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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Illinois Legal Aid Online

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Crime & Law, Human Services, Legal Services

Mission: Illinois Legal Aid Online's mission is to increase access to justice for lower-income and vulnerable Illinois residents through the innovative use of technology to assist and educate the public and to train and support legal aid providers and pro bono attorneys. ILAO lowers barriers to the law so that people can understand and act on their legal rights. ILAO leverages technology to put the law within reach for all Illinoisans regardless of their location, income, and education.

Target demographics: People get a fair chance at justice

Direct beneficiaries per year: people with Illinois legal problems create over 38,000 free, personalized legal documents to help address those problems

Geographic areas served: Illinois

Programs: Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) will serve over 3 million people in need of legal help this year via its award-winning website, IllinoisLegalAid. org. The website provides free, easy-to-use legal tools for Illinois residents who can't find or afford a lawyer, and who are facing critical legal problems like domestic violence, eviction, unemployment, and more. ILAO's services are offered 24/7/365 and more than half of our users come to us between 5pm and 9am and on weekends, when traditional legal offices are closed. ILAO provides a comprehensive library of interactive court forms and other legal documents that make it easy for self-represented persons to prepare personalized, accurate legal papers. In addition, ILAO streamlines the process for applying for legal services in Illinois through an online triage and intake system. People seeking legal advice and representation can apply 24/7 from any web-enabled device. ILAO helps people to navigate a maze of services and delivers them to the best available legal help.

Community Stories

29 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer, I have had the honor to assist individuals who are seeking legal information and have been able to do so continuously. As a LiveHelp Operator Volunteer, one comes across several individuals who are seeking legal information and have exhausted their options. It is a rewarding experience when they express their gratitude and are grateful that we are trying our best to find the best available information for them whether it be resources or links. Due to the pandemic, patrons have less resources in person, Illinois Legal Aid Online has served as a wonderful resource now more than ever to patrons who are seeking information during the pandemic.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Very good opportunity for students to fulfill Pro Bono Requirment! Instruction and user interface are very sophisticated. I could help a lot of visitors to find information they need via system.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I first signed up to be a volunteer with Illinois Legal Aid Online I only planned to do so for a few weeks. However, once I got started and learned of all the great work they were doing to help people, I had a really hard time leaving. After volunteering for over a year, I can confidently say that this organization does work that truly matters. Even as just a volunteer, you can make such a noticeable difference in people's lives, which always stuck with me. There were so many times that I would run across people who were facing difficult circumstances, but felt alone and hopeless. Time and time again, the people I would chat with would divulge how other legal aid organizations were either too busy to help them or entirely too complicated to navigate. So, when I would hear them cheer up and regain confidence that their matter wasn't beyond help or hope, it not only brightened their life, but mine as well. I think Illinois Legal Aid Online is a tremendous help to the community and hope that they continue to be a light in the darkness for people for many years to come.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Ive been volunteering with ILAO for 2 months and it has been great. It feels awesome to help people. There is a lot of people who have legal issues and don't have the knowledge or resources to solve them by themselves. ILAO provides the resources for them. As an ILAO volunteer I do my best to go above and beyond to help our visitors.

Sarah M.22

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I enjoyed volunteering here during law school and beyond. Its online volunteer option makes it easy to give back, and ILAO’s community resources are outstanding.

Janice L.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteering with ILAO has been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to still help people find solutions to their legal issues all from the comfort of my own home. ILAO is constantly finding ways to improve their platform to make it more accessible, user friendly, and updated for all of their visitors/clients. They provide great training resources and support to help guide me through my volunteering experience.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered as a live chat operator during my law school and I can tell it is a very rewarding experience. You can see the immediate impact on peoples' lives. The website is very comprehensive and can provide effective guidance to all users.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at the LiveHelp program and it is great to see the incredible impact it has on people who need legal information and legal aid and most of the time really don't know where to begin looking. It is an easily accessible first contact to quickly put them in the right direction or even solve their issues altogether.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I completed my year of service as an Americorps VISTA at Illinois Legal Aid Online. I can’t express enough how grateful I am to have worked with an incredible team of passionate people committed to their mission.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a member of the Young Professionals Board at Illinois Legal Aid Online. I love the work this organization does to support regular folks in Illinois and provide them with accurate, easy to read legal information. I really believe that with a little bit of good information, people are really empowered to help themselves in a lot of legal issues. Thank you to ILAO for helping Illinoisans get the legal info they need.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a member of the Illinois Legal Aid Online staff, I can attest to the impact of this organization. We served 3.5 million people each year prior to the pandemic. With the advent of COVID-19 we have seen an exponential increase in visits to our website. Staff has ensured that all information on our website is up to date - sometimes updating 2-3 times/day. We believe that we have a responsibility to help underserved and vulnerable Illinois residents who cannot afford an attorney. ILAO levels the playing field and provides justice to all. ILAO is a unique organization and I am proud to work here.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

ILAO does vital work in helping people connect to legal information. I've been lucky enough to volunteer for this organization and see first hand how ILAO provides clarity into the court system for people across Illinois. Especially right now, their services are invaluable.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Having both worked directly with ILAO and used ILAO's content in other public service roles, I can confidently say that the information and tools made available through their website are absolutely invaluable. Navigating legal issues can be so daunting, but the content is broken down to take users step-by-step through the legal process and there are numerous easy-to-use programs that can assist pro se litigants with all the forms they need for dozens of different legal issues. The ILAO team is amazing and could not be more dedicated to working towards equal access to justice.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 1990, I received a degree in law and was an assistant to the head counsel of the Illinois Legal Aid Services in DuPage County and, although I did not become an attorney, my experience was invaluable because of helping people. Fortunately, the Illinois Legal Aid Services via on-line is giving me another chance to help people during our unprecedented time of crisis. Specifically, I help about 100 persons monthly in child custody, divorce, court hearing, debt recovery, felony violation, traffic violation, COVID-19 unemployment and injury, and other legal matters. Hence, after working 27 years in international finance and law for the US government and international companies, I am helping myself by learning these cases while helping others because of Illinois Legal Aid Services. Always grateful, Hon. C. Kim DSL/PhD

Kristina Kirby H.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with ILAO for over 10 years with positions ranging from summer intern to Board Member. Through my various volunteer efforts during law school, I saw first hand the many people who needed help navigating the complicated legal system, but did not have access to an attorney.

ILAO provides a website that empowers people to understand their legal options, make informed decisions and, when necessary, represent themselves in court. The site provides simple explanations of the law and step-by-step instructions on how to proceed with various legal options. For example, people come to ILAO seeking help regarding domestic abuse, unemployment benefits, benefits for students with disabilities, eviction, and deportation.

By leveraging technology, over 2.7 million people were able to access ILAO's resources in 2019. Unlike the traditional legal aid office, there is no limit to the number of people ILAO's resources can serve. ILAO also strives to provide multilingual resources, with many resources provided in Spanish and Polish. ILAO is a great organization with a dedicated staff that is constantly working to better serve the community.

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 06/04/2020

Thank you for your steadfast leadership and support, Kristina!

LaShonda S.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I call Illinois legal aid today because my landlord has been harrassing me since COVID19..... I was a little upset.... Because of my situation.... The owner of the business kept telling me I was yelling at him.... I told him I'm not yelling at u..... I'm a little upset but I'm not yelling he kept insisting that I was yelling at him and he hung up in my face..... I felt discriminated against..... I will never call for advice...... So,,, I called back to see if I could talk to another person in the office.... It took longer for someone to answer than it did the first time I called..... They lady told me the man who answered the phone was the owner of the business..... And he didn't want to help me..... And it wasn't because I was yelling at him as he was trying to say.... I feel like he was racist..... Heard a black voice come through the phone ..... They love to yelling that stereotypical "angry black woman" BS..... ALL THESE WHITE PEOPLE HATE THE SEEDS OF THIS EARTH..... U SEE IT ON THE BEWS EVERYDAY.... I DIDN'T WANT TO GIVE 1 STAR.... I HAD TO IN ORDER TO SUBMIT MY REVIEW.

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 06/04/2020

LaShonda, I am so sorry this has happened to you. I don't think you have the right legal aid program - we are online, via IllinoisLegalAid.org, rather than by phone. We want to help. Would you please email us at info@illinoislegalaid.org and give us your phone so that we can follow up?

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was injured in a bicycle accident 2 years ago (I suffered minor injuries, and my bicycle was damaged). The person who caused the accident exchanged information with me, but we were not able to reach an agreement outside of court. Because I felt like I was entitled to a just remedy, I decided to file a case in small claims court. But, I wasn't sure how to start the process. This led me to the ILAO website which had a lot of resources which were useful to me, including: a how-to on how to file a small claims case pro se, what to do if I had trouble collecting a judgement, and links to resources on the court's website. ILAO's resources made me feel more confident walking into the courthouse -- at the filing stage and in the hearing itself. In the end, I prevailed in the case and secured a fair judgement. I would recommend ILAO to others.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Illinois Legal Aid Online serves a very important role in our community - bringing access to the justice system for those who would go without. It is also a tremendous tool for law students trying to serve marginalized communities while also learning how to be an attorney. ILAO's comprehensive resources in plain language are an amazing starting point for everyone.

Alex E.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This is an outstanding resource for both professionals and every day persons looking for help with legal issues in Illinois. I highly recommend donating to this cause because they are able to assist far more persons per dollar donated, across the entire State of Illinois, than any other public legal services operation in existence.

Brenda S.7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Illinois Legal Aid Online has been very instrumental in helping self-represented litigants in our local court systems. There are easy to follow directions and information given to help create the correct form. How-to videos are very helpful to someone unfamiliar with the court system.

Board Member

Rating: 5

While I have been a Board Member of ILAO for the past several years, I have been familiar with its significant social impact for much longer.

It’s really a rather simple story. The legal system is often complicated and difficult to navigate. Those with means can hire lawyers to advocate for their interests. Others facing legal-related issues are often shut out from the sorely strained legal aid community and have to fend for themselves.

Enter ILAO. It’s cornerstone web site simplifies the law giving people the information to resolve their problems. These problems are in the realm of those that threaten to disrupt lives, e.g., domestic abuse, eviction, deportation, divorce and debt and ILAO often serves as a lifeline to answers to seemingly unsolvable issues.

In 2018 alone, over two million people use ILAO’s tools, showing how an organization operating without substantial resources can leverage technology to offer critical assistance to those without any other good options.

The dedication and passion of ILAO’s staff is remarkable and their fervent desire to make a difference is crystal clear. ILAO is the epitome of a great non-profit.

Jane L.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) is one of the most important organizations to me. Not only did I start out my career at ILAO as an AmeriCorps VISTA, but I have found myself using ILAO in a variety of ways throughout my life. In my current role overseeing an immigration legal services program at a nonprofit, clients often come with other legal questions such as how to get an order of protection or child custody agreement. I'm always excited to share ILAO's resources with them because they are easy to use, in Spanish, and walk pro se applicants through the process. I myself used ILAO to get a divorce from my abusive spouse. ILAO is an organization that is constantly at the forefront of innovation and consistently improves to better serve the legal needs of communities in need.

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/17/2019

Jane L.3, you are awesome! Thank you for your review

Advisor

Rating: 5

As a pro bono Human Resources and Training Consultant, I have provided services to the Chicago Legal Aid community for the past ten years.

I consulted with ILAO to strengthen their HR practices and facilitated management and employee training programs for them.

Working with them is a pleasure. The management and staff are engaged, enthusiastic and intelligent. They are a hard working team whose focus is helping attorneys and the public find the legal information they need to guide next steps and decisions.

Creating the content which explains and informs about a wide variety of legal issues is so useful for members of the public who need these facts, instructions and forms.

Not everyone can afford the services of an attorney and ILAO provides practical content that fills the bill.

Legal Aid Agencies across Illinois also use ILAO's website to post job vacancies and their agency's activities.

ILAO's website announces training workshops and other educational activities being offered throughout the state. It's a wonderful resource for finding excellent professional development opportunities.


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Board Member

Rating: 5

Five years ago, I had the great good fortune to be invited to join the Board of Illinois Legal Aid Online. I had known about the organization for years because so many of my colleagues and contacts were involved and always sharing stories about all the people that received help resolving a whole variety of problems using ILAO's tools. Once I joined the Board, I found that the stories they told only skimmed the surface of the value offered by ILAO. There are millions of people weighed down with problems that they need help resolving. However, resolution comes at a price. That price is steep and the process is long, confusing and frustrating. ILAO helps lift the weight, puts the cost within reach, and simplifies the process. Rather than continuing to live with problems or creating more problems by taking on a great financial burden, ILAO allows people to come to grips with their issues and move on with their lives.

On a personal basis, ILAO has helped me focus on how very fortunate I am to have the resources and support that allows me to purchase the help I need and it allows me to take part in helping others to feel the same sense of relief and peace that I experience once a problem has been solved.

For every $1000 ILAO receives, 1750 people are served. What an ROI!

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/17/2019

ILAO is so grateful for your leadership, Alarsonnge.com!

Stephanie V.3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I worked for Illinois Legal Aid online (ILAO) for over 6 years and saw the staff's daily commitment to access to justice for all Illinois residents no matter their income. The ILAO website breaks down complicated legal concepts into easy-to-understand articles, videos, court forms, etc. It is overwhelming and often scary to interact with the court system. ILAO works to lessen these real fears by providing people with knowledge about the law, the court process, finding an attorney, going to court on your own, etc. The ILAO website is an invaluable resource and I am grateful for the ILAO staff's hard work and dedication.

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/17/2019

Stephanie V.#, thank you for your review. We miss seeing you daily!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Amazing organization that empowers vulnerable populations by providing free, easy-to-use legal information. The website has tons of resources including legal guides, referrals, and court forms, in English, Spanish, and Polish. They are by far the most advanced and robust legal aid website in the US. I highly recommend their services. Keep up the great work!

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/17/2019

Thank you for your support, Drios!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

ILAO offers the every day person with a legal issue exactly what they need to understand and solve their problem. From small issues like changing your name to bigger ones like getting a divorce, ILAO has straight-forward, plain-language guides available to help.

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/14/2019

Appreciate your comment, skyrkostas! Thanks for helping to spread the word about ILAO.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started working with Illinois Legal Aid Online during my first year of law school as a volunteer at the Daley Center. The site helped me to share information in an easy to understand way with individuals who needed assistance. As I spent more time volunteering, I was able to share information with the folks at Illinois Legal Aid Online, and the staff made me feel that the feedback I provided from my interactions with the public was helpful to improving the site. Now that I'm a practicing attorney, I'll still use Illinois Legal Aid Online whenever I need to familiarize myself with a new area of the law for a pro bono matter or really anything.

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/14/2019

Acs920, thanks so much for sharing your story. ILAO relies on volunteers like you to increase its impact - we are so grateful for your help!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been on the Young Professional's Board at ILAO for 4 years now and have enjoyed every moment! The group's offering is vital to those in Illinois who don't know where to go when they need to navigate a complicated legal system. On top of that, all of the employees, board members, and directors are very engaged in spreading ILAO's message. Highly Recommend!

Comments ( 1 )

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TeamILAO 10/14/2019

Thank you for your comment and, more important, for your devoted leadership to ILAO, mgibbons1513!