The Illinois Courts’ groundbreaking Illinois Court Help service marked its one-year anniversary on May 17, 2022. This innovative program provides court users with timely access to assistance with court processes, court forms, e-filing, and more. To celebrate this milestone, the Illinois Court Help team is sharing impactful court-user stories and data that demonstrate the positive effect the service has had on people in all corners of the state.
Court users from across Illinois contact Illinois Court Help by phone, text message, and email to get help navigating the court system. Users can call or text 833-411-1121 or visit ilcourthelp.gov to send a message. The most frequently asked questions are about court processes, court forms, e-filing, and how to find legal help. For example, some people may seek instructions and forms to start a small claims case or open a probate estate, while others are looking for guidance with crises like domestic abuse or eviction. Many people reach out more than once to get help.
A recent court user who was filing for divorce in DuPage County as a self-represented person spoke with 4 different court guides at various stages of their case to get the required forms, learn about service of process, receive assistance with e-filing their court documents, and get help scheduling a court date. They commented that Illinois Court Help guides were “Very helpful! Would have been very hard to navigate representing myself in my divorce without their help!”
By digging into the data we can see that in the first year of service, Illinois Court Help’s trained court guides logged 13,696 interactions with 8,049 individual court users in 98 (of 102) Illinois counties. About one-third of all interactions were with people in Cook County, followed by St. Clair, Macon, DuPage, McLean, and Sangamon counties. The service has yet to be contacted by court users in Edwards, Hamilton, Hardin, and Scott counties.
While Illinois Court Help offers various communication channels, users have shown a marked preference for talking with a court guide by phone. Two-thirds of all interactions have been by phone, with the remaining one-third evenly split between text message and email channels. Court guides logged just shy of 20,000 phone calls in the first year and spent an average of 9 minutes talking to court users per call.
The vast majority (85%) of people who connected with Illinois Court Help in its first year were self-represented individuals. Family and friends of people with legal problems and members of the public made up another 8% of interactions, and nearly 2% were with lawyers and legal professionals.
The top issues that people sought help with are court processes, court forms, and filing or e-filing documents. 87% of all interactions related to a civil court case, while 4% related to criminal cases and 2% to traffic cases. Approximately 2% of interactions related to appeals. Of the civil cases, the most prevalent types were small claims, divorce, family, eviction, and probate, in that order.
Feedback received from court users has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 92% of users who responded to a customer satisfaction survey rating their experience as “Good”. Court guides have been described by many users as patient, kind, knowledgeable, and a lifesaver!
During its first year Illinois Court Help significantly improved access to our courts for thousands of court users. However, its small but mighty team of four full time court guides cannot keep up with the growing demand for services. As a result, the Illinois Supreme Court has authorized the hiring of four more court guides as soon as possible. We look forward to doubling our capacity to serve Illinois court users.
Following the addition of new staff members, the service will expand further by adding a chat message channel so that users can chat with a court guide in real time from our website, ilcourthelp.gov. The team will also explore extending the phone hotline hours to accommodate more callers. The outlook for Illinois Court Help’s second year is continued growth and excellent service to more court users.