Post authored by Angela Inzano
I practiced the law, I practically perfected it/I’ve seen injustice in the world and I’ve corrected it -Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton: An American Musical
Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of musicals, and a particular superfan of Hamilton: An American Musical. I know I’m not alone in that fandom, as anyone who has tried to get affordable tickets is well aware. Among my favorite lyrics are the ones listed above. Why? Well, that’s the dream for a lawyer isn’t it? Perfect the practice of law? Check! Correct injustice? Check!
Here at A2J with Angela, a monthly column on the CBA YLS Blog, I’ll do my best to provide you with the information and resources necessary to do both. We’ll talk about the access to justice challenges we face here in Chicago, in Illinois, and beyond. We’ll talk about what you can do to be a part of the solution, using your time, money, and influence to ensure fairness for all in the justice system. And we’ll celebrate and highlight the great work already being done in Chicago to fulfill our nation’s promise of equal justice for all.
What’d I Miss?
So, what is the current state of equal access to justice in Illinois? Well, 1 in 5 Illinoisans (over 2.2 million people) are considered low-income. Half of all low-income people will have a legal problem in any given year. In Illinois, there are about 400 dedicated legal aid staff attorneys who work full-time trying to address the needs of that 1.1 million people. I’m not great at math (isn’t that why many of us went into the law?) but those numbers don’t add up.
Here in Chicago, we’re really fortunate to have a network of more than 30 legal aid organizations that serve low-income Chicagoans in just about every type of law you can think of. We’re even more fortunate that many of them run pro bono programs, training private attorneys to help them serve low-income clients in order to expand the number of people they can serve. There are other ways to get involved with these organizations, through serving on their Young Professionals Boards, as well as engaging in funding and advocacy efforts, and I’ll talk about many of those in future blog posts.
What Comes Next?
As a profession, we can all be really proud that we’ve stepped up to the challenge. In 2016, the ARDC reports that 31,972 lawyers in Illinois provided pro bono legal services by providing more than 1,855,763 hours of free legal services and 18,691 Illinois lawyers also donated over $16 million dollars to help fund additional legal services. Of course, there is still so much more to do.
Interested in joining Illinois’ pro bono ranks, or stepping up your pro bono service? Check out the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Guide to Pro Bono Opportunities, which is a great overview of the types of volunteer opportunities available in Chicago depending on your time, skills, and interest. We’ll have some exciting news to share about the Guide in a future column so stay tuned!
In the meantime, don’t throw away your shot to get involved today, perfect your practice, and correct injustice a la Alexander Hamilton. Work, work!
About the Author:
Angela Inzano is the Senior Manager of Advocacy and Engagement at the Chicago Bar Foundation. Since 2015, Angela has managed the day-to-day operation of the CBF Legal Aid Academy and the CBF Pro Bono Support Program, and assists with the CBF’s legislative and policy advocacy work. Angela also staffs the CBF’s Young Professionals Board, the CBA’s Legal Aid Committee, and supervises CBF interns.
Prior to joining the CBF, Angela was a Staff Attorney and the Policy Project Coordinator at The Family Defense Center. Prior to the FDC, Angela was a Public Interest Fellow at Lambda Legal. Angela earned her law and undergraduate degrees from Loyola University Chicago. While at Loyola Law, she was involved in the school’s Life After Innocence and Civitas Child Law clinics and served as a fellow at its Center for the Human Rights of Children.
Angela successfully completed the Chicago Marathon in 2012, enjoys traveling as well as politics, and is a novice “foodie.”