eNewsletter - October 2017

    LAF eNewsletter
October 2017    
In This Newsletter
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Meet Susan Theiss: Volunteer Extraordinaire
Susan Theiss, Pro Bono Counsel for Complex Litigation at LAF
Susan Theiss has been at LAF since February, and she is having a big impact on the lives of our clients.  She works three days a week as Pro Bono Counsel for Complex Litigation, where her work covers all areas of LAF’s practice, in housing, employment, family law, consumer protection, and more.  Much like the generalists of LAF’s history, Susan does a little of everything, and does it very well.  One of her first cases at LAF was with Jerry, whose story you can read in this eNewsletter. 
Before Susan joined LAF as one of our in-house volunteer staff attorneys, she worked for years in litigation at Jenner & Block LLP, a 2017 Patron Sponsor of LAF.  She also taught high school history, and raised four children.  When her youngest child moved to college this year, she decided to use her time and skills to help those who struggle with poverty and injustice.  She loved being a part of a team as a lawyer and teacher, and wanted to use her writing skills to work to further education and social justice issues, like the ones LAF is on the front lines of every day.  In searching for meaningful work, Susan decided to see if she could use her law degree for those ends.  A former colleague at Jenner recommended LAF, and she got in touch with Diana White, LAF’s former Executive Director.  After meeting Diana and LAF's team, Susan found that LAF fit all that she’d hoped for – a team of smart people working hard and making a real difference. 
An average day for Susan at LAF includes work on a variety of matters, writing complaints, briefs, reviewing records, developing arguments, researching and reading case law – the sort of work she refers to as “sleuthing” – and getting ideas down with pen and paper.  Sometimes she goes to court, sometimes she meets with clients, but overall, she spends her days in what she calls “the meat and potatoes of litigation.” 
Of all the things she enjoys about LAF, the impact she sees is her favorite.  She didn’t expect to see so many victories, big and small, and to see that LAF’s clients are empowered and given a real voice in the justice system, “in a way I didn’t expect to be so palpable.  The work is more effective than I had expected and it truly makes a difference in our clients’ lives."  Also the sheer volume of LAF’s work was a surprise.  “Things are also resolved here so quickly – it’s rewarding as an attorney to get to see the beginning, middle, and end of a case – a client gets benefits he had wrongfully been denied, or staves off eviction, and it’s done.  You can feel a strong connection between what you do and the results.  Big litigation is sometimes mind-numbingly vast.  This is very human.”
We’re deeply grateful for everything Susan and all of LAF’s volunteers do to help us achieve our mission.  As Kate Shank, Director of LAF's Volunteer Services Unit, described: "Susan Theiss is a pro bono attorney who feels like staff. She is committed to our work, dedicated to her clients, and an amazing supporter of LAF.  We are so fortunate that Susan chooses to spend her volunteer time with us!"  Thanks for all your great work, Susan!

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A message from LAF's
CEO and Executive Director
John N. Gallo
I am just three weeks into my new role here and am already excited … and just a bit terrified.
I am excited to work with the country’s finest poverty lawyers—the best in their respective fields, whether it be consumer, domestic violence, housing, immigration, or public benefits.  These are lawyers who have made their profession’s ultimate financial sacrifice in order to fight every day for clients living in poverty or who are otherwise vulnerable.  I attended a recent statewide conference on poverty issues, during which LAF lawyers consistently were speaking as local experts.
But I am even more excited to confirm what I had hoped—that the culture of LAF is one founded on collegiality, and that this is a place where my colleagues treasure to be. The combination of great lawyering and good feeling makes for a very special place.
That said, I have now actually experienced what it is like to work in a place where the primary source of your funding is continually at risk.  I hopefully will be able to develop the same resilience that my new colleagues already have long ago. 
With all that in mind, I am especially grateful to all those of you who have supported LAF.  It is your support that enables the lawyers here—those lawyers who are society’s front line in the War on Poverty—to fight the good fight.  
John N. Gallo
LAF CEO and Executive Director 
Young Professionals Board Autumn Affair
Tickets on Sale Now! 
Plus the Wine and Spirits Raffle
and Hawaii Drawing!
Join LAF and the Young Professionals Board to wrap up the year and enjoy a lively evening of food, drink, arcade games, wine raffle, and grand prize Hawaii raffle drawing!  This Year's Autumn Affair will be held from 6-9pm on November 9th, at Hi-Point, the game lounge at Highline Bar and Grill, to celebrate another great year of camaraderie, fundraising, and volunteering on behalf of LAF!  Tickets cost $75 and sponsorships are available.  Get your tickets and raffle tickets here!
Join the Equal Justice League
this #GivingTuesday! 
Celebrate your legal superheroes 
on November 28th
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this year November 28th is #GivingTuesday, an international day of giving to celebrate charity and philanthropy through raising funds and raising awareness for good causes. In 2017, LAF is celebrating all of the superheroes who have made equal justice their mission and recruiting a few more for the Equal Justice League!  This Giving Tuesday, you can join the Equal Justice League by signing up to make a recurring monthly donation or support the League by making a one-time donation at the special link on LAF's website.  And then we’ll send you an email with a sign to share and language you can copy on to facebook, twitter, Instagram, linkedin, and personal emails.  Then post your selfie with your sign to share about your legal superheroes who make equal justice a reality. 
To get ready, be sure to like LAF on Facebook, and follow @ChicagoLAF on Twitter and @LAFChicago on Instagram.  You can keep up with the national campaign by following along at #GivingTuesday, statewide at #ILGive, and LAF’s own campaign at #GTatLAF.  We’ll be liking, sharing, thanking, and cheering on all our legal superheroes throughout the day, and sending out Equal Justice League membership cards (with your superhero ID and superpowers!) to all our new members.  We encourage you to get in on the fun and join the League!
LAF Protects a Whistleblower
Jerry had worked as a contractual program administrator with the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Chicago Healthy Start program for 13 years. During a routine audit of program funds, he uncovered a $100,000 payment he didn’t recognize, to a company where his boss had personal ties. He sent an email to the auditor and his superiors at the Department. His boss told him to stay quiet about it, but Jerry stuck to his guns and continued to work with the state auditors to investigate.
LAF client Jerry
A few months later, Jerry’s boss unceremoniously terminated his contract. Jerry came to LAF, where a team of LAF attorneys and pro bono volunteers took his case. This team convinced the courts that Jerry’s firing was directly related to his reporting the improper payment to the auditor, and that he should be protected under whistleblower laws, which exist to ensure that employees can report wrongdoings without fearing retaliation.
The courts agreed, and Jerry was awarded a significant sum in back pay and interest, plus more than $160,000 in attorneys’ fees for LAF. “We’re pleased with the decision, which recognizes the importance of protecting whistleblowing employees from reprisal,” Miriam Hallbauer, an LAF attorney on Jerry’s team, told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.  This week, Jerry got his check.
Congratulations to Jerry, and to everyone at LAF (including alumni Tim Huizenga and Matt Lango, as well as Jonathan DeLozano, Miriam Hallbauer, and volunteers Arthur Friedman and Susan Theiss) who helped fight for his protection and to clear his good name!
School is Back in Session 
LAF Opens a New Clinic in Uptown School and Comments on New CPS Guidelines for Special Ed
LAF, with the partnership of Baker McKenzie LLP, celebrated the inauguration of its third community legal clinic last week at McCutcheon Elementary School in Uptown. Similar to its predecessors in Woodlawn and Wicker Park, the new McCutcheon Legal Clinic will be held throughout the school year on the first Wednesday evening of each month.  Its location in Uptown, one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, will provide opportunities to better serve non-English speakers in need of legal help, in a location they already frequent and know well.  Read more about the McCutcheon clinic on our blog here.
And LAF remains invested in the academic success of our special education clients.  LAF Staff Attorney Katherine Gladson was quoted in a story by WBEZ about Chicago Public Schools' new procedures for providing special education services.  Kate "has worked for years helping parents advocate for their children at various Chicago public schools.  In previous years, children who needed special education services would go through an evaluation, and then an agreement would be made between the teacher, school clinicians, and a parent.  Under the rules, that agreement is only the first step. Next comes reams of documentation and outside approvals.  “It was the most frustrating thing,” Gladson said of her experiences last year. "In this new process, parents and staff who know the child best don’t have as much power as they once had.  It’s also potentially a violation of federal laws designed to ensure special education students get the services they need in a timely fashion."  Read the whole WBEZ story here.
Check out LAF on Social Media!
Follow us on Twitter at @ChicagoLAF, like our Facebook page, catch up with us on Instagram, and read our blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com to keep up with all our work!
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For more than 50 years, LAF has provided free legal services in non-criminal matters to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community, ensuring they have the same access to legal services as those who can afford it.  By resolving critical legal problems that systemically trap people in poverty, such as domestic violence, consumer fraud, and unfair evictions, LAF has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals get their lives back on track and given them hope for a brighter future.  
We rely on the generosity of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
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