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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Inaugural Law Student Leaders Access to Justice Summit


March 26, 2019

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission) hosted an inaugural Law Student Leaders Access to Justice Summit on February 22, 2019 at the Michael A. Bilandic Building. The ATJ Commission welcomed 70 law students and faculty from each of the state's nine law schools, Illinois JusticeCorps Fellows, and community members for a day focused on educating and inspiring future leaders on how they can help provide equal access to our justice system in their respective career paths. Delegates were selected by the deans of each respective law school and represented a diverse group of both public interest andnon-public interest focused students.

The goal of the day-long summit was to cultivate an awareness of issues prohibiting low-income Illinois residents from accessing civil legal services and, to that end, fostering a lifelong commitment to ending this disparity through pro bono work. The program began with Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier welcoming attendees and discussing the evolving landscape of the state's court system. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride also addressed the delegates and encouraged them to consider access to justice initiatives in their future career paths. The ATJ Commission, represented by Justice Mary K. Rochford and Judge Leonard Murray, spoke about the multitude of challenges people face within the civil justice system and about the work currently underway to assist self-represented litigants.

Panelists represented a diverse array of judges, attorneys, court interpreters, law librarians, and self-help navigators. Presentations throughout the day included topics such as: Overview of Access to Justice System; How Courts are Changing to Expand Access to Justice; Making a Difference – How You Can Get Engaged; Does Pro Bono Work – Lessons from the Inside; and Innovative Law Practices.

The delegates also participated in a poverty simulation, where they were asked to consider the difficult decisions a low-income person has to contemplate regarding housing, education, and family welfare. Participants were provided a budget and encountered unexpected obstacles, such as being evicted, being fired, and being offered predatory loans. They were further confronted with challenging decisions that created the need for a lawyer whom they could not afford to hire. The simulation provided insight into how participants can strengthen their skills as future advocates, as well as develop empathy for individuals and families in crisis.  

The summit was made possible through the support of the Illinois Supreme Court, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, The Chicago Bar Foundation, Public Interest Law Initiative, Justice Entrepreneurs Project, and all of the moderators and panelists who volunteered their time for the day-long program. Please view our photo gallery of this event at