Pro Bono Opportunities

Pro Bono Opportunities from the Collaboration for Justice: Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers

Chicago Appleseed is a social impact research and advocacy organization which uses multidisciplinary research to identify community injustices, and to develop and advocate for practical solutions.  Chicago Council of Lawyers is a public interest lawyer organization which advocates for a fair and effective administration of justice.  Together, the two organizations comprise the Collaboration for Justice focusing on the areas of Criminal Justice Reform, Judicial and Lawyer Ethics, Immigration Court Reform, Payday Lending Reform/Economic Inclusion, and Family Law.  The Chicago Council of Lawyers works independently of Chicago Appleseed in its efforts to evaluate judges for the purpose of educating voters.

Pro Bono Opportunities

If you are interested in changing lives at the systemic level with Chicago Appleseed and the Chicago Council of Lawyers, please contact Malcolm Rich at malcolmrich [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org or 312.988.6552.

The Administration of Justice 

Pro bono opportunities include: 

  • Prepare and advocate for new judicial recusal standards and procedures.
  • Prepare and advocate recommendations for increasing disclosure of judicial campaign contributions.
  • Analyze the feasibility of public financing of judicial election races.
  • Analyze the concept of conducting nonpartisan judicial elections.
  • Voter Education – Assist in the implementation of a web and media based campaign to educate voters about judges seeking retention on the general election ballot and about judicial candidates running in the March Illinois primary.
  • Small Donor Campaign Financing.  Explore the viability of small donor campaign financing systems for judicial elections.
  • Docket Reporting in the Cook County Civil Courts.  Chicago Appleseed released a policy brief advocating for comprehensive docket data reporting in the criminal courts in Cook County. We would like to prepare a companion brief concerning docket reporting in the civil courts. The policy memo will examine other state systems for compiling and disseminating meaningful docket statistics for their courts.

Criminal Justice

The felony criminal justice system has become the de facto and underfunded community mental health and drug treatment provider in Cook County. Many of the Chicago Appleseed recommendations are aimed at increasing the number and scope of court-related services and diversion programs.

Pro bono opportunities:

  • Analyze the constitutionality or legality of practices involving the uses of bond money to help fund Cook County agencies, and the failure of mandated court fees to fund their intended beneficiary, the mental health and drug courts within the criminal justice system.
  • Targeted court watching
  • Analyzing the impact of pretrial services in Cook County. Based on best practices here and elsewhere, what information should judges be receiving and by when?
  • Analyzing the impact of adult probation services in Cook County.  Based on best practices here and elsewhere, what should be the role of adult probation in expanding the use of diversion of defendants into treatment services.
  • Advocating for a Coalition for Diversion, aimed at coordinating, enhancing, and ultimately expanding the use of diversion of defendants into treatment services.
  • Analyzing and Advocating for the establishment of a Diversion Section within the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court for oversight of court-based alternatives to incarceration.
  • Analyzing and Advocating for reinstatement of felony review of drug cases following arrest and other approaches to early assessment of cases in order to identify cases for dismissal or diversion early in the case processing.
  • Advocate for enhanced pretrial services to conduct more background investigations, verify critical information, and identify candidates for the Diversion Section.
  • Advocate for increased use of safe, effective, and low-cost non-monetary conditions of pretrial release in Bond Court.
  • Advocate for a centralized and independent data collection system in the criminal justice system to lay the groundwork for using evidence-based best practice approaches.

Immigration Court Reform

  • Participate in the Immigration Court Reform Advisory Group by conducting policy research, crafting of proposed federal rules and legislation, and the writing of policy positions and editorial pieces for the media and for publication. Analyze the feasibility of:
  • Right to Counsel
  • Right to have access to records
  • Right to a speedy trial
  • Public Access to the Immigration courts
  • Right to videoconferenced proceedings that meet the basic tenets of due process


 Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice

Chicago Council of Lawyers

750 N. Lake Shore Dr.  4th floor

Chicago, IL  60611

Phone: 312-988-6552

Email:  caffj [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org

Chicago Appleseed Website and Blog:


Chicago Council of Lawyers Website, including the Directory of State Judges in Chicago:  Judicial Evaluations conducted between 1986 and 2010:

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