FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Legal Community Honored for Domestic Violence Work
Released On 11/12/2013
CHICAGO, IL, Nov. 12, 2013—Lawyers from 20 Chicago law firms are being honored this week by the Circuit Court of Cook County for assisting domestic violence victims. These lawyers provide free legal services at the Domestic Violence Courthouse to persons seeking orders of protection through the Domestic Violence Division’s “Order of Protection Pro Bono Project” which is a collaboration between the Circuit Court of Cook county, the non-profit Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and local law firms.
Pro bono is a legal term which means an attorney is providing representation to a client for free.
On Thursday, November 14, 2012, Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans will join the lawyers at a reception at 5 p.m. in the law offices of Latham and Watkins LLP., 233 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 5800, Chicago, IL.
Chief Judge Evans praised the court’s collaborators, the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and the volunteer attorneys, for their work. “The Pro Bono Project is an essential part of the services offered to persons coming to the state-of-the-art Domestic Violence Courthouse alleging domestic violence,” said Chief Judge Evans. “On arrival at the courthouse, they are immediately directed to court staff for triage and linkage to assistance. For those who decide to seek an order of protection but are unable to afford the services of an attorney, our Pro Bono program offers them a lifeline to achieve their goal,” said Evans.
Evans continued, “These attorneys deserve our gratitude for generously volunteering their time to helping litigants in situations that are not only emotionally difficult but also dangerous.”
Joining together under one project, volunteer attorneys from participating firms cover assigned shifts in the courthouse’s Pro Bono walk-in clinic Monday through Friday. They interview potential clients, prepare pleadings, and provide immediate representation in seeking an Emergency Order of Protection. The attorneys continue to represent their clients in hearings for final or plenary protective orders. More than 515 individuals have received case representation through the Project. Still more have received legal advice and consultation.
Launched January 2011 with Latham & Watkins LLP as the first law firm participant, the Domestic Violence Division's Order of Protection Pro Bono Project has grown to a roster of 20 law firms: Jenner & Block, Winston & Strawn, Dentons, Katten Muchin Rosenman, Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis, Kaye Scholer, McDermott Will & Emery, Holland & Knight, Ungaretti & Harris, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, Neal Gerber & Eisenberg, Dykema Gossett, Seyfarth Shaw, Reed Smith, Schiller, DuCanto & Fleck, Perkins Coie, Rinella & Rinella, Steptoe & Johnson, and Verizon Wireless Corporate.
Since the inception of this pro bono program, participating law firms collectively donated well over 11,000 pro bono hours. More than 485 attorneys have received domestic violence related legal training as a prerequisite to participation.
“The individuals who are linked to a pro bono attorney gain vital assistance and are more likely to follow through to gain a plenary or final protective order. Without our law firm partners, we would not be able to operate this program,” said Domestic Violence Division Presiding Judge Sebastian Patti. “We hope to have even more law firms join this program so we can ensure that every case referred to the program receives pro bono help.”
In 2012, the Domestic Violence Division heard more than 8,500 civil petitions for protective orders, with an average of 50 people entering the Domestic Violence Courthouse at 555 W. Harrison in Chicago every day lacking assistance.
Presiding Judge Patti also noted the pro bono project has garnered national attention. In September 2012, the Board of Directors of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (“APBCo”) and senior management from board members’ firms met with Vice President Joseph Biden and White House staff, in Washington D.C. The Vice President convened the meeting to focus on access to justice issues and the role that pro bono counsel at law firms play in the delivery of legal services to the poor. The meeting attendees discussed and celebrated collaborations between pro bono counsel and other stakeholders, including legal services organizations, bar associations and the judiciary. Chicago participants presented the domestic violence pro bono project as a model of a successful collaboration which includes representation of these essential groups.
For information about the recognition event, contact Leslie Landis at (312) 325-9042.
To learn more about the Domestic Violence Division’s Order of Protection Pro Bono Project and become involved, please visit: http://www.illinoisprobono.org/index.cfm.