New Online System Connects Pro Bono Legal Professionals

New Online System Connects Pro Bono Legal Professionals

Free resource on IllinoisProBono.org makes pro bono work more accessible, efficient and effective for both attorneys and clients.

Legal professionals across Illinois can now easily find help with pro bono cases thanks to the Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System, an innovative new resource on  IllinoisProBono.org Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) developed and launched the online system in partnership with the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) to promote pro bono work throughout Illinois by connecting legal volunteers with one another as mentors and mentees or as case partners. 

The Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System aims to link professionals who are newer to pro bono work to more experienced volunteers who wish to serve as mentors, and to connect  individuals to work together on specific pro bono matters. The system can be used by attorneys, law students, paralegals, and legal secretaries who would like to do pro bono work in Illinois.

"The Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System presents a new and exciting way not only for lawyers, but also for other volunteers in the pro bono community such as paralegals, to work  together on pro bono cases or matters to increase the amount of pro bono legal services provided to the many people in need of such help in Illinois," says David Erie, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  Erie serves on the Board of Directors of PILI and chairs the PILI Pro Bono Opportunities Team,  which helped develop the framework of the new online system.  "The system tries to facilitate bringing together interested people for a worthy cause in a different  and technologically-friendly way," Erie says. 

The Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System is accessible by clicking on the  "Mentor/Case Match" button on the IllinoisProBono.org website. Pro bono practitioners have the option to find a mentor, become a mentor, find assistance with a case, or become a case partner. Those interested in sharing their time and talents can fill out a "Mentor Profile" or "Case Partner Profile." Using a detailed matching algorithm, the system scans these profiles for the best fit when  someone makes a "Find a Mentor" or "Find Assistance with a Case" request. A "match" is made based on the information pro bono practitioners put in their profiles or requests, including practice area experience, skills being sought, type of assistance, county location, and more. If a mentor or case partner profile fits the requirements of a request, the person seeking assistance is immediately notified on-screen of up to five potential matches. If a match is not immediately found, users can modify their request or wait to be notified by the system when a match is found.

With the recent launch of the system, experienced pro bono attorneys are needed to serve as mentors.  This is a great opportunity for experienced pro bono practitioners, such as retired attorneys or  attorneys whose practice demands prevent them from handling a pro bono matter at this time, to still  contribute to the cause of access to justice.  One of the many perks of the Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System is that it puts volunteers in control of what sort of pro bono service they can and are willing to do. "Some attorneys get worried about making a commitment to pro bono because they don't want to take on more than they can handle," says Nikki Carrion, Chairperson of the Illinois State Bar Association Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. "The system is designed to provide options," she explains, such as preferred method of communication and number of hours available to volunteer, which allow potential volunteers to find opportunities according to their preferences.  Since the new system is entirely Internet-based, it transcends geographical barriers. For example, Carrion explains, "If someone in downstate Illinois wants to learn about immigration law, they can easily use the system to look for a mentor in Chicago," where immigration is more widely practiced.

All legal professionals who register on IllinoisProBono.org  can access the Pro Bono Case Pairing and Mentor Matching System. Registration is free and provides website users with access to training and practice support in 30 areas of law. Practice manuals, legal articles, sample pleadings, automated documents, CLE programs, training webcasts, and a volunteer opportunity search tool are also available on IllinoisProBono.org.

This new system will make pro bono work more accessible, efficient and effective for pro bono attorneys and the clients they serve. "Private attorneys, legal aid organizations and citizens of Illinois benefit from having a larger pool of pro bono attorneys," Carrion says. "I hope the private bar takes advantage of the system."

"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," says Michael Bergmann, PILI Director of Programs.

About Illinois Legal Aid Online

Illinois Legal Aid Online is a nationally-recognized, groundbreaking statewide technology center for legal services. Since 2001, it has developed technology and information to increase access to justice for Illinois residents. For more information, visit www.IllinoisLegalAidOnline.org.

About the Public Law Interest Initiative (PILI)

Since its founding in 1977, the Public Law Interest Initiative has cultivated a lifelong commitment to public interest law by creating opportunities for law students and attorneys to provide public interest and pro bono work in Illinois. For more information, visit www.PILI-Law.org.