Chicago is such an exciting city for those committed to public interest work and service. Early this past February I traveled with a great group of individuals to the great city of Chicago for the Midwest Public Interest Career Conference. The trip consists of two days of public interest immersion. In addition to the conference, comprised of table talks and any interviews one was offered, we each visited three public interest organizations out of their robust public interest system and attended an MU Law alumni networking dinner.
I was able to hear from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Cook County Public Defender’s Office, and the Legal Assistance Foundation. These organizations illustrate the breadth of legal areas covered within the public interest sector: specialized civil non-profit, criminal defense, and general civil legal aid respectively. When I explain to others what public interest law is I tell them it is not defined as much by the category of law dealt with, but by the socio-economic category of the clients who are served. The legal issues at hand in these organizations are dependent upon those faced by the indigent, the poor in our communities.
Unfortunately, the sources of funding also restrict what kind of legal actions and representation may be carried out on behalf of these clients. Fortunately, and what makes Chicago such an inspiring city for public interest, the private sector, mainly through the Chicago Bar, funds the public interest organizations so that they can provide a full range of representation to indigent clients including class actions and lobbying.
Aside from the encouragement in my legal career pursuits, I was sure to take the train to watch the Missouri basketball game at Derby, the official Mizzou bar in Chicago. I ate half a deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. I walked down Michigan Ave. in some of the coldest wind and snow I had experienced for a while. Chicago is pretty amazing, even in the winter, and that is saying something for someone who lives for Missouri summers.