Hotline Number 312-738-9200
January 2019:
Past and Present
Celebrate The New Year With Giving or Volunteering
For donations or questions, contact Tanya Pietrkowski, Director of Development

For volunteer opportunities, contact

Dear supporters,

I want to start out by saying thank you. Thank you for your diligent work, thank you for your donations thus far, and thank you for taking those much-needed calls.

It is hard to believe that 2018 flew by already. In the last year, CARPLS has accomplished so much, and we have even more to look forward to in 2019.

Though we work tirelessly, there is still much more work to do. Our 25th Anniversary vision is to make Chicago the first city in the nation to provide anyone with a legal problem access to an attorney through CARPLS. We know that a simple attorney consultation can make all the difference in a client's life.

You are an important part of this vision. Please consider continuing your support through donations or through volunteering.

I wish each of you and your loved ones a Happy New Year.

Al Schwartz
Executive Director
A Volunteer At the Heart of CARPLS
"Every client that I am unable to help stands out in my mind."
When Vera McDonnell walks into CARPLS’ office during a recent shift, everyone turns to say hi. It’s not a surprise to see Vera with a smile on her face and a pile of pecan bars in her arms. In the six months since she started volunteering for CARPLS, Vera has become known for her optimism and amazing baked goods.

Leslie Wallin, CARPLS Volunteer Coordinator, said Vera routinely receives 5-star ratings from clients in areas including politeness, understanding, ease of anxiety, and increase in confidence.

For Vera, it’s simply a joy to do this work.

“My daughter is a massage therapist downtown, and she said, ‘Mom, I can have you over on this day for a free massage,’ but I tell her no, that's my day to go to CARPLS. It means a lot to me to come here. To use a cliché, at the end of the day—literally at the end of my shifts—I feel that I help people. Even when I'm not able to provide a solution, I feel that I have helped.”

Before CARPLS and the legal field in general, Vera worked a myriad of jobs ranging from bank clerk to CBOE floor manager to stay-at-home mom. In fact, it was one hectic day that led her into the legal profession.
“I came home [from work] and my baby was still in bed with a full diaper. The caretaker had crashed our car. So I decided to stay at home with the kids. I simply asked myself what I could do during the hours they were in school.”

 Vera decided to apply to law school and ended up receiving a partial scholarship to IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. “It wasn’t my lifelong dream to work as an attorney. I just wanted to fill this time.”

Despite this whim, it worked out for Vera, and she made a great impression on many people.

“When I was a law student, Vera helped me with talking to my first clients,” said Ashlee Highland, CARPLS Supervising Attorney. “When Vera started volunteering in 2018, she remembered me as a law student from 1998. Small world! It has been an absolute honor to now be the attorney on call when Vera is volunteering."

When asked why she chose to volunteer at CARPLS, Vera said here, you can actually help people.

“I’m an attorney but I have compassion. Compassion should extend to all. That’s justice to me. I feel that I can ask questions, and people won’t judge me."  
Past Presidents of CARPLS
Latasha Thomas
Clark Hill 
Current CARPLS Board Member
"This is one of those boards where I know that I should move on, but I find it hard to. We do such important work and are improving everyday!"
What do you think is unique about CARPLS?

I really like that the constituent has direct, albeit on the phone, access to an attorney. When you talk about CARPLS and you discuss what we do, people boil it down to “legal aid," but this is direct access. I also state that we help you strategically help yourself.

Why do you think our services are important?

We have so many people who do not have access to legal services. Many don’t even know how to ask for services. Some people are so afraid of what the legal services may cause, they become paralyzed. CARPLS takes the mystery out of the court system. We give [clients] the confidence to help themselves, with our guidance. This is so important, especially for the population we serve.

Why did you become involved?

Another attorney I went to law school with told me about CARPLS. She was in the first wave of attorneys. She actually worked with Al Schwartz, when he was a staff attorney. I had just opened my law firm. I joined CARPLS in the mid-1990s to help a few folks out I would not have been able to represent. I gained a lot of experience in areas of law I would not have ever practiced in. I felt honored to be able to demystify the legal system for a few people.

It's funny how much technology has improved from when I did the “intake” on the DOS system and what they are doing now. It truly is amazing the reach and services we are able to offer now. I am very proud of the growth of CARPLS.

How has working with CARPLS impact you professionally and/or personally?

As Alderman, CARPLS was my go-to to help senior citizens in my ward solve their legal issues. Being in that office meant that I had to have a lifeline for legal aid questions. It was very helpful [having a relationship with CARPLS] because I knew that they would be helped. As mentioned earlier, CARPLS’ goals complement how I approach service.
Bruce Braun
Sidley Austin LLP
Current CARPLS Board Member

"Making a difference in the everyday lives of everyday
people is one of the reasons I became a lawyer."
What do you think is unique about CARPLS?

CARPLS is unique in its ability to solve, quickly and efficiently, real-life legal problems faced by its clients. Individuals contact CARPLS with serious legal issues that affect their everyday lives, and CARPLS is able to provide meaningful assistance, often on the spot, to help address and potentially resolve these problems. In short, CARPLS is effective in getting things done for its clients.

Why do you think our services are important?

The services CARPLS provides are more important now than ever. Access to legal services and the ability to navigate the courts and the legal system can make the difference between happiness and despair, between economic independence and dependency, and between safety and violence.

Why did you become involved?

I became involved because I learned in law school that a law degree can be a powerful thing in helping change the lives of those in need. In private practice, we have terrific clients and help them solve real problems, but working with CARPLS has allowed me to help individuals in our community who are in need. 

I became involved in CARPLS in the 1990s when Leslie Corbett was the Executive Director. I saw how many of our citizens lacked the ability and resources to access and navigate the legal system. It is our legal system that sets this country apart from other nations, and if it is not accessible to all, it effectively serves none. 

I'm currently on my second stint on the board. I've been on for a long time because I think it continues to fill a critical need, and its mission has become even more engaging.

How has working with CARPLS impact you professionally and/or personally?

Making a difference in the everyday lives of everyday people is one of the reasons I became a lawyer. I value so many of the relationships I’ve made as a member of the board, namely with Al Schwartz. Al could do many other things with his time, but he chooses to do this.
Ralph Gabric
Brinks Gilson & Lione
Current Advisory Board Member
"Some of the finest people I have ever met, I met through my involvement in CARPLS."
What do you think is unique about CARPLS? 

CARPLS is an innovator when it comes to delivering legal services to those in need. For example, it was the first civil legal organization to offer a telephone hotline, which is essentially legal triage. The lawyers who staff the hotline (both staff and volunteers) provide legal and practical advice that often resolves the issue with one phone call. If further follow up is needed, clients are directed to the appropriate resource or organization for the particular issue at hand. CARPLS was also an early organization to staff a legal help desk at the Daley Center.  

Why do you think our services are important? 

CARPLS is critical “mortar” that fills the cracks in the legal system that the less fortunate would fall through without the assistance of organizations like CARPLS.   

Why did you become involved?

My Dad, who was an early member of the Board of Directors, introduced me to CARPLS. I quickly realized that CARPLS was a very special organization that efficiently and effectively provided critically important services to the Chicago community. 
Holiday Recipes From Featured CARPLS Family
Vera McDonnell

Thanks to for the recipe.

Latasha Thomas

Bruce Braun

*CAUTION: these will be delicious
From Our Feed

2019 Golden
Gavel Celebration

May 9, 2019
5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park
Northwestern University Professor Dana Hill, CARPLS Associate Board Member, pens op-ed for Rewire News on the importance of legal aid and CARPLS, tied to Ruth Bader Ginsburg film O n the Basis of Sex.

CARPLS | 17 N. State Street | Suite 1850 | Chicago | Illinois | 60602 |