With 50 years of experience providing high quality, free legal services to low-income Chicagoans, CVLS and its volunteers are often recognized for their outstanding work.

An end of an era

We Say Goodbye to Deepa

Deepa Arora, former Adult GAL program director

With every new year come changes and new challenges that we must endure and overcome. This year, that change starts with saying goodbye to our dear friend, Deepa Arora. Deepa has started a new chapter in her life with a new city to explore and a new husband to do it with.

Deepa has been with CVLS since 2015, and served as GAL for Disabled Adults program director, as well as Junior Board staff liaison. Always ready with a smile, she was well known and loved by program volunteers and the legal aid community as a whole. We wish her well in 2020 and beyond and give our thanks for all the wonderful work she did to further Chicago pro bono.

Rule Change in 1806

Effective January 1, 2020, Courtroom 1806 in the Daley Center has enacted the following rules:

  1. A courtesy copy of all motions and GAL reports shall be delivered or faxed to chambers no later than 4:30pm on the second business day preceding the Court date.
  2. For all matters set for trial or hearing on the 2:00pm call, a witness list (including names, addresses, phone numbers) and all discovery must be tendered to all parties 2 weeks prior to the commencement of the trial or those witnesses and exhibits may be inadmissible at trial.
If you have any questions about the rule change or would like to talk about your current pro bono case, please contact staff attorneys Rebekah Rashidfarokhi at or Debi Martin at

AILA/CVLS Pro Bono Bond Project

Volunteers Needed

Legal representation often determines whether an immigrant remains safely in the United States or is deported without ever having any legal counsel. Additionally, whether or not an immigrant is detained during removal proceedings greatly affects the outcome of their immigration case. While an immigrant can legally have an attorney represent him or her at any point in proceedings, representation cannot be at government expense. Statistically, only 14% of detained immigrants are able to obtain representation.

The AILA/CVLS Pro Bono Bond Project finds attorneys to represent detained immigrants that are unable to afford an attorney at their bond hearing. To date, we have provided nearly 100 clients the representation they would otherwise have been denied.

leaving a legacy of chicago pro bono

Ralla Klepak, CVLS Legacy Circle Member

Attorney Ralla Klepak died last April at the age of 82. This January CVLS received a $100,000 bequest from her—a legacy to Ralla’s passion for and belief in the value of social justice. CVLS is proud to have been honored in this way by such a wonderful woman.

I first met Ralla while working on several family law cases in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. She was tough but fair and we always got along, even as we advocated on opposite sides. Ralla was no nonsense and she didn’t mince words. If she thought you were full of bunk, she’d tell you. But if you were straight with her, she’d treat you in kind. I enjoyed talking and working with her.

legal services on speed dial

Serving a Family Across Generations

Bryan P. Thompson, Chicago Consumer Law Center, P.C.

Finding a good lawyer is daunting. Sure, you can look up attorneys online and check their reviews. People might tell you to ask for referrals from your family, friends, or even your local bar association. But it’s hard to be sure that you’re getting the right attorney for you.

One positive experience can change all of that. Find a good attorney or law firm, and you can worry a little less when you have a future legal problem.

Isaac, a military veteran, was a first-time CVLS client in 2017. Back then, he asked for help adopting his granddaughter. Staff Attorney Rob Zielinski took Isaac’s case and successfully represented him throughout the adoption process.

Family Feud

Serving a Family Across Generations

James Trail, Bernstein Law Firm, LLC

Sothsri and her siblings purchased an investment property just a few years before the 2008 financial crisis. Although each sibling started with an equal fraction, over the years they transferred their interests back and forth with quit-claim deeds—some recorded, some not—and kept refinancing the loan. The result was that title was a mess.

When the property was lost to foreclosure, the sale left a $50,000 surplus. One of the siblings petitioned for the funds, but the hopelessly tangled title and the family’s utter confusion caused the judge to appoint CVLS through its Access to Justice Program.

back in the classroom

CVLS Volunteer Represents, Educates Client in Family Law Case

In their work, lawyers take on a variety of roles as advocate, counselor, and even mediator. In a recent parentage case, volunteer attorney Maria Burnett took on the unexpected role of teacher.

Jeremy has a five-year-old son. When he was denied contact with his child by the other parent, Jeremy formally filed for parenting time. The child’s mother promptly hired an attorney and counter-filed for child support. That’s when the case became too complicated for Jeremy to handle alone.

For Old time’s sake

Serving a Family Across Generations

Sandy Morris of Valentine Austriaco & Bueschel

When Felicia filed for divorce after a ten-year separation from her husband, she couldn’t afford to make payments to her attorney and the case languished. Already reeling from years of emotional turmoil, this stalemate increased her stress and she didn’t know what to do. But her mom had an idea.

A few years ago, Felicia’s mom had adopted a grandson with the pro bono help of CVLS volunteer attorney, Sandy Morris of Valentine Austriaco & Bueschel. Delighted by Sandy’s help, she suggested that Felicia reach out to Sandy through CVLS. Good-hearted Sandy stepped in and quickly got that pokey divorce moving, despite the husband’s best efforts


Former PILI Fellow Returns for Round Two!

After graduating from law school, Natasha Serafin worked for CVLS as a Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow before starting at Chapman and Cutler LLP. Tasha enjoyed her experience so much that she came back as a volunteer!

Volunteers Needed

CVLS needs volunteers to help people staying in homeless shelters understand and navigate their legal problems. Our rotating clinic, co-sponsored by Housing Forward, is held in Oak Park, Forest Park and Berwyn churches, one evening a month between May 1 and October 31. This is a great opportunity for all of you River Forest, Oak Park and other near western suburban attorneys, to help the people you see every day who are struggling. CVLS will help you help them by providing training and legal support. Interested or have questions? Email Kathy Koester at