In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, October 21 -27, I wanted to write about Illinois’ Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), an organization based in Chicago that is celebrating its 35th year of work for the public sector.  PILI’s mission is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest, a goal it accomplishes by creating opportunities for law students and practicing attorneys.

The Law Student Internship Program funds 400 hour internships during the summer for first and second-year law students across the country to work in public interest law agencies in the Chicago area.  The Summer 2013 application period opened on October 15, 2012 for 2Ls and will open on December 1, 2012 for 1Ls. A list of participating agencies can be found on the organization’s website http://www.pili-law.org  and range from the Legal Assistance Foundation to the US Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Civil Rights. 

PILI interns gain hands-on work experience providing legal services directly to clients or engaging in  advocacy, impact-litigation, policy development and analysis, or other related legal work. PILI raises the funds necessary for the agencies to pay the interns $5,000 during the summer and the agencies provide the interns with  supervision and mentorship.  PILI also sponsors an educational luncheon seminar series, social events and networking opportunties throughout the summer.

The Graduate Fellowship Program works with two dozen Chicago law firms to offer new law school graduates who have been offered an associate position with the participating firms the opportunity to work 300 hours during the summer for a public interest agency while participating in a formal bar review program.  PILI also provides the fellows with a seminar series, social events and networking. 

Other programs that PILI offers includes an Alumni Program, an Extended Placement Program and a Pro Bono Initiative Program. Everything that PILI does builds and fosters a culture of service in the legal profession in Illinois. PILI is successful by encouraging law students and attorneys to provide services for the poor and disenfranchised, by forging professional relationships between law firms and public interest agencies, and by providing thousands of hours of legal assistance each year.

PILI Public Interest Law Initiative, http://www.pili-law.org/index.htm, (Accessed Oct. 19, 2012)