Fall 2011 News From Illinois Legal Aid Online
Recovering What's Hers: Sheila's Story
After months of harassment and bullying by her landlord, 64-year-old Sheila S. of Chicago left the apartment she called home for six years.
Mobile Apps Put Law in the Palm of Your Hand
Two mobile apps put the law squarely in the hands of lower-income Illinois residents and the pro bono attorneys who represent them.
This fall Illinois Legal Aid Online will launch the brand new Illinois Legal Aid and Illinois Pro Bono Mobile Apps to deliver self-help resources to the public and practice support to pro bono attorneys.
Illinois, a national leader in applying technology to the delivery of free legal services, is the first state to develop a free mobile platform to support and assist lower-income people with legal problems.
Mobile apps are becoming an increasingly critical means for delivering information, especially to minority and lower-income populations. Mobile phones can provide Internet access for those who cannot afford a home computer with broadband.
A study released this past July by the Pew Research Center reported that “smart phone owners under the age of 30, non-white smart phone users, and smart phone owners with relatively low income and education levels are particularly likely to say that they mostly go online using their phones.” MobiLens data from comScore found that 72.5 million people in the U.S. owned smart phones by March 2011, up 15% from the preceding three-month period. Currently, nearly 11% of visits to IllinoisLegalAid.org are from mobile devices.
The Illinois Legal Aid Mobile App, available this Friday, September 30, in the iTunes store for Apple users, provides zip code-based referrals to local legal services programs, including county-based legal self-help centers, and free, plain language legal information for the most common legal problems.
The app’s comprehensive legal guides contain FAQs, easy-to-understand definitions and self-help instructions on specific legal issues. The Illinois Legal Aid App makes navigating a confusing legal system easy, free and available 24/7 to residents facing legal problems such as domestic violence, mortgage foreclosure, child support, and more.
The Illinois Pro Bono Mobile App will be released in conjunction with National Pro Bono Week, October 24 – 28. This new app leverages some of IllinoisProBono.org's resources to make them more accessible and easier to use on mobile devices.
Attorneys, law students, paralegals, and other legal professionals with
smart phones and tablet devices will have instantaneous access to a statewide database of volunteer opportunities, a calendar of MCLE trainings and community events, and comprehensive legal reference guides. The app’s legal resources include in-depth guides on discrete areas of civil law, including advanced directives, mortgage foreclosure, divorce and custody, and more.
Both the Illinois Legal Aid and Illinois Pro Bono Mobile Apps will be available on Android devices in the near future.
Donor Spotlight: Dick O'Malley
Richard F. O'Malley is a partner with Sidley Austin LLP and chairman of the Pro Bono Committee for the firm's Chicago office.
We recently caught up with Dick to learn about his thriving pro bono practice and why he supports Illinois Legal Aid Online.
ILAO: Please tell us about your work at Sidley Austin LLP.
RO: I am a partner at Sidley Austin LLP in the Intellectual Property Litigation group. I litigate patent and trade secret cases in a variety of technologies from chemical compounds to fiber optic technology. I have been Chairman of the Pro Bono Committee for the Chicago office for the last 11 years. In that capacity, I have had the privilege to work with my partners and associates to provide a wide variety of pro bono legal services to our indigent clients.
ILAO: The Legal Assistance Foundation recently gave you the Champion for Justice Award. What has inspired you to do pro bono work throughout your career?
DO: My first pro bono case when I was a new lawyer was for an indigent, mentally-handicapped young man. I defended him at an administrative hearing to revoke his drivers’ license, which he needed for his job. I was able to help him and that really sparked my interest in pro bono work. This led to me taking on a wide variety of civil and criminal pro bono cases, including the acquittal of a man charged with murder.
My most recent case was with LAF’s Rich Wheelock and his team for the residents of the Cabrini Green housing project. We were able to help avoid their threatened immediate eviction by the Chicago Housing Authority. We litigated the matter for 6 years until we reached a resolution whereby the residents could leave Cabrini Green and start new lives on better terms.
ILAO: Why do you support Illinois Legal Aid Online?
RO: I think technology should be harnessed to help poor people, who do not know who to turn to, to obtain legal information. Illinois Legal Aid Online is the wave of the future. The demand for free legal services far outweighs availability, but ILAO helps level the playing field for those who can’t afford a lawyer by giving them user-friendly online resources to solve their legal problems on their own. They also make it easier for attorneys to do pro bono work by providing 24/7 training and support via IllinoisProBono.org. In addition, I know what a committed staff ILAO has because my son enjoyed being a summer intern there.