NIJC welcomes interested attorneys to handle cases on a pro bono basis. NIJC screens all cases extensively to ensure that only those who are legally eligible for the immigration benefit sought and those with the fewest private resources enter NIJC’s program and are referred for pro bono representation to attorneys and firms who generously donate their time and expertise.
NIJC provides training to interested attorneys and pro bono coordinators and continues to provide technical assistance and case support as necessary throughout the life of a case. Please note that NIJC mainly offers opportunities for attorneys located in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. We have very limited opportunities for pro bono representation outside of this area and when they arise, they are usually to represent LGBT/Q individuals in asylum cases. If you reside outside of IL/IN/WI and would like us to keep you in mind for future opportunities, please let us know.
If you're already a pro bono attorney with NIJC, view the list of individuals who need your representation now!
Types of pro bono opportunities
1. VAWA and U Visa
This project represents individuals who were victims of domestic violence or of violent crimes in the United States. We estimate these cases require about 40 hours of work. These cases are transactional in nature, meaning most of the work involves preparing and completing forms, declarations, and supporting evidence, and filing documents with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Currently, these cases take about two years to be adjudicated. No previous experience required. Please view NIJC's pro bono attorney guidelines for VAWA and U Visa cases.
2. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
This project represents children who were abused or neglected by one or both parents. Attorneys will help them obtaining a predicate order before a family law court. Attorneys might also be able to represent children in their petitions for immigration services after they obtain a predicate order. We estimate that these cases require about 40 hours of work. In order to volunteer for this type of case you must have experience in family law.
Asylum cases are the most resource and time-intensive cases NIJC offers. Asylum cases require 80 to 160 hours of work. Due to the significant resources required for an asylum case, NIJC is generally only able to place asylum cases with attorneys at mid-large law firms that have the resources to support asylum representation. You and/or your firm must have the resources necessary to gather and compile exhibits, conduct legal research (e.g. Westlaw), communicate with potential witnesses who are abroad, etc. Asylum filings are usually 200+ pages long and require significant material resources to prepare and file. In many cases, asylum cases will require an expert witness, which must be identified and paid for by the representing attorney or firm/corporation. Asylum cases could last three to five years, and sometimes longer. No previous experience required. Please view NIJC's pro bono guidelines for asylum cases.
4. Bond Representation
Many non-citizens in immigration custody may be eligible for release, but need an attorney to assist them with a bond hearing in order to obtain a reasonable bond amount. NIJC, along with the Chicago Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, will train and support interested attorneys who want to represent noncitizens, including asylum seekers, in bond hearings. This is a short-term opportunity, as attorneys can commit to a limited scope representation of the client for the purpose of the bond hearing only. Please click here for more information and contact Jesse Johnson with any questions.
Pro Bono Information and Expectations
1. All projects require you attend an in-person training prior to taking on a case. NIJC offers training quarterly. For a list of upcoming trainings please visit NIJC's calendar. Due to space constraints, we can only register attorneys for in-person training sessions who will be able to take on a case with us within three months of the training or who are already representing NIJC clients. Prior to RSVP’ing to a training, please take into account the projects descriptions and guidelines. We usually hold live webinars at the same time as the in-person trainings, but we do not offer CLE credit for webinar attendees.
2. Most of NIJC’s clients speak languages other than English and will require an interpreter for case preparation. Although NIJC has a list of volunteer interpreters, it is the attorney/firm/corporation’s responsibility to pay for interpretation costs if you can’t find a volunteer to help you.
3. NIJC is unfortunately unable to offer meeting space for volunteer attorneys to meet with their clients and prepare cases.
4. It is very difficult for NIJC to re-absorb cases after they have been placed with pro bono attorneys so we ask our pro bono attorneys to commit to seeing a matter through for the duration of the case.
After reading the information above, if you think you would be a good fit to provide pro bono representation in any of these types of cases, click here to send us a message.