Today, the University of Illinois College of Law announced the launch of an innovative new program designed to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Practicum will provide students, alumni, and friends with insights about the legal aspects of the pandemic, and will simultaneously work with legal aid agencies across Illinois to deliver critical legal services during the summer of 2020.
The week of June 1-5, the College will offer a one-week, intensive class to approximately 20 rising 2L and 3L students focused on various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anticipated topics include constitutional law, contract law, potential tort claims associated with the pandemic, bankruptcy, labor and employment, elder law, and health law. Thereafter, students enrolled in the class will work with legal aid agencies around the State of Illinois, applying the lessons learned during their time in the Practicum to serve Illinois residents who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
“Our state is facing an unprecedented challenge. We are determined, as the state’s land-grant, flagship law school to do our part to help Illinois residents understand the legal aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to work with our partners around the state to help those in need during this difficult time,” explained Vikram D. Amar, dean of the University of Illinois College of Law.
The College will partner with many of the state’s leaders in Illinois’ legal aid community, including Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, Prairie State Legal Services, the College of Law’s own Veterans’ Legal Clinic, Illinois Legal Aid Online, the Legal Council for Health Justice, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the John Howard Association, and the Chicago Legal Clinic.
“We expect to see an increase in high priority legal issues – housing, domestic violence, and economic security – as the courts reopen. The opportunity to have College of Law students working alongside our attorneys to address these issues for our clients will have a lasting impact on our clients’ outcomes and our communities’ well-being,”noted Susan Zielke, Managing Attorney at Land of Lincoln and a 1997 alumna of the College of Law.
Students participating in the Practicum will receive a stipend to defray costs and living expenses, thanks to generous support from the Jerome Mirza Foundation. Named after the legendary Illinois trial lawyer and 1963 graduate of the College of Law, the Foundation supports programs in education and the arts through the legacy of Jerome Mirza, an attorney, legal advocate, and scholar.
“The pandemic is piling on economic hardships on our state’s low-income residents. The Jerome Mirza Foundation’s board appreciates the opportunity to partner with the law school in its efforts to provide some much-needed civil legal help at this time,” said Justice Thomas Harris of the Illinois 4th District Appellate Court.
Additional support for the program is being provided by College of Law alumni Kimball and Karen Anderson, members of the Class of 1977 and longtime supporters of and advocates for legal aid agencies across Illinois.
“Karen and I appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Jerome Mirza Foundation in support of this critical public interest program. And we commend the College of Law for its leadership in addressing the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Kimball Anderson.
Students participating in this program will be named as either Jerome Mirza Public Interest Fellows or Kimball & Karen Anderson Public Interest Fellows.
"I am so excited to be able to help Illinois residents during this pandemic in whatever way I can. I am eager to get started and appreciate the John Howard Association and the school for giving me this opportunity," said rising 3L Britnee Hart.
To support the education of Illinois attorneys and residents on issues related to the pandemic, the College of Law will also offer a COVID-19 Legal Learning Series during the summer and fall of 2020. The sessions will feature faculty members who provided instruction to College of Law students on similar topics during the Practicum. Thanks to the generous support of the Mirza Foundation, these sessions will be free and open to all Illinois attorneys and residents, with CLE credit available.
“We are eager to be of service to our state and its residents,” Amar said. “And as the pandemic unfolds, we will continue to do so.”
To learn more about how the College of Law is providing support to our students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to contribute, visit our website.