Working in partnership, Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) and the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) developed the Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System now available at www.IllinoisProBono.org. The system was developed with the assistance of PILI’s Pro Bono Opportunities Team and the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services and Standing Committee on Mentoring with support from the Illinois Bar Foundation.
New pro bono practitioners can use the tool to be matched with more experienced pro bono practitioners willing to serve as mentors, and pro bono volunteers can use the system to connect with other pro bono volunteers and share a case or matter. Registration is free, and the system is available to attorneys, law students, paralegals and other legal professionals who register at www.IllinoisProBono.org.
During the registration process, those interested in finding a mentor or case partner answer questions about themselves (e.g., attorney, law student, paralegal), their practice, their pro bono experience and additional information on what they are seeking in a mentor or case partner. Geographical location is also accounted for in making matches. Those interested in serving as a mentor or case partner are asked similar questions, including how they are willing to assist.
When a match is found, an email is sent to the person seeking the pro bono match. That person can email the potential mentor/case partner to determine whether to move forward with the partnership. If a suggested match is not successful, the seeker can continue to identify new matches through the system.
For example, an attorney at a small firm in Chicago needs research assistance on a complex pro bono matter. He can use the system to identify an area law student who will conduct the necessary research. Another scenario is a newly licensed attorney at a midsize law firm who would like to take on a pro bono case, but no one in her firm has handled a pro bono case in that area. Using this new tool, she finds an attorney who has experience with similar cases. Her new mentor is familiar with the judges and can offer her assistance with substantive law questions.
With this new resource, there are endless possibilities for new pro bono partnerships that will result in more legal professionals providing much needed legal assistance to Illinois’ poor and underrepresented. PILI and ILAO thank the Illinois State Bar Association and Illinois Bar Foundation for their generous support of the project. Check out this new pro bono matching system today at www.IllinoisProBono.org!
Michael G. Bergmann is Director of Programs at PILI