Public Interest Initiatives
IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law established the Center for Access to Justice & Technology (CAJT) to make justice more accessible to the public through the use of the technology. The Center for Access to Justice & Technology conducts research, builds software tools, teaches classes and supports faculty, staff and student projects on access to justice and technology.
Chicago-Kent has been dedicated to using technology to increase access to justice since the 1970s. In 1978 the Chicago-Kent Law Clinic launched the Law Office of the Future Project with funding from the Ford Foundation to explore the use of document assembly software as a tool to increase the efficiency of lawyers and students representing low and moderate income individuals in Chicago. In the 1980s, the Center for Law and Computers redefined the way law students used technology to learn the law and helped launch the ABA TechShow conferences to educate lawyers and their assistants on how to become more efficient using computers. In 1998, Chicago-Kent founded the Justice Web Collaboratory to promote the use of the Internet to provide synergy to the collaboration of legal academia, the judiciary, law practitioners and the consumers of the law. From 2001-2005, Chicago-Kent partnered with, and housed the Illinois Technology Center for Law & the Public Interest (ITC) in a unique collaboration with legal service providers, funders, the private bar and law schools with the mission of increasing access to justice for low income and disadvantaged persons through the innovative use of technology. ITC has now become Illinois Legal Aid Online, an independent organization providing web-based information and support for legal aid lawyers, pro bono volunteers and low income individuals through its website, www.illinoislegalaidonline.org.
In 2005, Chicago-Kent launched its Center for Access to Justice & Technology (CAJT), a new initiative aimed at leveraging technology to increase access to justice. In partnership with the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), CAJT has developed a new software tool, the Access to Justice Author, to allow the technologically savvy lawyer or law student to build graphical interviews that provide self-represented litigants with prepared court forms and other legal documents. To further its mission, the Center has built partnerships with courts and legal aid organizations in Illinois, Maryland, California, New York, Idaho and Washington State.
The Center for Access to Justice & Technology allows students to drive the CAJT mission of improving access to justice through the Internet. Some current opportunities for students include volunteer positions at the Self-Help Web Center and through the application of the Access to Justice Author. The Self-Help Web Center is located at the Daley Center and allows students to gain legal experience though their volunteer work. The Center offers paid and un-paid legal research positions to develop the graphical interviews that assist self-represented litigants. Students garner legal experience in these legal research positions at CAJT through the creation of graphical interviews and the exploration of new ways to increase access to justice.
Students can also participate in the Access to Justice Seminar class, taught by Professor Ron Staudt, CAJT's Project Director. Students in this seminar will explore the potential of the Internet and related technologies to improve access to justice.
Chicago-Kent offers a large number of public interest externship-for-credit opportunities. Students can participate in externships with various government agencies and public interest organizations through the Legal Externship Program. Students may also extern for various federal, state, and county judges through the Judicial Externship Program.
PIRC is for law students interested in serving the needs of the community. PIRC offers students a chance to participate in various kinds of community action by way of both legal and non-legal volunteer public interest opportunities.
PIRC acts as a link to non-profit organizations and other public service projects in need of volunteers for either a short or long-term commitment. The positions are volunteer, not paid nor for credit, however PIRC is a great resource for law students interested in pursuing an internship or future job placement in public interest. Students are encouraged to volunteer as much time as fits into their schedule.
Upon completing at least 50 hours of volunteered time, the student is awarded a Chicago-Kent Certificate of Service. For more information, please stop by the PIRC office in room 654.
Street Law Outreach Program
Chicago-Kent is starting a Street Law Outreach Program for law students to participate in. Law schools throughout the country with National Lawyers Guild (NLG) chapters have street law programs. Street Law Clinics are workshops on various legal topics for non-lawyers. The goal of the clinics is to empower the participants by teaching them about their legal rights.
Clinics are conducted by volunteer law students with back-up by lawyers. They take place in community centers, churches, high schools, homeless shelters, union halls, and pre-release centers. The workshops are interactive, with participants figuring out how to deal with real-life situations, and usually last about two hours. Some focus on at-risk youths and hold clinics primarily at schools. This program is for any student who wishes to volunteer to participate; there is no pay or credit hours.