BLOOMINGTON — A twice-yearly fair, which has helped 187 people in need with their legal problems since fall 2015, returns on Saturday.
The fair is for people who meet Prairie State Legal Services' financial guidelines, meaning their annual household income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which would be $50,200 for a family of four, said Prairie State Managing Attorney Adrian Barr.
"This is geared toward people who can't afford an attorney for a civil (not criminal or traffic) legal issue and who can't get services from Prairie State Legal Services due to our limited resources," Barr said.
Sponsors of the event include Prairie State, State Farm Bank, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, The Immigration Project, Mid Central Community Action, McLean County Bar Association and the Central Illinois Paralegal Association.
Thirty volunteer attorneys and paralegals from the McLean and Livingston counties' bar associations, the paralegal association and the State Farm law department are expected to assist about 50 people with family issues such as child support, housing issues such as evictions and other issues including immigration questions and expungement of criminal records, Barr said.
"This increases our capacity to help people," Barr said.
Prairie State closed 891 cases, involving 1,042 adults and 852 children, at its Bloomington office in 2017, Barr said. Meanwhile, Prairie State increased the number of pro bono cases that it refers to volunteer lawyers from 73 in 2014 to 196 in 2017 because more lawyers have become aware of Prairie State from volunteering at the legal advice fair, Barr said.
"The State Farm law department has a pro bono committee and we look for opportunities like this to give back to this community and to assist Prairie State Legal Services with its mission," said Jeff Crabill, a State Farm attorney.
Charlotte Alvarez, executive director and attorney with The Immigration Project, said "We see this as an opportunity to help people with specific immigration questions."
"Not only does this improve the lives of the clients we serve but it improves the overall health of the community," said Carrie Haas, a partner with the Dunn Law Firm and chair of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee. "It helps people to rise out of poverty and live their lives."