The IEJF makes grants to provide Illinois residents using the court system with legal advice and brief legal assistance to help them effectively navigate the legal system.

In the Self-Help Legal Assistance Project category, the IEJF will consider support for projects that meet the following definition:

  • Self-help Legal Assistance Project:   Self-Help Legal Assistance Projects are programs based at or near courthouses or in other appropriate community spaces that provide legal advice and assistance about particular substantive areas of the law to litigants or potential litigants in noncriminal or traffic matters who are unable to obtain or do not have legal representation for a dispute involving one of those particular substantive areas of the law.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, virtual projects in this category will be considered.

Use of Grant Funds

  • In the Self-Help Legal Assistance category, the IEJF will make grants to support operating costs for self-help legal assistance projects, including personnel costs.


In the Self-Help Legal Assistance Project category, the IEJF will only consider applications from Illinois-based not-for-profit organizations that:

  • Provide self-help legal assistance free of charge.
  • Provide legal advice or self-help assistance as described in the Purpose section of these guidelines.
  • Provide legal advice or self-help assistance in areas of the law that include problems commonly faced by members of the public (e.g., family law, consumer and credit issues, housing, immigration), specifically areas of the law that affect lower-income Illinois residents.
  • Provide legal advice or self-help assistance in a location that is accessible to the public, like a courthouse, library or community organization. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, proposals that include virtual projects are permitted.
  • Use licensed attorneys to provide services, who can be supplemented by law-students or other non-attorneys acting under the supervision of licensed attorneys, or for legal matters where accredited non-attorney representatives are permitted to provide services (e.g., immigration and tax matters), a representative accredited by the appropriate administrative agency to provide services in matters pending before that agency.

In the Self-Help Legal Assistance category, the IEJF will not consider proposals for:

  • Telephone-based services;
  • Civil legal services programs’ efforts to provide legal information and self-help assistance as part of their screening and intake systems;
  • General efforts to inform the public about the law, such as Law Day activities; the development and dissemination of law-related curricula to schools; essay contests; or other community legal education initiatives that are not designed to help people address specific legal problems; and
  • Legal information and self-help projects involving issues of criminal law.

Evaluation Criteria

(see criteria listed in Overview Section as well)

Applications in the Self-Help Legal Assistance category will be evaluated based on:

  • Demonstrated need for the proposed services, as reflected by factors such as the number of pro se filings in the applicant’s service area, and evidence of support for the project from judges, court clerks, legal services providers, bar leaders, librarians, local government officials and others who deal with members of the public who are seeking legal assistance.
  • Efficient service delivery, which takes into consideration factors such as the relative costs of the applicant’s services; the use of volunteers; the availability of appropriate client self-help materials; and the use of technology to increase client access and streamline case-handling procedures.
  • Preference will be given for efforts to establish new self-help assistance projects in counties, or divisions of the court within larger counties, where no self-help legal assistance projects currently exist.
  • Preference will be given to projects that are developing materials or models that can be replicated by other self-help legal assistance projects in Illinois.