NLAP, he is also the intake coordinator. In this role, he conducts the initial interview with clients to assess their reasons for seeking NLAP's assistance. He answers their questions, helps them to feel comfortable, and explains NLAP's procedures and policies, before discussing the options available to them. As a NLAP volunteer, he works directly with clients to help them resolve whatever problem they present.
In addition to his pro bono work, Keen has completed internships that have allowed him to have a direct, positive impact on Chicago’s most vulnerable populations. One of his internships was with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, where he advocated for homeless youth in the Chicago Public Schools. After completing the internship requirements, he continued to work at the Coalition, logging 40 hours of pro bono work. Keen also spent last summer as an intern at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) where he represented low-income clients facing homelessness in eviction court. Again, Sam continued to work at LCBH even after his internship was over, completing more than 50 hours of pro bono work. He has also volunteered with the Lawyers in the Classroom program and has served as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild.
“I went to law school because l knew that a JD would allow me to make a career out of being a force for positive change in my community,” said Keen. While he has yet to embark on a law career, Keen has already made a positive impact on many people in Chicago as a law student.
DePaul’s Pro Bono Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) hosted its first Donate-A-Day service project for the 2013-2014 academic year at A.N. Pritzker Elementary School, a pre-K through 8th grade Chicago Public School in Wicker Park, in September. Throughout the day, law student volunteers worked hard to beautify the school by painting hallways and the cafeteria, planting bulbs and flowers, and cleaning and organizing classrooms.
DePaul’s Student Bar Association and Phi Alpha Delta co-sponsored the event. Many of the volunteers developed an appreciation for gardening; other volunteers impressed the school administrators with their painting abilities. During the lunch break, the volunteers had an opportunity to meet several Pritzker parents and students, who personally thanked them for their hard work on behalf of the school. The parents talked with the students about Pritzker and distributed cookies. "Meeting a few of Pritzker's parents and students was a nice surprise. They were very happy to have us at their school and we were happy to be there," explained Desalina Williams, PBCSI’s Donate-A-Day student coordinator.
PBCSI is very involved with Pritzker Elementary School. For several years, PBCSI has devoted one of its Donate-A-Day service projects to the school. In addition, each spring PBCSI hosts Pritzker’s 6th graders for a field trip, where the students observe a mock trial and participate in mock law classes taught by DePaul professors. The annual field trip is an opportunity to introduce Pritzker students to the legal profession and attending law school. PBCSI also coordinates a school supply drive for Pritzker’s homeless students and sends law students to the school on a weekly basis to tutor students. Many of the law students participate in more than one volunteer activity, allowing them to connect with the Wicker Park community through their service. Ultimately, the community service work benefits law students and the elementary school students in unique and meaningful ways.
DePaul law students are known for their commitment to service and public interest work so it was no surprise that the Fall Student Service Fair drew a large crowd of students who were excited and ready to start volunteering. The fair, held September 10 and organized by the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI), is one example of the many ways PBCSI works to engage law students in service work.
The fair started with presentations from PBCSI’s six partner organizations, which include Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the Center for Disability & Elder Law, Croak Student Legal Services, the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, and A.N. Pritzker Elementary School. Students also learned about volunteer opportunities with Illinois Legal Aid Online, DePaul’s Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic and the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse Project, which is a project of DePaul’s Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center. University Ministry informed students about their winter break Service Immersion Trips to New Orleans and Washington D.C.
PBCSI Director Cheryl Price was pleased with the turnout and student interest. “Several students approached me to say how excited and impressed they were with the wide-range of service opportunities presented at the fair. It was so heartening to see so many students ready to volunteer. Our partners seemed happy too, as they were able to speak with a large number of students and recruit new volunteers.”
PBCSI will hold another service fair at the beginning of the spring semester in hopes of attracting even more students to volunteerism. Like the fall fair, the spring fair will feature PBCSI’s six partners but will also focus on opportunities that are available during spring break, such as PBCSI’s Pro Bono Staycation and the Family Law Center’s Juvenile Detention Center Spring Break Project.
The Vincentian tradition of service and social justice was alive and well recently, with more than 60 first-year law students spanned out across the city of Chicago to serve the poor and reflect upon the issues facing impoverished communities.
The student volunteers participated in the College of Law’s second annual 1L Service Day, which was organized by the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative and co-sponsored by the Center for Public Interest Law, Office of Law Admissions and University Ministry. Students were accompanied by a team of dedicated site leaders, which included second- and third-year law students, as well as law staff and faculty.
Site leader and College of Law Chaplain Tom Judge praised the service day as “DePaul at its best; as a community going out into the city to serve. But, not just serve, we tried to engage with people, share a little of ourselves with them, and learn about the issues they face.”
The student volunteers worked hard at five different sites including Pacific Garden Mission, Legal Prep Charter Academy, Cornerstone Community Outreach, Catholic Charities Nutritious Food Program Warehouse, and West Communities YMCA. Among other things, their jobs included making beds and preparing and serving meals at a homeless shelter, organizing books for a classroom library, sorting clothing donations, packing nutritious food boxes for low-income seniors and children, and cleaning locker rooms and a child care space.
In addition to providing the students a chance to engage in hands-on volunteer work, the service day was an opportunity for incoming first-year students to build community and relax before diving into classes. First-year law student Guadalupe Perez found a respite through volunteering: “After two hectic days of orientation, the 1L Service Day provided an informal and fulfilling way to meet other law students who place the same importance on community involvement as I do. Not only did I meet new students, but I also learned about a neighborhood and an organization that I would not have necessarily gone out of my way to see or learn about. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the event.”
Michelle Cass, a 3L Site leader who was assigned to the Catholic Charities Warehouse, felt similarly: “It was fantastic to work as a team of law students and be reminded of how wonderful the experience of service is both intrinsically and for the good of others. We had moments of reflection, laughter, and community. I was inspired by the turnout of the 1L class, and it made me feel proud and confident in our DePaul community, and excited for what may come from the future stewards of the legal profession.”
The service day was also a way to introduce students to the array of pro bono and community service opportunities at DePaul in hopes that students will continue to engage in service while law students and beyond. According to 1L Tim Bingham, the service day accomplished this goal: “I really appreciated the dedication to service that the DePaul staff showed while working with us 1Ls. It made me feel like they cared about the community DePaul was a part of and now I want to continue working with the law school on service and pro bono projects for the next three years.”
The service day was also an important learning experience for the volunteer site leaders, many of whom gained insights about nearby communities and the agencies that serve them. Haley Guion, a 2L who was assigned to Legal Prep Charter Academy, enjoyed working with books to help promote literacy for high school students: “Volunteering as a Site Leader for the 1L Service Day at the Legal Academy brought perspective to the hectic law school routine. That day, I stepped into another person's shoes. I was able to see a day in the life of an English teacher and of a student at the Legal Academy. It was very grounding. The most rewarding part of volunteering was that I left knowing I had set in motion a path for a student to take (reading a book found in the Classics section) that they otherwise would not have taken.” Allen Moye, Director of the Law Library, gained new knowledge about Pacific Garden Mission, a homeless shelter in the South Loop. He noted that: “My experience volunteering at PGM was very enlightening and rewarding. It is a very well-run organization, providing nutritional and spiritual nourishment to men, women, and children who have fallen on difficult times.”
The 1L Service Day was an inspirational and thought-provoking day for all who participated and was just the beginning of a long and meaningful journey of service for the Class of 2016.
Marie P. came to the DePaul Poverty Law Clinic in January 2013 seeking help in connection with the Chicago Housing Authority’s decision to terminate her from the Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program (the “Section 8” program) because her landlord accused Marie of having an unauthorized person and dog living with her.
The Poverty Law Clinic interviewed Marie, Marie’s sisters and Marie’s close friend, and learned that the person who was temporarily staying with Marie was her ailing mother who had come to Chicago from Florida in order to be closer to her children and to have her children help take care of her as she had recently suffered the loss of her leg. The dog, it was learned, was her mother’s dog which stayed at Marie’s apartment for a week before Marie relocated the dog to her daughter’s home. After conducting its due diligence, the clinic accepted the case for representation and three students, Sarah Hunter, Richard Halm and Erin Grotheer, were assigned to work with Visiting Assistant Professor David Rodriguez on the case.
The team went to work identifying the legal issues that the administrative law judge would focus on and then developed a plan to secure supportive evidence, including documents from the hospitals that treated Marie’s mother before she passed away in June 2012 and interviews with family members and friends who could credibly corroborate Marie’s account of who was staying with her and why. At the hearing in May 2013, Marie and her legal team discredited the CHA’s allegations by discrediting the landlord, who under cross examination admitted that he had no personal knowledge that anyone was living with Marie and admitted that it was possible that the person who he believed was living with Marie was in fact only visiting her. Marie testified on direct examination that her mother had stayed with her temporarily, but that she had not stayed 30 continuous days or more than 90 days in a calendar year, which would have made Marie’s mother a “resident” under HUD regulations and CHA rules. The team supported this testimony with documentation from the hospitals showing that Marie’s mother spent so many days at local hospitals before passing away that it was impossible for her to have been a resident under the applicable laws. The team then elicited testimony from Marie admitting to the presence of her mother’s dog, but credibly testifying that the dog was only present for a few days, thus allowing her team to argue that while she had technically violated her lease by having a dog in her unit, that the violation was not material and that she had cured any such problem within 10 days as allowed under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance.
The team concluded its case with an important theme: family members should be allowed, and encouraged, to care for one another in times of need, and that a landlord, like the landlord here, should engage in considerably more due diligence before making unsubstantiated allegations that jeopardize a person’s housing subsidy. The CHA administrative law judge agreed with Marie, concluding that the CHA failed to prove that Marie had materially violated her lease and the rules of the Section 8 program. The judge reinstated Marie to the Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program and on July 25, 2013, Marie picked up her new voucher from the Chicago Housing Authority, which she intends to use to rent a home near her sisters. Marie thanked everyone at the DePaul Legal Clinic and DePaul College of Law for providing valuable services to people like her facing not only the loss of housing, but also the trickle down chaos that can ensue when a family member suddenly loses a home.
In the first half of 2013, the Poverty Law Clinic helped five other families avoid this chaos by saving their housing subsidies from wrongful termination. The clinic looks forward to keeping this pace in the second half of 2013.
Colby Anne Kingsbury is the 2013 recipient of the Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award, the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation's highest pro bono honor for attorneys in private practice.
Kingsbury was recognized for her legal work with immigrants, youth and incarcerated individuals and for "[improving] the system for countless others through her innovative and visionary systemic work." She is a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP where she focuses on commercial litigation, intellectual property litigation and employment litigation.
Throughout her career, Kingsbury has successfully represented various inmates of Cook County Jail in civil rights actions seeking relief from excessive force and inadequate protection from other inmates. For more than a decade, she has served as co-counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union representing a class of all detained youth at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center seeking improved confinement conditions. She has also represented several immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. and serves on the NIJC's Litigation Steering Committee.
Kingsbury sits on Faegre Baker Daniels' Pro Bono Advisory Committee and is the central force behind the firm’s Africa Project, a pro bono collaboration with Advocates for Human Rights to advance the rule of law in Africa. In addition, Kingsbury serves as the board president of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy and on the Litigation Steering Committee for the National Immigrant Justice Center.
"Colby truly embodies the spirit of pro bono service," said Kathleen Lyons, executive director of the center. "She is passionate about access to justice for all in the legal, educational and community systems that can be nearly impossible for the unrepresented to navigate."
The Chicago Bar Foundation presented Kingsbury with the Lewis Award at the Annual Pro Bono & Public Service Award Luncheon on July 16, 2013, at The Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. As part of the recognition, Kingsbury was invited to direct a $2,500 award to a grantee organization of the Chicago Bar Foundation.
Last year, Kingsbury participated in the College of Law's oral history series, a part of the DePaul centennial celebration. See footage of Kingsbury discussing her DePaul experience and expounding upon the merits of a law degree.
Alexandra Hochhauser, the 2013 DePaul College of Law student commencement speaker and Student Bar Association (SBA) president, could write the book on how to best serve your classmates and school.
“I feel if you are going to law school without a purpose, then why even go?” she said. “I knew before I started law school that I wanted to be involved in student government. That was one of the reasons I chose DePaul. It has a commitment to service.”
Along with SBA vice president Pete Chambers, Hochhauser helped establish an advising program for students and re-launched the college’s student newspaper. Hochhauser said they also found a way to give student organizations more funding for the year.
“She led the student body and was a great advocate for them” said William Chamberlain, dean of Law Career Services who worked with Hochhauser. “She’s very thoughtful and has a very positive attitude. She’s been a very effective leader and has really helped the law school.”
Read more about Hochhauser's time at the College of Law in this DePaul Newsroom feature.
This past year, a team of DePaul College of Law volunteers worked with Legal Prep Charter Academy ninth graders to prepare them for their end of the year mock trial competition, which took place on Tuesday, May 13, 2013 at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse Building.
DePaul worked with two groups of Legal Prep students and both groups won their competitions. The case was a civil matter involving an allegation that a police officer used excessive force when arresting a teenage boy, who was the plaintiff. The DePaul teams represented the defense.
Several DePaul volunteers also served as judges for other teams, including College of Law Dean Greg Mark, alumna Linda Bryceland (JD '86), and Pro Bono Director Cheryl Price. Professor Mark Moller, alumna Jessica Schneider (JD '10), College of Law staff member Elizabeth Boe, and law student Beckee Birger coached the DePaul teams during the competition. Dean Mark was the only law school dean who volunteered to assist at the competition.
For many of the students, the mock trial program was their first in-depth study of our legal system and the components of a trial. The Legal Prep students prepared and delivered both opening and closing statements and called witnesses for direct and cross examination. DePaul volunteers, who have been working with Legal Prep students since September 2012, first taught lessons on these topics and then helped students prepare their parts for the mock trial.
DePaul’s volunteer team was comprised of law students, faculty, staff, and alumni. They included Dean Gregory Mark, Professor Mark Moller, Elizabeth Boe, Associate Director of Recruiting, Law Career Services, Cheryl Price, Director of the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative, Alumni Linda Bryceland, Jessica Schneider, Andrea McKenna, and Michelle Miller, and law students Rebecca Birger, Sarah Gorham, Taylor Goulborn, Will Guardia, and Jacquita Richardson.
The volunteers really enjoyed working with and getting to know the students. According to alumna Jessica Schneider "Working with the students was really rewarding, especially as you saw them grasp new concepts and get excited about being part of a trial. It was hard for me to get away from work, but every time I began a teaching session with the students I was always happy to be there and it would truly brighten my day. We taught challenging concepts, but usually found a way to help the students relate to them in a way they would understand.
Despite the challenges it was great to see it all come together in the mock trial at the end of the school year. I was very proud of them!" DePaul’s Pro Bono Director, Cheryl Price, agrees, “The Legal Prep students were really fun to work with. They were excited and interested about the legal process and worked hard to prepare for the mock trial. We look forward to working with them next year.”
Earlier this month, the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) and Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) staff participated in the Equal Justice Conference in St. Louis.
Adrienne Packard, assistant director of CPIL, was on the planning committee for the national gathering of law school pro bono and public service program directors.
Packard also moderated a panel discussion of New York's mandatory pro bono admission requirement and the national implications of the rule. She was joined by David Udell from the National Center for Access to Justice and Cordozo Law School, Thomas Maligno from Touro Law School, David Johnson from George Washington University Law School and Holly Eaton, formerly of Georgetown Law School.
Panelists discussed the implication of this rule for the law school community and the potential effects on law school curriculum and pro bono programs. The panel agreed that there are still many details of the rule that are unclear and much anticipation about evidence of a measurable impact from the rule. Several states, including New Jersey and California, are currently in the process of creating their own pro bono requirements for admission to the bar.
CPIL and PBCSI staff also participated in sessions concerning law student pro bono ethics, effective lawyering for law students, creating and improving law school pro bono programs, pro bono tracking and outcome measures, law school access to justice commission partnerships and fostering relationships with legal aid providers to create meaningful partnerships. CPIL and PBCSI staff met and networked with law school professionals in their field from across the country, sharing ideas and gaining support for future endeavors.
By Adrienne Packard, Assistant Director, CPIL
Most agree that the time we spend in law school provides an opportunity to learn the letter of the law, make lifelong friends, and gain invaluable experiences in our field of interest. It is also important to take advantage of the opportunity to learn the practice of law and to experience the full benefit of providing service to those in need.
Several law students learned this firsthand during the inaugural Pro Bono Staycation held over spring break in Chicago. Rather than spend their spring break relaxing or traveling, Kevin O’Donnell (’13), Brooke Tucker (’14), Jennifer Thomas (’15) and Sylvia Zarski (’15) decided to work with the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services and The Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL). The students started off the week at the Legal Aid Society where they assisted the family law practice group in wrapping up their open files and shadowing attorneys in court. By having the students close cases, attorneys were able to focus more of their energy on the advocacy aspect of their work, rather than the administrative. They also provided the students opportunities to see firsthand the daily work of legal aid family law attorneys.
The students spent the remainder of their week volunteering with CDEL, where they interviewed clients and assisted in drafting powers of attorneys for healthcare and property for low-income senior citizens as part of CDEL’s Senior Legal Assistance Clinics. Despite the fact that the services provided by the students spanned the course of only a few days, participants were able to see the immediate impact of their work and walk away knowing they had helped clients with something they may not have accomplished on their own. These clients, who were elderly and spoke limited English, worked with the students and interpreters to complete and execute documents that, if needed, will make their care and protection seamless.
Tom Wendt, legal director at CDEL, explains the impact and importance of student volunteer service: “Having students in our office allows CDEL to provide services to a greater number of low-income seniors and people with disabilities. As a volunteer-based organization, CDEL literally could not exist without the dedicated volunteers that offer their time and talents to CDEL and its clients.”
Wendt advocated for students to commit to regular volunteer work. He maintains, “The impact that volunteering has on the students is really three-fold. First, student volunteers learn valuable, practical legal skills, which can augment the more theoretical learning in the law school classroom. Second, it provides students with the opportunity to hone various skills, [such as] drafting, interpersonal and client-relations skills, etc. Finally, volunteering at an organization like CDEL provides students with an introduction into the world of pro bono legal service, something that they can take with them into private practice.”
Although DePaul offers many opportunities for students to participate in spring break service projects outside the Chicago area, the Staycation is unique in that the work is provided in our own backyard. Cheryl Price, director of the Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative, explains it best: “One of the wonderful things about the pro bono Staycation is the opportunity to work locally with programs in the Chicago area and with client populations in our local community. Although you can provide service anywhere, working outside of the Chicago area does not provide the opportunity to build relationships with community partners or potential future employers in the Chicago area.”
In February 2013, the women of DePaul’s Women’s Bar Association (“WBA”) joined the College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (“PBCSI”) to provide an afternoon of lunch and entertainment for the women of Deborah’s Place, Chicago's largest provider of supportive housing exclusively for women. The service day was PBCSI’s February 2013 Donate-A-Day event. DePaul law students gathered at the Rebecca Johnson Apartments, one of five supportive and interim housing accommodations run by Deborah’s Place, located on Chicago’s near West Side. The Rebecca Johnson Apartments provide supportive housing for 90 women, each of whom have their own apartment and pay 30% of their income as rent. Deborah’s Place offers case management and many structured activities, but the women live independently and are expected to provide their own meals and cover other living expenses.
Student volunteers prepared a lunch buffet consisting of sandwiches, snacks, cookies, and refreshments and served lunch to around forty of the women residing at the apartments. Serving and eating lunch with the women provided some quality time for everyone to visit and learn a little bit more about each other. All of the guests expressed excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to gather for a carefree afternoon of lunch and games. Samantha Sommerman, Social Chair of DePaul’s WBA, reflected on her experience at Deborah’s Place: “It was refreshing to step outside the bubble of law school and connect with people. I had a lot of fun eating sandwiches and playing Bingo with these ladies. They seemed genuinely interested in hearing about law school, and I know I was interested to hear about their lives.”
After lunch was served the fun really got started! Theresa Dollinger, President of DePaul’s WBA, started up a high-energy game of BINGO. The volunteers soon learned that Bingo is a house favorite among the women at the Rebecca Johnson Apartments. The women stayed focused and competitive hoping to win one of the prizes provided by the WBA, which included candy, body wash, shampoo, jewelry, and a number of gifts. The bingo game continued until every guest “GOT BINGO” and was able to choose from the assortment of prizes. Both the student volunteers and the women of Deborah’s Place seemed to really enjoy the day. It was an experience that benefited all who participated. The women of DePaul’s WBA look forward to organizing future events with PBCSI and Deborah’s place in order to help them continue to fulfill their mission of breaking the cycle of homelessness through compassion and innovation.
The Center for Public Interest Law was fortunate to host Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law and former DePaul College of Law professor, on Wednesday, February 20. Students packed into the lecture hall to hear Chemerinsky speak on the value of pro bono and experiential learning in law school. His talk was of particular significance; the New York Appellate Court recently imposed a new requirement for admittance to the New York Bar. Those seeking admission must complete 50 hours of pro bono work while in law school.
Chemerinsky zealously supports a pro bono requirement for law students; he cited three reasons for his support. First, experiential learning is necessary to learn the skill of lawyering. Chemerinsky compared lawyers to doctors--would we allow doctors to practice medicine without ever having seen a patient under the supervision of a skilled doctor? Second, a pro bono requirement would provide more low-cost legal services. Because the practice of law is reserved to those admitted to a state bar, a monopoly on legal services exists. Pro bono work by law students can help correct this monopoly. Third, the requirement will promote pro bono work throughout the lifetime.
Students seeking pro bono opportunities at DePaul can contact Cheryl Price, director of the Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative, to learn about the many ways they can get involved.
Freezing temperatures and gray skies did not stop a dedicated group of DePaul students from volunteering at DePaul College of Law’s January 2013 Donate-A-Day.
Organized by the College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI), the Donate-A-Day took place on January 26, 2013 at the Our Lady of Charity School in Cicero, IL. University Ministry (UMIN) in the Loop co-sponsored the event, along with two College of Law student groups: the Latino Law Student Association and the Society for Asylum & Immigration Law.
Nearly forty Loop students participated, including law, international, and business students. Law School Chaplain Tom Judge and PBCSI Student Coordinator Desalina Williams were the site leaders for the service day.
The volunteers arrived at the school shortly after 10:00 a.m. and quickly got to work on a wide range of projects. Some volunteers headed over to the rectory to clean and organize a large storage closet full of donated items for people in need. Another group of volunteers worked on creating an inventory of donations that would be sold at a garage sale fundraiser.
Students cleaned the kitchen and cafeteria and others painted a room that will serve as the new teachers’ lounge. Sorting toys in the day care, cleaning and organizing gym equipment in storage closets, and general scrubbing and cleaning (washing windows and vacuuming the chapel) were also on the to-do list for the day.
During the lunch break, the volunteers got to know each other and Our Lady of Charity better.
Our Lady of Charity Principal Katie Olson talked about the history of the school and its students. She explained that most students are Hispanic and African-American and qualify for free or reduced lunch. For many of the students, English is a second language. She also explained that, although the school is growing, it is still struggling financially. Olsen also shared her background, history and reasoning as to why she chose education as her vocation.
As part of the discussion, DePaul volunteers debated the “education pipeline.” They shared ideas about how to shape student expectations so that finishing high school and attending college is a priority, even if no other family member has done so. The volunteers found the discussion and overall experience meaningful.
When asked to comment about the service day, first year law student Angelica Griffin stated: “In response to my personal experience I would have to say one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering was the opportunity to meet, connect, and make friends with people throughout the university as a whole. Everyone shared an interest of being a part of the solution.”
First year student Alana De Leon was also energized by her day of service. “Getting out and serving others really makes you realize what an impact you want to make and can make if you have the passion and the drive to do so," she said. "The programs [at Our Lady of Charity] to help their students celebrate the diversity of the community and promote education were powerful and inspiring. The school's emphasis on faith, service, and education as the foundational elements for success really struck home for the law students who so easily lose touch with such simple principles in the face of endless deadlines, reading assignments and legal concepts. It was nice to refocus on the basics and recharge while serving others.”
PBCSI hosts three Donate-A-Day service projects per semester. For more information about PBCSI and its Donate-A-Day service projects, please contact Cheryl Price at email@example.com.