CARPLS Executive Director Al Schwartz celebrates 30 years!
What are some of the major changes you’ve seen at CARPLS at its start in 1993 to present?

Early on, the biggest changes involved the people and the delivery model. CARPLS was one of the first legal aid hotlines in the country, so there was no real blueprint to work from.

Originally, it was thought the work could be done by a part-time staff of recent law school graduates who could answer simple legal questions. As it turned out, there are very few simple legal questions and identifying a simple legal question from a more complex legal question takes a high level of skill. So, as CARPLS worked to perfect its legal triage model, we saw the need to hire more experienced, full-time staff.

The legal triage model took about 10 years to develop and the core principles of that model have not changed much over the past couple of decades. What has changed is the technology. Looking back, CARPLS was an idea that was way ahead of its time in terms of the available technology. We were very limited in the early days in what we could do in terms of scale, productivity and impact. CARPLS really began to explode as new, more accessible technology came online.

A few years ago, we were recognized by American Lawyer Magazine as the most cost-effective program yet devised to provide access to legal services to millions of Americans who can’t afford a lawyer. When that article came out, we knew we were on the right track with our mix of skill, delivery model, and technology. In the past 30 years, CARPLS has gone from a single hotline providing 8,000 legal consultations annually to residents of Cook County to an organization that now provides over 90,000 legal consultations across five separate hotlines serving connected legal aid networks throughout the state of Illinois.
Al Schwartz and Mike Cramer at the 2019 PILI gala honoring Al's Distinguished Public Service Award
Susan Craven, Jason Townsend, Al Schwartz, Susan Bradshaw and Leslie Corbett at CARPLS' first office
Al, Nya and Remi Schwartz
Al and his daughters, Nya and Remi, with the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois 2010 Annual Leadership Award
John Z. Lee Fed Swearing In
Rob Acton, Al Schwartz, John Lee, Ralph Gabric (all CARPLS board members) at John Lee's swearing in as Federal Judge for Northern District of Illinois
Al at the 2022 Golden
Gavel Celebration
We are closed for Memorial Day on Monday, May 29. We will reopen at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30.
Spread the Word: New Leaf Illinois works to expunge cannabis records
Connor’s criminal past started with police forcing open his door in the early morning hours five years ago, and it disappeared, give or take a few months, with a phone call to New Leaf Illinois last January.

The arrest, which netted less than half a kilogram of marijuana, still made headlines in the small town about 200 miles south of Chicago, and was followed by a guilty plea, 30 days in the Shelby County jail and two years of probation, and a lot of uncertainty about the future, thanks to a record that would mark Connor with a Class 4 felony for what he assumed would be the rest of his life.

When Illinois legalized cannabis in 2019, Connor learned that the legislation would also include provisions that allowed residents with minor cannabis-related arrests and convictions to clear their records. When those provisions took effect in 2020, he immediately headed to the courthouse — where, he was disappointed to learn, no one, neither local judges nor the state’s attorney’s office, were quite sure what he should do.