Q&A with Trish McGill, Chair of the IL Access to Civil Justice Council
Trish McGill is Chair of the IL Access to Civil Justice Council. She serves as Corporate Counsel for United Airlines and is a past General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and former Senior Policy Advisor for the US Department of Defense.
Tell me about the Access to Civil Justice Council. Why was it started and what does it focus on?
In 2013, the Illinois Access to Justice Act created the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council. The council has seven appointed members and its mandate is to create a statewide legal assistance hotline and coordinated network of civil legal services for veterans, service members and their eligible dependents. We carried out that mandate by creating the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN). The IL Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) staffs the Council and funds IL-AFLAN.
The IL Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN) launched last Veterans Day. How does it work?
IL-AFLAN is a network of legal service providers throughout the state of Illinois. The key features are the hotline that is the single-entry point into the network and acts as the hub of the operation and then the partnerships with legal aid organizations and law school clinics. The hotline is run by CARPLS and provides legal information, advice, brief services and referrals to other providers in the network when more in-depth services are needed.
What has IL-AFLAN achieved over the past year? And where do you see it going in the future?
IL-AFLAN had tremendous success during its first year. With a $1.24M budget it accrued a total financial benefit of $1.28M, which is an amazing return on investment. It provided about 3,000 free legal services to about 2,650 veterans, service members and their eligible dependents at an average cost of $490 per service. One of the figures I’m proudest of is that the network prevented 111 clients from experiencing homelessness by doing things like securing housing vouchers and negotiating with landlords. I hope in the future this model is replicated in other states. The numbers speak for themselves and show this is a worthwhile investment.
You formerly served six years in the Army as a Russian linguist. What impact did your military service have on you? And are you still fluent in Russian?
Serving in the Army impacted me in so many ways, but the most important lessons were in leadership and the importance of taking care of your team, which is why IL-AFLAN is so personally important to me. I believe we have a responsibility to take care of our veterans and being able to resolve outstanding legal issues is one of the best ways to help someone get back on their feet.
I try to keep up on my Russian with apps and listening to Russian radio stations. I’m always looking for someone to talk with, so let me know if you know anyone!