Chicago Courthouse Bankruptcy Help Desk Seeks Volunteers

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Pro Bono Opportunity with the Dirksen Courthouse Bankruptcy Assistance Desk.

You can help make the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois more accessible and understandable to pro se parties, debtors, and creditors, by staffing the court’s bankruptcy assistance desk at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

What is it? The bankruptcy court provides a bankruptcy assistance desk at Chicago’s federal courthouse in conjunction with the Chicago Bar Association and LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation). Volunteer attorneys staffing the desk offer free bankruptcy
advice to parties without lawyers.

Why the need? Because of recent funding cuts, the bankruptcy assistance desk has had to reduce its hours. The desk is now staffed three days a week instead of five.  Too often, people in need of help are forced to navigate a complex and often baffling legal process alone.

What will I do? As a volunteer attorney staffing the desk, you will answer general questions about bankruptcy law and counsel clients on their cases. You will also help clients prepare forms and draft motions.

Will there be training? Yes. Before seeing clients, you will receive access to  online training and shadow an experienced volunteer. There will also be occasional group trainings. You will also be  added to a group list serve which provides a continuing way to discuss relevant issues. In addition, when you volunteer, an experienced lawyer will be available to answer questions and provide support.

What’s the commitment? Limited. Two volunteer attorneys are scheduled each day and see a total of ten clients. A volunteer’s shift typically lasts from two and a half to three hours. Once the shift is over, the volunteer has no further obligations to the clients seen on that day.
Volunteer lawyers should be willing to take at least one shift every three months, although many choose to volunteer once a month.

What experience is necessary? Volunteers need to have some bankruptcy experience – preferably at least a year, although exceptions can be made if you work at a firm that provides bankruptcy expertise you can call on as needed.

What about malpractice insurance? And conflicts? Volunteers are covered by LAF’s malpractice insurance.  Conflicts questions are addressed in Rule 6.5 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility.

How do I sign up? Send an e-mail expressing your interest in the BankruptcyAssistance Desk to: volunteer@lafchicago.org.