Eli Wade-Scott’s LAF is…reaction.

EliLAF addresses needs; one of the ways in which it does that is through Eli Wade-Scott, Skadden Fellow Attorney in the Housing Practice Group and the Healthy Housing Advocacy Project. An example of social justice action, LAF is also an example of the limitations placed upon powerful work due to a severe lack of resources. “The Housing Project is very limited by the number of people that are here.” Eli elaborates, “(When I arrived)…the only thing the housing group was doing, largely, was eviction defense. We wanted to have an affirmative project that helps people who weren’t being evicted solve their housing problems.”

Eli’s position at LAF is a reaction, a tangible solution to a flaw the Housing Practice Group identified within its own ranks. LAF is, in itself, a reaction, an organization of socially minded people recognizing and combatting faults in the Chicago legal system. At its heart, it is an act of social responsibility.

Eli is from Chicago, and his desires for his home extend far beyond himself. His choice of profession comes from his investment in his hometown and the other 2,722,389 people (and counting) he shares it with:  “I want this city to be a place where I want to live, to try to help put this city together in a way that is inclusive.”

By investing in LAF you are investing in equal justice and helping to make it a Chicago priority. Support the expanding work of Eli and his colleagues and donate at www.lafchicago.org today.

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James A. Brady’s LAF is…agency.

Jim BradyJames A. Brady, Supervisory Attorney of the Consumer Practice Group, has been with LAF since 1989, and we are lucky to have his critical mind on board, as well as his convictions: “I believe in a life of service. I think everybody has that obligation, but I think some people hear it more strongly than others. I think once you realize the privilege that you have, once you come to terms with that, you have a choice: you either just keep taking advantage of it, or you use it to negate it.”

LAF exists because of people who believe in their own agency, their ability to be a force in social progress. The way the current legal system stands – full of good intentions, but inaccessible to the people who need it most – can unfortunately preserve privilege. “Wealth is where things change,” Jim observes. Organizations like LAF exist to, in Jim’s words, “force that change one case at a time.”

“These days, I practice law because the intersection of poverty and race is dramatic. I measure what we do home by a home, and I think the reason I do that is because home ownership is wealth. A lot of times in our communities, a home represents a generation of wealth. So my job, my goal, is to save that wealth because if you can save that house, that equity, that’s what it’s all about. That is supposed to be the American Dream.”

Individual contributions help LAF remain an agent of social change, one case at a time. When you provide LAF with much-needed unrestricted funds, you enable attorney’s like Jim to provide top-quality legal services to people in need. Make your tax-deductible gift to LAF today at www.lafchicago.org.

Butch Litwhiler’s LAF is…teamwork.

Butch 2Amidst the maze of offices and cubicles that is LAF, Butch Litwhiler stands out. He chalks it up to his formidable work experience in factories and the intense environment working with heavy machinery creates, and he could be right. (Of course, it could also have something to do with his impressive height.) As Office Manager of Records and Facilities, Butch is in charge of making sure safety standards are upheld and that the space is kept clean and looking good. It can seem as basic as wiping up spilled coffee so no one slips and hurts themselves, but there’s a saying from the factories that Butch uses to sum up the bigger picture:

“It’s either we work together and we move forward, or we work separately and one of us goes on our way.”

We can make progress as a team or we can move on alone. This concept applies to society as a whole, and it certainly applies to the work we do at LAF. Whether an attorney is poring over the details of a case alone in their office, an office assistant is welcoming clients at the front desk, or a paralegal is dashing out of a client interview to make copies of documents, it all boils down to functioning together- it’s about teamwork.

“It’s not just me,” says Butch, “It’s together. We are always willing to listen, to speak up at anytime, and we always try to improve if we can improve on something. My door is an open door. We need to help each other. It’s not just attorneys and paralegals helping people in need, it’s us helping each other to make what we do here easier.”

You can be a part of the LAF team by donating time, money, or both. Individual contributions provide LAF with much-needed unrestricted funds, supporting the support work of people like Butch, who empower the rest of the staff to focus on providing essential legal services to people in need. You can make your tax-deductible gift to LAF before the end of the year at www.lafchicago.org.

Alice Setrini’s LAF is…partnership.

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As Supervisory Attorney of the Medical-Legal Partnership project in the Public Benefits Practice Group, Alice Setrini is busy taking legal aid to innovative places. Together LAF, Erie Family Health Center, and Loyola University School of Law have created the Health Justice Program, a revolutionary and expansive way of looking at poverty law.

“We have such limited resources, so our partnerships are about targeting those resources in order to impact the most people possible. For example, we see lead poisoning in a concerning number of children, and then we see that it’s in a specific housing area. Then we see that the housing is occupied by a minority population living in poverty. Suddenly the case is not just a medical case, nor just a housing case, but also a case of civil and racial injustice as well. Everything is interconnected and the point of MLP is to address those intersections.”

In this case, and in many MLP cases, it becomes a matter of not one or two families, but of helping- in an immediate and tangible way- an entire population. As with any new venture, there are challenges- coordination and communication become particularly critical when the cases cover such wide legal and medical ground- but because of the partnerships in the Health Justice Program, progress is made. “It’s always two steps forward one step back,” Alice admits, but she’s driven to make those steps forward as large as possible.

For Alice, equal justice is an ideal to strive for, and LAF is a place where she can work towards that ideal. However, LAF cannot do it alone, and so we strive to make meaningful partnerships with other organizations and individuals as committed to equal justice as we are. You can partner with us, and have a tangible impact on Chicago, by making a tax-deductible contribution to support the work of advocates like Alice. Donate online at www.lafchicago.org.

Bryan Edwards’ LAF is…interaction.

BryanOne of the most interesting parts of Bryan Edwards’ job is watching how people interact with their computers. As a Computer Specialist in Information Technology- and one of the people we call in a near panic when our computers seem to turn against us- he gets to see the relationships people have with their computers up close and in all their shades.

“What people do with their computers and what they don’t do, and what they should do, but don’t do. It really differs from person to person. I like helping them. I help the people that help people.”

Some people look at TVs and see the possibility of a show; Bryan looks at a TV and wants to get inside it and see how it works.

“I’ve always been interested in the backings of things, how things are set up and what makes them work. I was the kid who opened up my TV, the lawnmower, anything with an engine or moving parts. I would just open it up to see how it works and figure out how to stop it from working. Or if it was broken, how could I fix it?”

As much as he loves technology, Bryan has also always enjoyed helping people; his position at LAF is a perfect marriage of the two. We’re thankful he’s around with all the answers to all our computer questions (and there are a lot).

Your support helps people like Bryan keep LAF plugged in and running efficiently in an age where technology can make or break an organization. Donate at www.lafchicago.org today.

Pedro Gaytan’s LAF is…confidence.

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If Indiana Jones or Detective Columbo ever went into legal aid work, they would be Pedro Gaytan, a Paralegal in the Immigrant and Worker’s Rights Practice Group. As a paralegal, he is responsible for investigating cases by asking questions, gathering documents, and obtaining proof. His work requires some unique approaches – Pedro has had to rely on creativity and perseverance to get out of tight situations- and his success at protecting the rights of immigrants and migrant farmworkers in Illinois is due in no small part to his confidence.

“I end up in some weird places, sometimes dangerous places. I’ve learned to always have Plan A and Plan B. And we drive a lot. Sometimes we leave early and we go far south, we wait for the workers to finish work, we interview them, and then we drive back to Chicago. We don’t get home until midnight. Sometimes it happens that you end up in a twister.”

People at LAF devote their lives to equal justice, but Pedro can say that he has almost died for equal justice: “I was in the farms and I pulled over to look at my map, to try and find this farm. It was one of those sunny and hot, hot, hot days, but then suddenly it started getting darker and darker. Then a lot of wind, suddenly there was rain, and then everything started moving around. Everything went up. The car started moving. Then, after about 15 seconds, it stopped. It must have not touched down entirely.”

It’s only one incident in Pedro’s roster of adventures on behalf of legal aid, and it more than likely won’t be the last. He accepts it as part of his job description. For Pedro, seeing the people who abuse the hard work of others get their comeuppance makes it possible for him laugh at his close calls and keep returning to the fields.

Did he find the farm after his terrifying near-twister experience? “Oh yeah,” he shrugs nonchalantly, then chuckles. “Whatever it is possible to get, I will get it.”

Equal justice starts with you. Your contributions help Pedro and the entire Immigrant and Worker’s Rights Practice Group protect the lives and safety of exploited immigrants and migrant workers. Donate  to support that work at www.lafchicago.org today.