Approximately 80% of low-income individuals go to court without legal representation, and at least half of all low-income individuals never seek legal assistance. Moderate income people face similar problems, with more than 60% of the population unable to obtain legal assistance and resorting to handling their legal issues on their own.
This lack of access to legal services usually determines whether an individual will obtain justice in court, and in metropolitan places like Chicago, where as many as 83% of low and moderate income people go to court without a lawyer, the scales of justice are heavily tipped against our most vulnerable communities. As a result, leaders of the justice system have announced a serious crisis in the courts, with courts becoming increasingly inefficient and more people falling victim to domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness.
It's time for a new approach to closing the justice gap in the United States.
In 2009, twice as many law school graduates passed the bar exam than there were job openings, and only half of 2011 law school graduates had law-related jobs nine months after graduation. Today, the figures have remained unchanged: in 2012, only about 50% of law school graduates secured a job in law; 30% of those who graduated that year remained underemployed.
Further, existing legal fellowships fail to meet the high demand for jobs in public interest. In 2012, out of more than 43,000 law students who graduated that year, less than 150 new attorneys were selected for public interest legal fellowships. In addition, these fellowship programs at the national level limit a fellow's work to providing traditional legal aid services. This limitation continues to restrict the type and scope of legal services that can be provided and fails to address the justice gap among low and moderate income people.
It's time for a new approach to closing the jobs gap for new attorneys.
"I am impressed by your commitment to increasing access to legal services for underserved populations and enabling young lawyers to get involved in civic engagement projects."
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (Ret.)
Bobby Hernandez, Esq. is a volunteer attorney. Bobby is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law, where he received the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award, the President’s Award for Service, and a certificate in Public Interest Law. During his law school career, Bobby worked in DePaul’s Poverty Law Clinic, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Working Hands Legal Clinic, and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Prior to joining Civic Legal Corps, Bobby volunteered at a legal aid clinic, Dominguez Legal Justice Center, where he worked on immigration matters. In addition to volunteering at Civic Legal Corps, Bobby currently works at Robert Half Legal providing e-Discovery services to clients.
Bobby was raised in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, Illinois while many of his extended family members grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Early on in his life he came to appreciate the inequities that existed between growing up in the suburbs and low-income Chicago communities, which inspired him to dedicate his career to improving opportunities for low-income families. He is the co-founder of a nonprofit organization, Chicago Prize Hoops, which helps shape at-risk youth into future community leaders.
Donate to Civic Legal Corps using the one of contribution levels below* and help expand access to justice for needy families in Illinois:
*Note that these contribution levels are cost estimates of legal services that Civic Legal Corps intends to provide and are subject to change.
How To Donate:
- Tax-deductible contributions must be mailed to our fiscal sponsor, the New Organizing Institute, using the information below. Checks should be addressed to the New Organizing Institute with "Civic Legal Corps" in the memo line.
New Organizing Institute Education Fund (NOIEF)
1133 19th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
- Online contributions can be made immediately by clicking the button below.
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