For individuals coming to court without representation, having access to a lawyer who can give them some quick legal advice and assistance is critical. A lawyer can "triage" the situation the person is facing by helping them understand their legal problem, referring them to pro bono and legal aid lawyers when appropriate and giving them brief advice and "self help" resources for small claims and other simpler legal matters. Experience has shown that a little bit of legal advice and assistance can go a long way, and often solve the problem, for many people coming to court on their own.
The CBF has worked with the courts, pro bono and legal aid organizations, the CBA and other stakeholders to establish a network of 10 legal advice desks to serve people without lawyers in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the federal court, the bankruptcy court and the City of Chicago's Department of Administrative Hearings. View a full list of these advice desks and brief descriptions, along with some other court-based resources.
Lawyers at these desks help unrepresented people with a wide variety of matters, including mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcy, consumer matters, landlord/tenant cases, guardianships, custody and child support, expungements and debt collection. These legal advice desks now serve more than 36,000 people each year, giving unrepresented individuals access to face-to-face services from attorneys who can offer them advice, limited legal assistance and resources to help them represent themselves in less complex matters (e.g., videos, online tutorials and forms).