CARPLS 2019 Year in Review!

January 15, 2020

By Nicole NeSmith, CARPLS Development & Communications Associate

CARPLS has many accomplishments from 2019 to be proud of. We unveiled our vision to make Chicago the first city in the nation to provide anyone with a civil legal problem access to an attorney consultation. Since then, we’ve been working tirelessly with our partners to make this vision a reality.

Staff Attorney Steve Prout summed up our staff pride best when he said, I love that I get paid to do a job where I provide legal aid services for free to people who really need it.”

As a team, we saw many organizational accomplishments in FY19 (our fiscal year from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019), which included:

  • The celebration of our 25th anniversary;
  • 63,000 legal consultations, a 12% increase over FY18, and the highest annual total in our history;
  • 9,000 IL-AFLAN consultations (veterans and military service members’ hotline), a 47% increase over FY18;
  • 2,500 senior consultations through the City of Chicago’s Department on Aging referrals
  • We continue to have 96% client satisfaction

CARPLS is also particularly proud of the expansion of the IL-AFLAN program through the piloting of an electronic referral system. This system seamlessly enables CARPLS to directly refer clients to partners and to see when referrals are successful or not. This innovation also makes it easier for clients, because we provide them a continuum of care that has not existed prior to IL-AFLAN, ensuring they are not dropped between referrals. The online referral system now includes another pilot project with Legal Aid Chicago. You can read more about the history, inner workings, and future of IL-AFLAN here.

Spotlight on our Executive Director

Our Executive Director, Al Schwartz, was honored with the PILI (Public Interest Law Initiative) Distinguished Public Service Award in December 2019. At the PILI Annual Awards Luncheon, he thanked “CARPLS staff and volunteers for their remarkable service on the front lines of the fight for equal justice. By the numbers, they may be the most productive working group in ALL of legal aid, providing more than 60,000 legal consults annually on over 30,000 cases. More impressive is the manner in which they approach their charge. Their compassion, dedication, and professionalism in the face of overwhelming need is nothing short of awe-inspiring.”

Marketing Magic

We started off 2019 with a new monthly Everyday Justice Blog to share varying perspectives on the delivery of legal aid services.

Supervising Attorney Ashlee Highland, who has written or contributed to several CARPLS blog posts, said, “I love our CARPLS blog! It has allowed me to learn more about my co-workers—what interests them and how they are involved in our community. It allows us to honor and recognize our co-workers, legal aid partners, and friends. Writing the blog has also allowed me to discuss issues that are important to me.”

Dana Hill, a longtime Professionals Board member, contributed the first blog on the power of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and we have continued to grow from there with posts from our CARPLS staff, volunteers, and partners. We’ve covered:

If you have an idea for a blog post, we are always open to ideas and new writers. Please email Nicole at

In addition to the blog, we also began a newsletter just for clients in the fall of 2019. Clients are looking for information and inspiration from others in the community overcoming everyday issues. We’ve covered several client success stories, the dos and don’ts of legal advice desks, the Rebuilding Exchange workforce development program, fee waivers, and much more.

What’s Next?

We can’t believe we fit that much into one year either, but there’s even more to do in 2020.

We have a lot of exciting projects recently begun or in the works, including a technology partner project on CARPLS’ outcome measures and data analytics, which we hope will be a jumping off point for greater community building for clients and our partners in legal aid.

Cheers to a 2020 full of empathy, competency, and partnership! Be sure to follow us on our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for updates on our upcoming May 20 Golden Gavel Celebration, inspiring client stories, and legal aid news.

Thank you for reading and supporting our mission.

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