Winston & Strawn Partners Assume Leadership In Funding Of Legal Services For Low Income Illinois Residents

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 00:00

Four Winston & Strawn partners, Gov. Jim Thompson, Jennifer Nijman, Kimball Anderson and Peggy Davis, have assumed the leadership positions in the organizations that are most responsible for shaping and funding the loose-knit system for delivering legal services to low income residents in Illinois (the "delivery" system). The organizations they lead will raise and distribute nearly $8 million to nearly 30 organizations who serve clients in all of Illinois' 102 counties. Through their funding priorities and policy development, these groups will shape the delivery system for the next several years.

Jennifer Nijman co-chaired the Steering Committee that prepared The Legal Aid Safety Net: A Report on the Legal Needs of Low Income Illinoisans (the "Legal Needs Study"). Released in February 2005, the Legal Needs Study documents the type and frequency of civil legal issues facing low-income Illinoisans. Among other things, the Legal Needs Study found that only one of every six civil legal needs of the poor in Illinois are currently being met. The Study also addressed the dramatic need for increased funding of legal services, and recommended that the state provide an additional $5 million in funding. Jennifer was recently honored by the Illinois Lawyers Trust Fund for her outstanding contributions to Equal Access to Justice in Illinois.

Jennifer is also the current chair of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice, a coalition of all the legal services providers in Illinois. (See page 21 of this issue.) The Coalition recently submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court a recommendation to create a new pro bono rule of professional conduct that sets forth an expectation that all attorneys would provide 20 hours of service annually, creates a network of pro bono advisory councils in each judicial district, and requires lawyers to annually report their pro bono hours.

Gov. Jim Thompson along with Phil Rock, former President of the Illinois Senate, are co-chairs of the effort to improve state funding of legal services through the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign. Using the Legal Needs Study as the factual basis for an appeal to the Illinois Legislature and Governor, the Equal Justice Campaign quadrupled state funding of legal services from $500,000 to $2 million. Gov. Thompson was honored by the Legal Aid Bureau in 2003 and by the state's legal aid hotline, CARPLS (Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services), for his efforts in securing this legislative success.

In 2005 Kimball Anderson will serve as President of the Chicago Bar Foundation, the third-largest funder of legal services in the State, and the Public Interest Law Initiative, an organization that promotes public interest work through law student fellowships and through its Pro Bono Initiative, a collaboration of the largest law firms and corporate legal departments in the Chicago area. Kimball and his wife, Karen, created the Karen G. and Kimball R. Anderson Fellowship in 2003 to address the increasingly difficult financial burden for the legal aid attorneys staffing the front lines in Illinois - an average starting salary of $36,000 and average law school debt of close to $80,000 for young legal aid staff attorneys. Originally endowed in the amount of $100,000, the Andersons increased the endowment to raise the grant from $15,000 to $25,000 per recipient.

Peggy Davis will serve as President of the Illinois Lawyers' Trust Fund (LTF) in 2005-2006. LTF distributes the revenues generated from the interest on the client trust accounts, and also from filing fees. LTF is the largest state-based funder in Illinois, and will distribute nearly $4.5 million in funds to legal aid and pro bono agencies across the state.

As the delivery system continues in the struggle to serve 12 million low income residents with limited funding, the efforts of these persons become critical to the health of the entire legal system.

For further information regarding the pro bono contributions of Winston & Strawn lawyers, contact Gregory McConnell at (312) 558-5600.